GREENFIELD — Three services in three states within 24 hours.
It happened at one point last year, and it will happen again.
The miles add up for missionaries traveling to supporting churches. South Carolina. Pennsylvania. Ohio.
“That’s not a burden,” said Sheldon Clay. “It’s a privilege.”
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Clay and his wife, Lucy Mann-Clay, are Apostolic missionaries to the Philippines, where Mann-Clay was born. Most of their year is spent there; the rest is spent in Greenfield, where they’re based out of Apostolic Pentecostal Church.
“They both have a great desire to take the gospel, as the Bible says, ‘to the uttermost parts of the earth,’” said Bishop Joseph Riggs, pastor of the Greenfield church. He points out new ministries taking shape, such as a prison ministry and a ministry to people who are deaf.
“Their desire is to make sure everyone realizes God’s salvation really is for ‘whosoever will,’” Riggs said, quoting scripture.
During their months spent stateside, the Clays travel to fairs and festivals, selling chicken teriyaki and fried rice at their booth. One of the stops planned is the Riley Festival in October. They do it to help support the work in the Philippines.
It’s a work that’s grown, Mann-Clay said, since an Apostolic man stationed in the Philippines during World War II felt compelled to return in the late 1950s and plant a church. Ten years later, three single women from Texas also felt such a call. They did not know the World War II veteran, she says, but of the Philippines’ 7,100 islands, they ended up in the same area and continued his work. They planted another church during their three years there.
After them came Mann-Clay’s late husband; after his 37 years there, there were 43 churches and a Bible college.
Today, the Clays oversee the three-year college and 66 churches. Five of them were built this year. One of those is in memory of Bishop Kenneth E. Brown, founding pastor of Apostolic Pentecostal Church.
For a few years, finding land was a struggle.
“But this year — boom, boom, boom,” Mann-Clay told the congregation in Greenfield during an update at a recent Wednesday night service. “When it is God’s timing, it’s not hard.”
But there are day-to-day challenges. Birds and lizards were able make their way into the Clays’ mission house, until a stateside supporter learned of it and stepped in to help.
Mission trip teams make their way by foot on hills with stony roads.
They minister to people of little material wealth; courses at Apostolic Faith Bible Institute are free.
Clay has given away pairs of his dress shoes to pastors whose shoe soles were flapping; he wears boots and said he’s thankful God hasn’t yet prompted him to give those away.
Still, the Clays find rich rewards. As they travel to churches showing their video presentation, they’ll show those rewards; amid the photos of remote hills or footage of dolphins bobbing in the ocean will be images of people being baptized.
“By the power of God, we build churches in places some people won’t even go,” Clay said.
“God’s working. He’s alive and well, and he’s moving.”