Partnership in the Gospel

written by Haley King, Children & Family Ministries Coordinator (May 10, 2023)

God is doing big things through small churches and we had the opportunity to be a small part of that work this past weekend. Coats Baptist sent a team of 12, 10 of those being first-timers, to serve at Grace Harbor Church for the Neighborhood Churches weekender event in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The team consisted of Laura Newkirk, Tracey Smith, Megan Frank, Abigail Holfelder, Kristina Smith, George and Lenna Sweat, Bradley and Amanda Cole, Jesse and Carrie Danner, and myself (Haley King).

Coats Baptist hears the name 'Grace Harbor Church' quite often from the pulpit. In 2022 and 2023, anything given above our $25,000 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering goal has been sent directly to Grace Harbor Church. We've also sent several mission and vision teams to the city of New Bedford in the last year and a half. But what is Neighborhood Churches and how does it relate to Grace Harbor Church?

Neighborhood Churches exists to train and equip ministry workers by planting and revitalizing local churches in the south coast region of New England. Grace Harbor is the first church planted in the New Bedford area for this goal of planting neighborhood churches in these forgotten places. Neighborhood Churches isn't a ministry of Grace Harbor Church. It's a ministry all on its own. Grace Harbor is simply the first church plant of this awesome ministry.

So what was this weekend all about? Simply put, since Grace Harbor is the only church planted (so far) in or around New Bedford, this is where the weekender was held. Church leaders from across the United States flew into New England to capture the vision of “Neighborhood Churches — For Forgotten Places”. The call to these church leaders was simple — Can your church raise up a missionary? Can your church plant another church? Can your church partner with Neighborhood Churches and their vision?

Why was Coats Baptist there? Grace Harbor had a need for another church to partner with them to be the hands and feet behind this conference. We took a team to serve and support Grace Harbor to allow their leadership to spend quality time and build relationships with visiting church leaders/potential partners. Coats Baptist was able to meet a simple, yet vital, need. 

We arrived in New Bedford on Thursday, May 4th. Our team went directly to the church to meet the Grace Harbor staff. Thursday was spent training and reviewing the tasks and the itinerary for the weekend. On Friday morning, we hit the ground running by setting up for the conference - cleaning, rolling and folding hundreds of t-shirts, and food preparation for the opening dinner that night. Bradley and I picked up the visiting church leaders from the airport on Friday afternoon and took them to their hotel. We continued to shuttle these leaders throughout the weekend on the Grace Harbor van, ‘Willy’, and another van that had been borrowed. On Friday evening, we enjoyed dinner with all those in attendance. The food and hospitality teams (Laura, Tracey, Carrie, Abigail, Lenna, Jesse, & Diana) worked hard all weekend and did an incredible job preparing every meal.

On Saturday morning, our team arrived at Grace Harbor early to prep for breakfast and ensure that coffee was fully stocked for the conference. Our registration and merchandise teams were ready to serve as well. (Registration/Merch Team: Megan, Amanda, Bradley, George, & Kristina) Saturday was a full day of serving, listening to speakers and panel discussions, and good fellowship. On Sunday morning, we attended their Lord’s Day Gathering and spent the afternoon touring the city. That evening, we divided into groups to attend dinner in the homes of various church members of Grace Harbor Church. Monday morning was another early morning consisting of serving breakfast and thoroughly cleaning the church. We were able to spend a few more hours exploring the city, including the Whaling Museum, before heading back to the airport to return home to Coats, NC (May 8th). 

Each team member from Coats Baptist was a huge help and encouragement to the ministry in New Bedford. But the ministry of Grace Harbor and their staff had a huge impact on the CBC team members. We were able to witness ministry and church stripped down to just the nuts and bolts of the gospel. We can often lose appreciation for what church is meant to be. We can get caught up in tradition and lose the simplicity of our mission: the church is meant to serve and share Christ. Everything else will pass away. I believe that was one of the biggest takeaways for our team from our time spent with the staff of Grace Harbor Church. Morgan, Jess, Luke, Kat, Carrie, Diana, Evan, and Chelsea were such an encouragement to our team as we saw their true sacrifice and service for the sake of the gospel.

One word mentioned often over our time there was partnership. A passage of Scripture was also talked about concerning this word. It's the desire of Grace Harbor Church to create true biblical partnerships with other churches like Coats Baptist to accomplish their vision of reaching unreached people through Neighborhood Churches. The passage of Scripture I want to leave you with is Philippians 1:3-6 — “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

This encouraging passage perfectly describes how we feel about the partnership we have with Grace Harbor Church and Neighborhood Churches. We thank God for people like the staff of Grace Harbor Church and the blessing of the partnership we have with them in the gospel. We trust God’s promise that He who began a good work will bring it to completion - not through our works, but through Jesus Christ's work on the cross.

Thank you, Coats Baptist, for the prayers while we were away. As I mentioned earlier, the staff at Grace Harbor have sacrificed a lot to be where they are, fully relying on partners to support them financially. The staff is not paid out of the church’s budget. They fundraise to provide for the needs of their family. You might not ever be able to physically go to New Bedford to support the ministry of Grace Harbor and Neighborhood Churches, but you can be a blessing to them all the way from Coats, North Carolina. Below is a link that can be used if God lays it on your heart to financially support a Grace Harbor Church leader.

Below is a testimony from one of the members on our Coats Baptist team. 

A highlight forever etched in my heart is receiving communion with another daughter of the King. Fellow Christians at Grace Harbor walk to the altar to receive their communion elements. I am familiar with this style of communion, but on this Sunday, May 7, 2023, I received so much more from The Lord. So much will be remembered about this moment at Grace Harbor Church. I met a new friend on Friday afternoon. She popped into the kitchen where I was working. She did not stay long. I learned a teeny bit about her life. She has lived in hard city street broken seasons AND I learned of her receiving salvation, “glorious salvation” (her words). Our lives are completely different in life experiences, and yet, the same - sinners saved by grace!


On Sunday morning, as I approach the center aisle from the left, my new friend, with her head bowed, comes from the right. She motions for me to go first and I shake my head no, whispering, “you go first”. She shakes her head, I shake my head and then we both giggle and smile, while stepping into the middle aisle together. Quietly, side by side, we walk down the wide middle aisle together and receive our bread and juice. As I return to my space on the pew, I glanced over and saw my new faith friend sitting down, she looked over and saw me too. We smiled in unity again, before the pastor began the scripture reading leading to taking communion.


BONUS highlight:  The team was able to catch bits of the conference speakers - what a praise to hear Dr. Thabiti Anyabwile! One sermon/teaching bit I will remember from Pastor T.  is “God cannot use greatly what HE has not bruised deeply.”


Thankfully, our partnership with Grace Harbor and our support for their endeavors to proclaim the gospel continues. The last statement from the “field manual” reads, "My prayer for my future is 'Dear God...'” My response: continue to lead me here in Coats and lead me there (in all places) to serve you gracious Holy Father, AND may I rest in obedience wherever you lead to share the good news of Jesus Christ. 

- Testimony by Tracey Smith