By Rita Thiel
Members of the Ocracoke Assembly of God Church have always known it was more than a typical church.
Pastor Ivey Belch recently announced that the church on Lighthouse Road will now be called the Life Saving Church, recognizing the church’s main mission of saving lives through Christ’s love.
“This has been my vision over the last eight years,” Belch said. “I wanted us to be known for what we’re doing. People have the wrong idea of churches. They’ve become places of do’s and don’ts instead of focusing on the love and grace of God and Christ.”
Belch said the church ministers to all with “lifesaving” messages and outreach programs of hope, strength, and most of all, love. Local church officials and the congregation thought it appropriate to acknowledge such a quality in renaming the church, which will still be an affiliate of the Assembly of God.
Belch was inspired to make an analogy between his church and the actual lifesaving service used prior to the organization of the U.S. Coast Guard. He recounted how the rescuers didn’t stand on shore and question how the shipwrecked folks got themselves into trouble.
No, they first helped them to safety–no judgment, no hesitation.
“This is what we want to do,” Belch said. “To help you to a safe place.”
Besides the food pantry, the church participates in the Celebrate/Recovery group, which includes Christian-based support for addictions of any sort as well as life’s hurts such as grief and divorce.
“We’ll help lead you to Christ if you are interested, but Christ is always there for you, no matter what,” Belch said. “You don’t have to change for Christ. His love will change you. The important thing is for you to feel you are safe and loved.”
After 80 years, first as the Holiness Church and then as the Ocracoke Assembly of God, the church remains a beacon of light on Ocracoke, he said.
As for the name change, “Name changes in the Bible always denoted a new beginning,” he said. That’s what we’re praying for–new beginnings on Ocracoke.”