Filling thirsty tanks and souls

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2007

With gas prices skyrocketing, a local church carried some of the burden for people filling up their tanks last week.

The Inverness Vineyard Church on Valleydale Road offered gas for only $2.16 per gallon. Each motorist who stopped by the Petro gas station on Hwy 119 received up to 10 gallons at that price and met various members of the Inverness Vineyard church.

What was the catch? Nothing really.

Bubba Justice, senior pastor, said filling someone&8217;s tank helped the church to reach out to people in a new way.

&8220;We had a lot of good conversations with lots of people who were struggling in their faith,&8221; Justice said. &8220;It allowed us to express our faith to them without so many barriers to get in the way.&8221;

The church finds out how much the cheapest gas in the country is and then pays the difference between that and what the Petro station is charging.

Gas is currently at $2.66 for a gallon of regular unleaded, which means the church saved each driver at least $5.

The effort is part of what members call their &8220;Serve Fest&8221; mission.

In the spring the church offers cheaper gas and continues the mission through the year.

On July 4, people are greeted with cokes as they sit in long traffic jams to see the area&8217;s fireworks show. The church also holds a large Halloween carnival in October with inflatables, games, food and entertainment. The day after Thanksgiving members pass out hot chocolate, coffee and apple cider to shoppers and wrapping paper to parents buying toys at Christmas.

&8220;We are always trying to think of creative ways to meet practical needs in our community, as a church,&8221; Justice said. &8220;It takes a level of stress out of their lives and helps people center back in.&8221;

Justice said the church asks nothing in return, not even a visit to a worship service, but hopes that the kindness shown will have an influence.

The church estimates it bought gas for about 75 drivers and gave out between 130 and 140 soft drinks.

Justice said he hopes to continue the mission and find new ways to show people that churches do care, even if it doesn&8217;t mean getting someone into a pew every Sunday morning.

This is the group&8217;s fifth year of &8220;Serve Fest.&8221;