That was the main message delivered by the Rev. Charles Stephenson Jr. during the annual Community Thanksgiving Service sponsored by Marshall Ministerial Alliance and hosted at Southside Assembly of God Church Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Stephenson noted that 2012 has been a very difficult year for him as he battled cancer and struggled to continue his ministry while recovering from surgery.
But God helped him through the difficult times, he said.
Stephenson based his message on John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
"I believe John 3:16 is the single greatest verse in the Bible," he said. "It has been called the gospel in a nutshell. It has been called a love letter from God, written in blood."
Using the verse as a guide, he noted his mission in life "is to empower as many people as I can, as best as I can, as long as I can. If I can engage, education, equip and empower someone every day I come in contact with, I feel like I am fulfilling my part in the world."
Stephenson traced the influences of three people in his life, his father, Charles Stephenson Sr., his wrestling coach, Jim Hargraves, and his grandmother, Nanny Stephenson. He said it was his grandmother who "planted the foundation in which I live by."
"She taught me through a song at a very young age," he said, and then began to sing, with the congregation soon joining in. "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so."
That simple song captures the message of John 3:16 and the most important thing to remember and be grateful for at Thanksgiving, according to Stephenson.
"I believe the root of all the world's crises today is the true fact that many people don't know God loves them."
An addition this year was an interpretive dance performance by Cumberland Presbyterian Church Praise Team.
In addition to Stephenson, members of the Marshall Ministerial Alliance who participated in the service included the Rev. Cliff Cato, Fr. Kevin Gormley, the Rev. Vernon Maxted, the Rev. Kathleen Schmidtke, the Rev. Randy Shannon, the Rev. David Van Horn and the Rev. Mary Williams.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]