CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/JOHN JAQUES
Leif Torgerson, 9, wears a sign promoting turkey giveaways at Milagro Christian Church. About 100 birds were handed out Monday to anyone wanting them.
Church continues practice of community giveaways
By MARVIN READ
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
It’s pretty much the way the congregation operates – enough so that it can enunciate its mission and identification as a church that is “committed to sharing God’s love and generously giving itself away to the world through . . . compassionate service and authentic witness of the Gospel.”
And so it is that Milagro Christian Church, 2111 S. Pueblo Blvd., is dedicated to give something of itself on a monthly basis.
On Monday, the gift was 100 turkeys.
In other instances, the gifts have been free car washes – complete with lunches while you wait – clothes, toys, pumpkins and, at summer’s end, green chiles.
The catch is that there isn’t one. Pastor Amy Piatt always makes it clear that no matter what’s given away, no donations will be accepted. Period.
That’s the “giving itself away to the world” bit that Milagro Church tries to do as a way of life.
The congregation is affiliated with the 750,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) headquartered in Indianapolis and is one of three such congregations in town.
Typically, then, the congregation – about 60 folks these days – wanted to give turkeys for the holiday, but found themselves a bit strapped for cash. Members agreed to donate turkeys on their own and prayed that something better come along, enabling the church to do it better.
The prayer worked, apparently.
One member of the congregation, Mikal Torgerson, was approached by John Gallegos, the new executive director of the Pueblo Rescue Mission, who had, he said, an excess of turkeys for the mission’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. Indeed, Milagro could use them.
“Call it coincidence if you want,” Piatt said, “but at Milagro, where we believe in seeking God’s miracles every day, this is just another one of those miraculous moments in the life of our church.”
Oh, by the way: “Milagro” is the Spanish word for “miracle.” Not that that has anything to do with it – a hundred turkeys more or less falling out of the sky just in time for Thanksgiving.
And so it was, last Monday, that Piatt, her husband Christian, and other members of her congregation found themselves in the church parking lot, handing out turkeys that some might consider miraculous.
When the supply of frozen birds began to run low – Piatt said 45 were given away in the first 15 minutes – a congregation member offered to match whatever Milagro officials would spend and more turkeys were bought. A later run for another $300 worth of turkeys completed the hour-long giveaway.
“Everyone who showed up in that hour-long period got a turkey,” a delighted Pastor Piatt said the next day.
Her congregation is a little more than three years old, having begun in the pastor’s living room, moving to rented facilities at Colorado State University-Pueblo and, for the last couple of years, to the site of a Disciples’ church that had been abandoned.
Once the congregation had its own building and identity, “It was time to stop focusing so much on growing as a church, and to think more about living into our vision of what kind of difference we should be making in the community,” says Piatt.
That’s when the monthly giveaways began – offering something to anyone in Pueblo who was willing to accept it, with no strings attached.
The pastor acknowledged that there was a learning curve for all involved, including those in the congregation.
“We were a small church, struggling to keep the doors open,” she said, “and it would have been easy to try to use these giveaways as fundraisers. But this wasn’t what we felt called to do. The money was something we just had to let go of and give up to God.”
Though the point of the giveaways always has been giving for the sake of giving, it still was natural for church members to entertain some hope for some sort of return – like increased membership.
Piatt said it was routine for recipients to vow to worship at Milagro the following Sunday, but hardly any followed through.
The pastor noted, however, without the least bit sounding triumphal, that within the last two months, a few more people are showing up for 10:30 a.m. Sunday services.
“It’s rewarding to see some of the fruits of our labor,” she said, “but we always have to keep in mind that this ultimately isn’t why we’re doing this.”
Said the pastor: “Two months ago, when we gave away roasted chiles, we had a line around the building an hour before the giveaway started. If we think too hard about it, it might be easy to start worrying that we won’t be able to keep up with demand.
“That just can’t be our focus, any more than worrying about who comes to church or who doesn’t. It’s our job to keep praying and keep giving.”
And, one might assume, the miracles might just keep happening.