Pastor says true Easter message is that ‘living is giving’
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
LAPLACE – As many more than normal gather at places of worship in the River Region on Sunday morning to celebrate Easter, there will be a few extra words of thanks at New Wine Christian Fellowship.
It was in the past year that New Wine received what Pastor Neil Bernard called “a miracle,” when his church was able to come up with the financing to buy the entire shopping center on Airline Highway where their church was already holding services.
(See EASTER, page 3A)
The purchase of the $3.8 million complex has opened the door for New Wine to move forward on a major project Bernard has had close to his heart for years, and that is to convert the former K-Mart building into a 24-hour youth recreation hall for River Region teens.
But Bernard hopes the miracle his church was blessed with this past year will be something that is an example for others to learn from, as they consider what Christians call the greatest gift and miracle of all, which occurred on this day so many years ago.
“The secret of living is giving,” he said in a recent public speech. “When you bless people who have the least, and especially those who couldn’t possibly do anything back for you, it is the way that God will return a blessing to you the most.”
Bernard believes the lesson on giving is one he learned long ago, and has continually tried to teach his church members. And he said it applies to every person, no matter their standing, what church they go to, or what their financial situation is.
“When you give what you have, God multiplies it,” he said. “The reality is that there is a Katrina going on somewhere in the world right now, and we should always look to where we can help those people.”
His lifelong passion for helping in missions work throughout the world, is another reason Bernard believes his church was granted the great miracle when they needed it most.
“We always pray and ask for God to show us where the greatest need in the nations we travel to is,” he said. “We live in the most prosperous nation on Earth and we should want to bless others out of our gratitude.”
Bernard has traveled to missions projects in India, China, many African nations, Russia, England, Germany and many more nations. He said that most people don’t realize how far our dollars go when we give to those efforts.
“In Nagaland, India, you could buy a truckload of bricks to build a small building for just $70,” he said. “In South Africa, you can pay for a month of education for a child for what it costs us to buy one meal.”
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana region here, Bernard said he prayed for how best to respond, and God showed him to help the people.
“We ended up housing 800 people, and aiding 8,000 for three months, and it was on faith,” he said. “We started doing it, and the people just grew and grew. We didn’t know where the money would come from, but God paid the bill. When you try to help people, that is what will happen.”
Buying the shopping center proved to be the greatest show of God stepping in when needed, Bernard explained, since the church had been told by the owners for 10 years that the property wasn’t for sale.
“We just kept praying and in March of last year, after 10 years, the owner suddenly changed his mind and said he would sell it. But we had to raise $350,000 in only months,” he said. “Yet somehow God did it for us.”
Bernard had his faith tested even further during that fundraising period when he was on a plane, heading to a missions trip.
“I met a pastor who told me his congregation was about to be put out of their building, so God told me to pay for the building. I remember telling God, ‘but God, we’re trying to raise $350,000!’ But of course I did it, and in the end God helped us raise the $350,000,” he said.
“If you are depressed, or discouraged, then find someone you can bless, and do it,” he said. “God will lift that feeling off you when you do for others.”