The little white church is small and inconspicuous, in the middle of a blue-collar residential area where most motorists drive by without noticing it. But Calvary Assembly of God in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is bringing hope.
It started three years ago with only half a dozen people in the church. Bryant Holmes, who earlier had been part of a preaching rotation while taking Global University classes through Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Omaha, Nebraska, agreed to pastor the church. Holmes invited his friend Emanuel Rodriguez, who had worked with him in prison ministry and street ministry, to assist in turning the church around.
Holmes and Rodriguez had a dream that the church could impact the community. Although both had ministerial credentials, they agreed to serve at the church without pay as they continued to work secular jobs.
After much prayer, the men determined to open Calvary's StoreHouse Food Pantry as an outreach of the church. They asked the Lord to provide the equipment they would need — and the laborers at a time when only nine adults attended the church. Gradually, equipment began to be provided: freezers, refrigerators, shelves for storage, tables and a conveyor.
The church currently has 25 people showing up on Sundays. But every month, Calvary Assembly of God feeds more than 100 families. Virtually everyone from the church volunteers, including children. So do neighborhood residents, local school employees and members of other churches, in an effort to show compassion to the hungry and hurting.
Holmes and Rodriguez minister to ex-junkies, former alcoholics, the abused and the abusers, the homeless, the heartbroken. The neighborhood is full of two-income families struggling to make ends meet, single parents with several kids, families dealing with substance and domestic abuse issues.
Holmes, 42, says when food is distributed, he gets to talk to people about their hurts, pains, dreams, hopes and disappointments.
"The StoreHouse lets them know they are important - not because of how they dress, or what they do, or even because they come to church, and most of them do not," Holmes says. "They are important because of who they are. They are important to our Father; He loves them."
"We may have a small church, but it is a strong church, filled with people who know how to fight the good fight," Rodriguez says. "The pantry runs on God's power alone, because we could not afford to do it."
Author: Maria Lisa Smith, Pentecostal Evangel