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

Young adulthood brings big changes to families

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 - 3:43 PM CST

Kilsdonk, daughter-mother
Lisa Kilsdonk (right) of Baker, Montana, misses daughter Tessa now that she is halfway across the country attending Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

Childhood is fleeting. That explains why even the smallest milestones - from the first wobbly steps to the loss of a baby tooth - can trigger a swell of parental emotion. Yet few things prepare parents for the often-jolting transition from full house to empty nest.

"It hits us at different times - and sometimes when we least expect," says Susan Yates, a mother of five grown children and co-author of the book, Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest.

Unlike the preschool years, which have a clear beginning and end, the empty nest is not neatly defined, Yates says. One parent may feel sad as a son or daughter enters the final year of high school. Another may not grieve until the last child graduates college or weds.

Whatever the timing, launching offspring into the adult world can be a poignant adjustment for families. Yates, who interviewed empty nesters across the country, says most parents reported varying degrees of loneliness. One reason seemed to be a lack of social support, she says.

"When the kids are little, we schedule play dates and seek out adult friends," Yates says. "But during the teen years, parents get so busy with the kids they put everything else on the shelf - including other relationships. By the time this major life change comes along, they can feel isolated."

Marriages may suffer as well. A study by Bowling Green State University in Ohio identified a disturbing trend among older couples. The divorce rate for people age 50 and older more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, researchers found. At the time of the study, this demographic accounted for more than a quarter of the nation's failed marriages.

Of course, the empty nest doesn't have to trigger an emotional or marital crisis. Wes Bartel, director of Discipleship Ministries for the Assemblies of God, says families can build a foundation for navigating this transition in a healthy manner.

"Early on, my wife and I established the goal that we wanted our children to become successfully independent from us," says Bartel, father of two adult children. "But we also knew we needed to become successfully independent from them. That meant keeping a primary focus on God and our marriage."

Bartel says while the process wasn't painless, he found solace in his relationship with God.

"I remember the quietness of the car as I drove home from visiting my daughter in college," Bartel says. "I prayed and made a recommitment to my personal walk with God and my marriage. I would advise people who are going through that to lean on God. Don't continue in quietness and frustration. Some of the best years of your life are still ahead of you."

Last August, Lisa Kilsdonk of Baker, Montana, sent her youngest daughter, Tessa, to Evangel University (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Missouri. After spending 28 years raising four children, she says this new life stage marks a turning point that is both emotional and rewarding.

"Some days are harder than others," says Kilsdonk, whose husband, Rod, serves as pastor at Baker Assembly of God. "Sometimes the loneliness hits like a tidal wave, and the craziest thing can trigger it, like walking past Tessa's room and seeing it clean - bed made, no clothes on the floor."

Yet Kilsdonk says there are benefits to having the kids raised, such as having more time to devote to ministry, her marriage and her teaching career. She also enjoys close relationships with her other grown children, two of whom have started families of their own.

"I strongly dislike the term empty nest," Kilsdonk says. "It has such a sad, hopeless-sounding connotation. This time is a natural, normal part of the process of life."

A study by the University of Missouri in Columbia suggests many of the changes parents experience after the kids leave home are positive.

"As children age, direct caretaking and influence diminish, and children are often seen by their parents as peers with whom they can have continuing relationships," says Christine Proulx, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri.

Diane Ashton, a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter, says her evolving role has left her wondering where to direct the time and energy that had gone into parenting for so many years.

"I'm still working on it and praying about it," says Ashton, who attends Allison Park Church, an Assemblies of God congregation near Pittsburgh. "Fine Arts, Bible Quiz, basketball - that has been my life. Suddenly there's a lot of transition going on, and I'm wondering, Who am I, and what am I supposed to do next?

Adding to the shifting family dynamics, one of Ashton's sons recently moved back in after several years away at college.

"With different kids going different directions, God has made it obvious many times that He is in the middle of it all," Ashton says. "In that way it's all been good. God has shown that He cares about the details of our lives. I'm realizing I don't have to figure it all out. I can stand on God's promises and trust Him with the future."

In today's tough job market, a growing number of young adults are remaining in the nest - or returning to it. A survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found the number of 25- to 34-year-old men living with their parents increased from 14 to 19 percent between 2005 and 2011. Among young women, the figure rose from 8 to 10 percent in the same period.

Nevertheless, most fledglings eventually fly. And while letting go is never easy, Bartel says parents can find satisfaction in watching their children spread their wings.

"Children are a gift from God," Bartel says. "But we have a responsibility to develop them so that God can use them. That also means giving them back to God when the time comes."

Author: Christina Quick, Pentecostal Evangel

 


Search Assemblies of God News Archives