For decades, Elton Days in Elton, Wisconsin, signaled the time for anyone who had ever called the former bustling logging town “home,” to return for an annual reunion. It is a time of family, friends, food, music, brats (aka bratwurst) and beer. But last year, Elton — now a community of just 125 — ran into a problem: they simply did not have enough volunteers to make the event happen and cancellation looked probable!
But who do people call on when they have a problem? The church. And the church responded!
Four Corners Assembly of God is located about two miles outside of Elton and four miles outside of White Lake (population 346). But despite the church’s location, the townspeople in Elton, White Lake, and surrounding area are very familiar with the church and its pastor, Marvin Kindle, 73, and his wife, Deb.
Marvin’s parents were long-time members of the church and community from decades ago, having moved away when Marvin was four. The family returned, following Marvin’s graduating high school and entering the military, and resumed their activity in the church. Just under 40 years later, the church contacted Marvin at his position at North Central University (AG) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and asked him to become their pastor. People in the church and area knew the Kindle name and the Kindles quickly integrated into the community. That was about 18 years ago.
“When they first came to us about Elton Days, there wasn’t much time to get things organized,” Marvin Kindle recalls. “We called the church together and asked to see how many would be willing to volunteer to help — more than 20 responded. So, we agreed to take over the event, even though we only had five weeks to put the whole thing together.”
But Kindle was clear with the town – alcohol would not be served and the event would be used to raise funds for BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge). In most towns, BGMC might not be a very familiar term. But in White Lake and Elton, quite a few people are aware of its worthy missions purpose. And instead of country music bands, Kindle brought in a local “basement band” — a group of guys who jammed country songs in their basement, but regularly asked Kindle to join in and sing gospel songs that they would play along to by ear.
The event, which became known as Gospel Music Fest, was an overwhelming success. Community members and those returning for the reunion, expressed their appreciation for the church picking up the ball and pulling off a picnic day to remember.
“We had barbeque, brats, and beverages along with booths, gift-basket raffles, and plenty of gospel music,” Kindle says. “It was a great time and we had such a great response — I had many people wanting us to do it again next year.”
Kindle explains that being asked to take over and run something as significant to the community as Elton Days simply shows what kind of relationship the church has built within the communities of White Lake and Elton. “The church has a long history of caring for people and loving and playing music,” Kindle says. “When there’s a fifth Sunday in a month, we hold gospel sings that evening at the church — we have had as many as 32 different churches from around the area represented in attendance!”
Four Corners AG runs about 92 people a week, though Kindle says many more people in the area have no problem referring to Four Corners as their church home.
The church has undeniably become part of the fabric of their community. Trust, mutual respect, and appreciation have been built. Kindle says that there are people who don’t even attend Four Corners who put their coins in their plastic BGMC Buddy Barrel missions banks and send their filled barrels in with friends who do attend the church. And when people — or the community — have a problem, the church is where they turn.
Larry and Jan Mabry are the Four Corners BGMC coordinators. They agree that the church has a very strong drive for missions, especially BGMC. “We had a contest last year to raise $2,500 in one month for BGMC,” Larry says. “I’m a Chicago Bears fan in Green Bay Packers country, and everyone knows it. So I promised to wear a Packers jacket everywhere I went for two weeks if we made our goal.”
“And I promised to wear a Bears jacket,” adds Kindle, a die-hard Packers fan. But when the church made the goal in only two weeks, Kindle was ready. “I wore a note on the Bears’ jacket that said, ‘Ask me why I’m wearing this ugly jacket.’ People asked and I would pull out a Buddy Barrel and say, ‘let me tell you about BGMC.’”
“I love this story because it reinforces that church size and community size are not the chief ingredients of being able to do great things,” states David Boyd, national BGMC director. “I applaud Pastor Kindle and the Four Corners Assembly of God for dreaming big and seizing an opportunity to partner with an opportunity that God brought their way.”
Although Elton Days returns to its normal routine this year, Kindle says the church is already planning on putting on a separate Gospel Music Fest on different weekend (August 13) due to how well it was received last year. Proceeds will once again benefit BGMC.
“Missions is at the heart of all that we do,” says Jan Mabry. “Whether it’s reaching out to our community or raising money for missionaries through BGMC, helping to fulfill the Great Commission is our calling.”
Last year, Four Corners AG raised $15,500 for BGMC (and over $42,000 for all missions giving), which led all AG churches with average attendance between 51 and 100.
“Ever since I’ve been in ministry,” Kindle says, “I’ve lived by the belief that if we take care of God’s business, God will take care of us.”
Source: AG News