How a Church Plant Is Paying Generosity Forward

ABWE missionaries and their congregation donate money to build Trenton’s first pregnancy center.

In 2014, my husband and I finished raising support as ABWE missionaries and began a church plant in the depressed and spiritually dark city of Trenton, New Jersey.

Nationally, the US boasts an evangelical population of 25%. However, on a state level in New Jersey, that number is a mere 3%.

Through God’s grace, hard work, and the labor of faithful brothers and sisters, we grew the church from 25 to 100 in six years. During that time, we rented space in a dingy state building for our Sunday worship. Church planting is all-consuming. After staying up late to work on his sermon, my husband would wake up at 3a.m. to be able to arrive early at the rental space to set up a stage, chairs, sound equipment and more. Every time the alarm sounded in the wee hours, I would think, “We can’t do this anymore”—this, meaning, continuing to set up for church every week.

When our church treasurer invited us to a Journey of Generosity weekend, we were weary. We cared about generosity and giving, but we also had many things on our plate. We committed to go to one day of the seminar.

The instruction was something I never encountered before. I knew we needed to tithe and give generously, but I had never heard of men and women giving so radically by faith. Bill and Vonette Bright’s (Cru founders) story was so compelling to me. Like them, my husband and I were missionaries. When Bill received a million dollars for his work, he said, “I already had decided what to do with it.” He donated all of it to a religious organization. I was floored. It was one thing for us to give generously, but this was another level. I realized that we had never given to the degree that it required faith for God to provide and care for us.

Almost exactly a year after attending the generosity seminar, my husband received a phone call. The phone call was from a treasurer of a dying church. Their church was going to have to close. “Would you like our church building and ten acres of property?” It didn’t take long to say, “Of course!”

In the fall of 2019, we spent hundreds of dollars on advertising our church on placemats at a local diner. I thought our efforts were fruitless because no one had ever visited the church as a result of those ads. When I asked the church treasurer how he had discovered our church, he replied, “On a placemat.” God is good!

Despite being a small church plant, our faithful church family had given so generously to the Lord’s work in Trenton. In fact, we had already saved $200,000 toward the purchase of a church building by the time we received the phone call. While the new church building and the surrounding ten acres were a tremendous gift, we soon realized that we could exhaust our savings on the property in a snap of a finger.

Our congregation knew that pouring all of our saved funds into the new property was not what God wanted us to do. If God had provided for us, how could we not turn around and be generous to others in need?

Last week, God granted us an opportunity to pay his generosity forward. Our humble church plant was able to write a $100,000 check to open the first ever pregnancy care center in Trenton. In a city of 90,000 people with many ministries, there was not a single pregnancy care center to offer families the hope of Christ. Through the grace of God, in 2021, the pregnancy care center will open to give hope to families and to give life to babies who have no voice.

We are humbled and grateful to be a part of what God is doing in New Jersey. We praise God for our ABWE family and supporters for making this radical generosity possible.

Learn more about the Coughlins’ ministry here.