Today it seems that many churches are only interested in drawing people which can contribute to the advancement of the overall machine of the “Church”. Therefore pastors are invested in entertaining those who are affluent in society. This was not the focus of the ministry Jesus. He was very concerned that his disciples go to the hurting, bound, oppressed, poor and hopeless with the message of his gospel. These people had little or nothing to contribute or even offer to the cause but yet they were seem by Jesus as an equally important part of his body.
Many years ago the Lord put it upon our Pastors hearts to begin an extensive outreach program. On a wet and cold Friday night in March 2006 we journeyed our for the first time into what would forever change and define our ministry. With foil covered plates of spaghetti in hand, which had been prepared by our Pastor’s Wife, we drove around the streets looking for anyone who may be hungry. We found a few folks who were hungry and they gladly accepted the food and we gladly shared the hope of a new life with them. For the next few weeks continued with the same process of feeding people and telling them about the life changing power of Jesus. One of those people suggested they could get a group of people to come and listen to our message if we had a location which we could meet at. We shortly settled that an open metal pavilion, below a large train trestle, next to the Sacramento River in Caldwell park would serve as a good meeting place.
We have continued to meet at this location EVERY Friday night, rain, snow or 115 degree heat. The ritual is the same every Friday. Whether with a piano, guitar or A Capella we sing praise to our lord, preach the good news of Jesus and pray with those who want to change. We also feed everyone a fresh warm meal which is prepared during that day by one church members. The Lord has opened doors for us to also distribute new clothes, socks, underwear, etc. as well as a grocery bag for the week. Some weeks we only have 50 people show up other weeks we have over 200. We never know who will show up and sometimes we have way too much food but one amazing thing is that even when we have extremely large crowds we always seem to have enough to feed everyone of them. Each week the crowd changes but one thing remains the same, everyone who comes is in need of help and every week lives are being changed.
We don’t judge our effectiveness based on how many people show up. We have one goal and vision which we have had since we started the ministry and that is to change lives and it has. We have seen many people who have truly come to Christ. Many who were homeless as a result of addiction and sin now have homes and their families are being restored. Some of them have been planted in our church while others who were on the run have returned back home and have sent messages to us regarding the continued work of Christ in restoring what sin had destroyed. One of the amazing and most unexpected results of all of this was seen within our own church body. Our church went out to change others and really it changed our us. It has become the heart-cry of our church to reach people for Jesus. When we started the outreach we had only a few people, basically our immediate pastoral staff, that were involved. This has totally evolved over the years. We now have about 50 church members that are instrumental in the cause and function of this ministry.
Though many of those that we touch have nothing to offer in return we have discovered that the return on that spiritual investment is worth more than anything they could have offered. This outreach has taught us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Just as any other ministry it does come at an expense to our body but we continue to see the Lord send in the resources to accomplish the work. We have never begged support and yet we have seen the Lord come through time and again by placing it on the hearts of individuals and churches to help financially reach these people. We are thankful that the Lord has allowed us to be a part of his work and we continue to pray that we will be instrumental laborers in his harvest.