This past Christmas season, the Long Beach church shared holiday cheer with its neighbors through free services, food, clothing, and more. Pono Lopez, pastor at the Long Beach church, summarized the purpose of the event as an opportunity “to begin to develop our relationship with our community through serving those who need it the most during the holidays.”
The weather forecast wasn’t promising for an outdoor event. Still, the potential for rain wasn’t a deterrent for the local community; hundreds came to the event with their umbrellas and raincoats. The drizzle that started near the end of the event didn’t even put a damper on the festivities.
In fact, while the team was prepared for around 200 people, the event brought in 450 people. “We didn’t expect this,” said one volunteer, amazed at the turnout. After the food ran out, volunteers made a quick fast-food run to provide more sandwiches and meals to those who were still waiting.
This large effort was made possible by generous donations and volunteers. The church received donations from private donors and Trader Joe’s that went to toys, shoes, and more. The county donated $998 for food, some of which was used for a Thanksgiving breakfast for the church’s Adventist Community Services food bank. Free haircuts, social services, live music, and a bounce house for kids were offered on site. Guests also picked up free literature, including Bibles, books, and GLOW tracts. “The Bible is the hot commodity of the day,” said Sonny Pasco, head elder at Long Beach church.
“Many who attended felt that they received what they intended to receive,” Lopez shared. “Although some had to leave empty handed, people left in good spirits.” The last community event of this kind hosted by the church took place in 2016, and the church is ready to hit the ground running for the next event.
“Many within our church are excited for what will come of the next year,” Lopez shared. “Our leaders who were a part of this event are already planning for the 2020 year, marking possibly three or four other events placed strategically throughout the year to continue to develop relationships with the Long Beach area, but especially the neighborhoods surrounding Long Beach. Long Beach is an extremely saturated city with a wide radius, so many of our members are ready to step foot outside of our church to show what Jesus looks like as exactly that—a Jesus on the move.”
“We’re just grateful,” Lopez concluded. “What we really care about the most is that the Long Beach area knows about us. We’re really trying to build these relationships—this is a start.”