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

Wood speaks out on Chick-fil-A controversy

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 - 4:15 PM CST

George Wood
Wood

Dr. George O. Wood heard Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel loud and clear when he said that, "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values."

The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God now has a rapid-fire series of questions for Emanuel and any other mayor who may be tempted to follow in his footsteps.

"Are you saying that the Catholics are also unwelcome in Chicago because they don't have Chicago values? That evangelicals aren't welcome? That Muslims aren't welcome? That Orthodox Jewish people are not welcome?

"That other persons who have religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman don't have Chicago values and therefore they are excluded from your community? Do you intend to discriminate against persons of faith? Do you intend to marginalize them? Are you becoming, in your view, intolerant of persons of religious faith?

Wood believes these are all important questions for the public square. As he sees it, the push to characterize anyone who has convictions about personal marriage as bigoted is itself bigotry on display.

"We are in the middle of a massive decision in this country as to whether we are going to embrace a path toward total secularism which marginalizes people of faith, or whether people of faith and other persons of goodwill are going to rally to the side of those who hold to the moral and religious values that have made this country what it is," Wood says.

Indeed, Wood says the United States is at a watershed moment. At this time, he says it's still up in the air as to which side is going to prevail. He'd like to see Christians be alert to the moment and mobilize for morals.

"Christians have a choice in this upcoming election, whether they are going to put their moral values ahead of everything else. There's been so much talk about the economy and that's understandable when you are hurting financially," Wood says.

"But if the culture shifts and we become Western Europe replayed where religion is out of fashion, so to speak, then we are headed for moral chaos in this country and decline. Christians in this country have to come to an understanding of where they are with regard to the moral issues of our day-issues that relate to life and issues that relate to sexuality."

Authors: Steve Strang and Jennifer LeClaire, Charisma News
Reprinted with permission.


Search Assemblies of God News Archives