Six years ago, Matt McGukin pastored a mission-minded church near Birmingham, Alabama. The medical needs for two of his three children (a toddler son and fifth-grade daughter) on home dialysis therapies were met by the capable staff at Children’s of Alabama, just 30 minutes from their home. So, moving out west didn’t make sense. To some, the idea was absurd and unwise. Nonetheless, McGukin packed his belongings and planned to move his family to Eastern Idaho. Seven days before the movers were set to arrive, they got a call. There was a transplant match for their one-year-old son. After a successful transplant and release from the hospital, Pastor McGukin and his oldest son moved to Idaho while his youngest son finished recovering. Shortly after arriving in Idaho, the remainder of his family joined him.
One transplant was complete, but still one more was needed — for McGukin’s daughter. But the conversations with doctors were grim. There was almost no hope of finding an organ match for her. However, less than a year later, another call came. There was a transplant match for his daughter. A program at the University of Utah hospital in Salt Lake City matched his daughter with a living “Good Samaritan” donor. “Only God could do this, so many moving parts to provide two separate miracles in two different locations. We were blown away by his grace and provision,” said McGukin.
Pastor Matt and his wife Marty parent a multicultural family who have found a loving church home at Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The McGukin children attend services with others who mirror their own culture and ethnicity. Iglesia Bautista Calvario, led by Pastor Enrique Banos, shares the church building with CBC. What was once a Spanish language church plant of Calvary Baptist Church is now a thriving and self-sufficient body. Local Chinese believers also meet at the church. At one point, a Korean church held services on the third floor of their education building. The members at CBC also support foster care and adoption. “A church family who pleads the case of the orphan and the fatherless is important to us. That is how we became a family,” he remarked. Training and support meetings for local foster parents make their home in the youth area of the church. The members seek to meet the individual needs of local foster children as well. Many of the current members are involved in foster care and adoption. “We want to be a safe place for families to be restored to one another,” McGukin added.
Before the pandemic, CBC was running just over 200 members. With precautions in place, the church is averaging 125 in attendance, with 30–40 joining in live streaming services. Throughout the church’s 70-year history, the members have planted multiple churches. In the last five years, two have launched their ministries, and a third will begin services in the next few weeks. Life change in his members encourages Pastor McGukin forward. “The changing landscape in our culture caused our members to go out and be the church even more than before. They are sharing the gospel, meeting needs, and reaching out to others,” he stated. Although the church calendar shows a decrease in activities, the church members are busy ministering to others.
The communities in Eastern Idaho are home to thousands of people who hail from other places. “Our website is the front door to the church,” said McGukin. Many people hear his sermons on the website before they ever see him in person. There are not many evangelical churches in the area, so future attendees check out the local options before visiting. Live streaming offers a constant adventure for this pastor and his staff, who are currently working through audio issues.
After winning a Bose Church giveaway, Pastor McGukin selected the Bose S1 Pro portable PA system to support the outdoor sound needs of the church. He looks forward to using the equipment for backyard Bible club, church planting events, outdoor movie nights, and block parties.
During COVID, CBC has used Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube to connect with its members. They hosted Sunday School meetings on Zoom with almost an 80% participation rate. Bible studies and weekly sermons broadcast from Facebook Live and YouTube. The Zoom format continues to benefit the church as members consistently use the tool for Bible study, prayer meetings, and even movie nights for the youth.