May 18, 2008 -- A Chesapeake, Va., church hopes to fuel its patrons' passion for Christ by filling up their gas tanks. When gasoline prices began making their slow creep toward $4 a gallon last year, Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr. of Exodus Faith Ministries noticed a drop-off in attendance.
"We started hearing this over a year ago that people were having difficulty getting to church, having to choose between going to church and going to work," Jackson said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" today. "We just decided that we had to do something; so, we started helping our parishioners."
Exodus began giving out gas cards to church attendees who had trouble finding their way to church because of expensive gas prices. But with the continued increase of oil and gasoline, the problem has expanded.
"People are hurting," Jackson said.
Now, Jackson has extended his program to the general public, offering gas cards to non-church members, too. Each Sunday the church gives out five gas cards that, combined, are valued between $800 and $1,000.
"Our parishioners have done the giving. We've had some businesses step up here recently on hearing about this, but our parishioners, who also need gas, have been the ones to step up, saying, 'We want to help those who need the help,'" Jackson said.
The ministry uses a drawing to decide who gets a gas card and Jackson said the church is prepared to continue the giveaways as long as a need exists.
"I hope it won't be as long as it seems it's going to be. I hope that something will happen to bring gas prices down, but we're prepared to do this for as long as it takes," he said.
What Jackson isn't worried about is people attending his church only to enter the gas card raffle.
"If they come for the free gas, that's great because that's what we have for them. And if they get the message, as well, wonderful. But we want to help people, and we think that's what shows the love of God, helping people where they're hurting," Jackson said.