YORK -- Between York and Clover on a little road, so small you might miss it, sits Allison Creek Holiness Tabernacle church. There is no pastor. The church has just eight members.
There are Lonnie and Bill Stewart. Diane Currence. Billy and Nancy Schultz. May Joy, and Wilma Wilson, and T.J. Martin.
"Just eight," said Martin. "But not 'just.' Just is a word we do not use. Eight is a lot."
Wilma Wilson, disabled and on a fixed income, said, "Eight is plenty. Only takes two to make a church. We got us four times that."
This group decided this holiday season would not pass by while people suffered. So the eight gave and gave some more, until the members raised $2,000. The church allows no outside solicitations - no bake sales or fish fries. All the money came from the members.
They gave to help the homeless and struggling.
The Salvation Army, which runs a shelter in Rock Hill, received $1,000, and God's Kitchen in Clover, a homeless shelter/soup kitchen, received $1,000.
Wilson has been to that shelter in Clover so many times, and has seen ladies with babies in diapers, seen people without a thing other than the clothes on their back.
"You got to give a helping hand," Wilson said. "You give what you have. I'm blessed. I just want somebody else to be blessed."
The Rev. Sam Thompson of New Beginnings Baptist Church, who runs God's Kitchen and has watched the poor economy slow donations to a trickle, described the gift from the church simply as "a miracle. A miracle for which we all are so thankful."
T.J. Martin, whose own hands built much of the church that was founded by his late parents, was not satisfied with just raising the money. Martin has challenged all churches, great and small, to match the donation of his church on a per capita basis. With eight members donating $2,000, each church member at Allison Creek Holiness Tabernacle donated an average of $250.
"The only goal we have is to ease the suffering that is out there," said Martin, a Korean War veteran and former prisoner of war. "If people do more somehow we will find a way to do more, too. Any church that does what we did, we will match it again. Imagine what some big church with hundreds of people could do."
Billy Schultz, who helped found the church and still teaches Sunday School, said, "If others will do more, we'll do more. It's a challenge to everybody."
Schultz is used to people saying that with just eight members, the church is too small to make a difference in this big cold world where a terrible economy has driven record numbers of hungry to soup kitchens, and homeless to shelters. Schultz said, plainly, "you gotta give - and believe."
"I know, I know, I hear it all the time, there is just eight of us," Schultz said. "But this is Christmas. Christmas is all about giving what you have, finding a way. That's what Jesus did - help. Jesus was just one - look what he did! We got eight!"
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org.