By Stephanie Heading
Five years ago, Matthew Wendel, pastor of Awakenings Christian Fellowship in Piqua, believed that God was getting ready to do something new in his life, but little did he know that the Lord was preparing him to eventually start a church plant to reach the broken in Miami County, Ohio.
In 2017, Wendel and his wife Jan began to prepare for whatever God had next – putting their finances in order and getting out of debt. He thought the Lord might be calling them to foreign missions, which made sense, as the Wendels had previously served overseas as Tentmakers for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). “We were going somewhere, but we didn’t know where,” said Wendel.
Two years later, in single day, the Lord revealed His plan for Wendel’s life. During a trail ride, he heard the Lord begin to speak. “The Father didn’t tell me any details,” said Wendell. “But He kept asking me if I was ready to leave Koinos today.”
Wendel and his wife were members at Koinos Christian Fellowship in Troy, and they had developed close ties there.
“I told the Father ‘If you want me to leave Koinos and all my friends, then I will do it,’” said Wendel. He continued his ride and had four evangelism opportunities in two hours. “Normally you get to lead someone to Christ once a month, but four people in two hours is unusual.”
Later that day he received a call from a woman named Kim Allison. Wendel did not know her, but she and her husband helped start two biker churches—one in Dayton and the other in Troy. However, her husband passed away before he could preach his first sermon.
“The Holy Spirit told her I was the one to pastor her husband’s church,” said Wendel. “She said to come out and start preaching.” The church had a building and all the necessary equipment to have services right away, so he and Jan went to check it out.
“I don’t know why God called me to do it, but wild horses couldn’t have kept me away from that call.” After surrendering to God’s request that he leave Koinos, sharing Christ with four people in two hours, and receiving a church to pastor in one day, Wendel stepped into a new ministry role as pastor of Awakenings Christian Fellowship.
“We are an emergency room for the broken”
“We are an Emergency Room for the broken,” Wendel shared. “We’ve watched our Father take us into incredible moments.” Wendel says he felt called to the broken in society, so he led Awakenings to become a place where all are welcome regardless of their issues. The church helps rescue those in drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, human trafficking, satanism, as well as other issues.
However, the work at Awakenings has had challenges. Earlier this year, the barn where the church met caught on fire, so they needed to find a new facility.
In March 2022, a man from Piqua called and asked Wendel to look at an empty jewelry store that could be a potential meeting place. “I saw our funding and budget and knew we didn’t have the funds or the manpower to renovate the place.”
Three hours later, Wendel received a phone call from Dr. John Heading, SCBO Serve Tour Dayton director. Serve Tour Dayton was seeking opportunities for volunteers to meet needs and bless the community through service projects, so Heading asked him if there were any projects that Serve Tour Dayton could do for him and his church. He told Heading about the jewelry store he had seen earlier in the day. “That’s from God,” said Heading. endel says he laughed. “I thought, ‘God, that is just you!”
Serve Tour Dayton provided the supplies and additional workforce to renovate the jewelry store at no cost to the church. Recently, Awakenings invited the community to an Open House to celebrate the completion of the fully renovated facility.
“This is just how God does it! He drops it right in our laps,” said Wendel. “He planted us right smack in the middle of Piqua, an area where so many people are extraordinarily broken.”
In three years, 140 people have come through Awakenings. The goal for the church is to see the broken come to know Christ and then connect them with other, established local churches.
Now in its new location, Awakenings is set up like a coffee house which makes it comfortable for those who are not familiar with how church functions. The new facility is a warm and inviting place for the lost to come and find a new life in Christ.
Wendel knows he is ministering right where he belongs. “God did not give me a choice. He told me this is what I was going to do.”
Awakenings recently invited the community to an Open House to celebrate the opening of its fully renovated facility in downtown Piqua.