Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us
Evangelism, Worship, Discipleship & Compassion

News RSS Feed

Audio News Reports

   Additional Headlines & Audio Reports

Search AG News

Ebenezer Christian Center food pantry
Ebenzer Christian Center in Sacramento, California, discovered that the hunger that existed in its community wasn't limited to the kids in their children's ministry. The church now distributes enough groceries for 11,000 to 14,000 meals a month.

When Karen Abrego first came to Ebenezer Christian Center (AG) in Sacramento, California, six years ago as an associate pastor, she was a very experienced children's worker and filled with confidence in her ability to reach children for Christ. 

But her confidence was quickly tested and then frustrated. She couldn't seem to get the children's attention, much less get them to settle down. Behavioral issues were rampant. Did the kids just not want to be there? Was it a lack of respect? What was she missing?

"I decided to kill them with kindness," Abrego says. "So, it was an Easter Sunday, and we made silver-dollar blueberry pancakes for the children." Moments later, the light went on for Abrego.

"When the children started to eat, I remembered hearing that sound before . . . it was this moaning sound as they ate — it was the same sound the malnourished children I had cared for in El Salvador made when they were fed," she says.

Albrego realized that many of the children were coming to church hungry.

Ebenezer Christian Center, a member of the Assemblies of God Northern Pacific Latin American District (NPLAD), is located in a low-income, high-crime part of south Sacramento. As Abrego investigated further, she discovered that the nearby elementary school was a Title I school and that 98 percent of the kids attending were on a reduced-rate or free-meal program. 

"The kids were coming to school and receiving breakfast and lunch five days a week, but on the weekends they were food poor," she says. Ironically Sacramento is known as a rich agricultural area, but the people living in the church's neighborhood didn't have the funds or transportation to readily access it — so they did without.

Pastor Dan and Dionna Garza
Pastor Dan and Dionna Garza

Understanding the need, Abrego met with Senior Pastor Dan Garza, and the church began serving healthy snacks to the children on Sunday mornings. They then partnered with a food bank to provide food for families through the church twice a month.

"In February, due to budget cuts, the elementary school lost the support of its food bank," Abrego says. "We went to our food bank and asked if they would pick up the school and its families — they agreed as long as we provided the volunteers." 

Ebenezer Christian Center has an attendance of 350-400. As many of those attending come from the community and understand (sometimes personally) the desperate need of so many of the neighborhood families, the church confidently agreed to the food bank's request for volunteers.

The church now gives away enough food for 11,000 to 14,000 meals each month.

Efraim Espinoza, director of AG Office Of Hispanic Relations, states, "Ebenezer Christian Center, under the leadership of Pastor Dan Garza, serves as a great testimony that the Assemblies of God wants to reach out in compassion to those around it." 

Although some may assume that because the church is a Hispanic church, its community is strictly Hispanic, Abrego quickly clarifies that the area is a "mixing pot" of multiple ethnicities, including Russian, Ukrainian, Filipino, Hispanic, Hmong and Middle Eastern — to name a few. 

Providing healthy snacks for the children on Sunday mornings has been transformational for the church as the children are now attentive. In addition, the food bank has made a huge impact on the church's community. The staff now calls their twice-monthly food distribution from the church their "Friday morning congregation."

Pastor Karen Abrego
Associate Pastor Karen Abrego with two gentlemen from the Ukraine who the church now ministers to through its food pantry.

"The difference between what we do and other food pantries do is that we pray over and with people who come," Abrego says. "The people ask us to pray for their needs. We recently had one woman come rushing in, not worried that she was going to miss getting her groceries, but that she had missed prayer!"

The efforts the church has made to supply groceries to the community has torn down walls, introduced people to the church, and built relationships between the community and church volunteers and staff.

"Now, I walk down the street and people are calling out to me, 'Hey PK [Pastor Karen]!'"

The school has also communicated its thankfulness, saying that children are better behaved and are able to learn more easily without the distraction of hunger. One teacher shared how thankful she was that she could direct parents who were needing food for their families to the church's food distribution at the school. 

NPLAD Superintendent Jesse Galindo affirms the efforts of the church by saying, "We need more pastors like Pastor Dan [Garza] that will empower and support their staff to fulfill the Great Commission through their specific ministry in the local church."

In addition to food ministry, Ebenezer Christian Center also has a ministry to the homeless, taking clothing to the homeless communities every other month; they have brought in registered nurses to give free flu shots; they've helped families register for healthcare; and opened their doors for all kinds of events to meet needs. 

"We're not a mega-church," Abrego says, "but we're consistently chipping away at the rock of poverty and making a difference in families and lives. We've become the hub of our community . . . , and isn't that what the church is supposed to be?"

 


Search Assemblies of God News Archives

Modern Hymns of Revival

 

In the Gap

You Might Also Like


Videos (AGTV)

AG News

Return to News Index

AG churches spared as tornadoes tear through Midwest, South

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 - 4:23 PM CST

In a week filled with severe weather, multiple communities in the Midwest and South were devastated by powerful tornadoes that left death and destruction in their wake.

According to reports, more than three dozen people have died and hundreds have been injured due to the tornado outbreaks, which began last week in Kansas and Missouri and then continued into Illinois, with a another tornado-generating weather system striking farther east later in the week, from Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky to Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Yet despite several communities being "wiped out," AG districts are so far reporting that no AG churches have reported any significant damage. In some cases, district leaders are sharing remarkable stories.

Kentucky District Superintendent Joe Girdler reports that they have communities that are "hardly there" anymore. Yet, he's been told of two instances where a tornado either went around or over the top of churches, sparing them any damage, while buildings around them were destroyed.

"We have churches already bringing in food and water into hard-hit areas, with many others standing by with work teams ready to roll," Girdler says. "At this point, we know of no AG churches or pastors' homes that have been damaged, but there are some communities that we have not heard from [as phone service is down]."

The Ohio District reports a similar experience as in Kentucky. The River of Life (AG) in Moscow, Ohio, was at the center of the storm, but wasn't damaged while everything around it was. The church now serves as command central for volunteers and supplies.

First Assembly of God in Dallas, Georgia, was able to respond to the needs in its tornado-torn community as well. The previous night, the church had prepared soup and sandwiches to do ministry in Atlanta, but when the tornado hit, plans were changed and they were able to provide food and water to workers and families in the area.

According to the Illinois District Office, churches are responding to the tornado that nearly wiped out the community of Harrisburg. Abundant Life Assembly in nearby Marion has been providing food and water, and has offered their facility to use as a storehouse for supplies. Other churches are also offering work crews when officials permit them in.

In addition to church response, the Convoy of Hope is also present in multiple locations. "As the most recent tornadoes were touching down, we had trucks - full of food, water and emergency supplies - on the road headed to areas that forecasters projected to be hit," Karen Benson, director of Global disaster Response for Convoy of Hope, says.  "As soon as we get the green light from local officials, we will begin setting up mobile distribution sites and dispatching debris removal teams."

As Kentucky's Joe Girdler said, "there are many churches, too many to name them all, that have opened their doors and are responding to the need." The same could be said in most if not all the districts where tornadoes struck. Although there have been no reports of AG churches hit by the tornadoes, AG members and their extended families and communities have suffered deep losses - and churches are doing their best to provide compassionate care for victims and workers.

 

Keywords: AG churches
Authors: Dan Van Veen

Search Assemblies of God News Archives