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Pastor Gary Shaw graduated from high school in 1975 in the city of Braham, MN. Growing up there, exposure to different cultures and races was minimal, but God seeded a desire in his heart during his early adult years to connect with the diverse faith community outside of his hometown. Even when he and his wife, Jan, planted Friendship AG in Braham, they hoped to one day partner their own church with another AG church within one of the two largest cities in the state. For thirteen years they faithfully served their community, but the dream of partnership lay dormant.

Then came May 25, 2020, when George Floyd’s death shocked the nation and spurred Gary to rekindle that desire to connect. He drove down to the prayer gathering at North Central University the next week where he was able to pray with fellow ministers. He later visited the George Floyd memorial with Associate Pastor John Gerbec, and he walked away from both experiences with a resounding feeling of loss for what rich relationships he could have had all these years. He later told his church, “We are part of the body [of Christ], but we do not have contact with our black brothers and sisters in the Lord…and we are poorer for it. There’s a part of our relationship with the body that is missing. We’ve got to go from being passive to being active in some way.”

Eager to take any step he could, he emailed the National Black Fellowship of the Assemblies of God. They connected with our MDC leadership team who facilitated a meeting with Gary, his pastoral team and Pastor Darrell Geddes from Christ Church International in Minneapolis. Darrell walked them through the neighborhood around the church and talked about the events of the summer months and subsequent outreaches to the community who had lost access to food and other necessities. Gary shared his dream of partnering with a church in the Central Twin Cities section and he was directed to Trinity Tabernacle in North Minneapolis.

Gary connected with Pastors Louis and Gloria Walton and Pastor Tom Lyons and soon drove with Jan down to Minneapolis to take part in a Friday night prayer meeting at the church. He describes that night by saying, “It was wonderful. We just prayed and I felt like I was a poor man becoming richer getting to know them.”

Soon after these experiences, Gary presented two initiatives for change with his congregation. The first focused on loving those within their own church body and in their community. The second was to better know and love the church body in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

By his own admission, Gary still doesn’t have a big plan, but he knows every initiative needs a start. He says, “If it means we start just by praying together, then that’s where we start.” Friendship AG has continued to regularly meet in prayer with Trinity Tabernacle. They’re now dreaming about ways to connect in the new year with ideas like church members from Braham heading south for summer events in the city and church members from Minneapolis heading north for hayrides and bonfires in the fall.

This is just the beginning, and we hope to see more church partnerships moving forward. As we come together as one body, with all its rich diversity, we know great things are in store for God’s kingdom.