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

Ministers' Holy Lands trip like "no other"

Wed, 30 May 2012 - 2:37 PM CST

Marc Turnage, director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, has led countless tours through the Holy Lands for people of all ages and giftings. However, he has come to recognize that ministers and those preparing for the ministry, need more than a tour - they need to come away from their experience enabled to apply the experience to their ministry.

In cooperation with Dr. James Bradford and Pastor Mark Batterson, Turnage has created the "As One With Authority" trip - a training experience that's like no other. This Holy Lands trip, scheduled for February 23 to March 3, 2013, is specifically designed for those in ministry.

"The uniqueness of this trip is that we're not just bringing ministers into the land and giving them a visual picture," explains Turnage, "but the itinerary is very intentionally geared for using the Holy Lands as a platform to improve preaching and teaching."

Turnage explains that in addition to numerous site visits, ministers will receive personal training from Batterson and Bradford - two Holy Lands veterans and outstanding ministers of the gospel. In evening sessions, the two will share with ministers on how to craft sermons and enhance their teaching from the pulpit in a dynamic way based upon their immersion into the lands of the Bible.

Through the As One With Authority Holy Lands training experiences, Turnage says ministers become stronger more confident expounders of Scripture. "They will have not only stepped into the space of Scripture," he says,  "but stepped back into the world and culture of Scripture from the standpoint of leading and teaching." 

But Turnage says the training goes beyond dynamic communication of the Word of God - it also emphasizes personal leadership growth and transformation.

"One of our site visits will be into the desert area of Israel to focus on the character and nature of Bedouin shepherd life in the ancient world," Turnage explains. "This is especially significant when you consider the Old Testament patriarchs of Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds. When ministers come to understand the importance and role the wilderness played in shaping these shepherds, these leaders of the people of Israel, our prayer is that it would not only enhance their preaching and teaching, but it would challenge and grow them as leaders within their congregations."

Turnage says that the As One With Authority training experience will also differ from normal tours in that ministers will receive pre-trip preparation materials and more time will be spent at specific-to-ministry sites. "The pre-trip study materials open the door to making each site a 'lab' or case study," Turnage says. "We'll talk through the Scripture passage, the historical and archeological issues, then process it, before moving on."

The As One With Authority training experience will also be offered as credit courses for Assemblies of God Theological Seminary students and upper-level students of North Central University, as the dates coincide with the schools' spring breaks.

"My prayer is that ministers of all ages will be able to come together for this time of personal enrichment and spiritual edification," Turnage says. "For what better place to experience renewal than in the Holy Lands?"

For more information about the As One With Authority training experience, including itinerary, trip costs and deadlines, click here.

Authors: Dan VanVeen

Search Assemblies of God News Archives