When Olber Roblero became pastor of Iglesia Bautista Horeb in November 2019, he had big plans to turn the church into a hub of outreach and ministry. The small church, located in Brownsville, had about 55-60 regular attendees. Roblero was confident Iglesia Bautista Horeb could make a big impact on their community.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic changed many of Roblero’s plans, the church has still strived to be light to the people of Brownsville. They opened up a feeding ministry, handed out masks and passed out shoes to 200 children. At an outdoor, socially distanced gathering to pass out the shoes to the children, 25 people raised their hands to accept Christ into their lives. Another six have been baptized because of the feeding ministry.
Below are some of the strategies and ideas that Iglesia Bautista Horeb adopted as they sought to help their community in a big way.
Iglesia Bautista Horeb decided to take their feeding ministry beyond their church’s property, delivering food to people who were sick or lived in nearby mobile home parks and apartment complexes. Roblero explained that by delivering food to families who were ill with COVID-19, the church was able to demonstrate the love of Christ in a way that they had never been able to before. It was a new opportunity for ministry.
Going to people’s homes to deliver the food allowed the church to minister to people who may have been unwilling to go to the church, whether it was because they were sick, skeptical or otherwise.
Roblero explained that it was the pandemic that originally pushed the church to begin looking for partnerships with ministries and organizations.
“I didn’t know what we could do about the pandemic and all of the hardships people were going through. But we began to pray and look for resources,” he explained. “It’s more than you can do by yourself, more than the pastor can do by himself, more than the church can do by itself. It’s a community effort.”
The church connected with other organizations in the area that were helping people, including the Brownsville Wellness Coalition, which gave the church food to distribute to people. Without that important partnership, Iglesia Bautista Horeb would not have been able to distribute nearly as much food to those in need, Roblero said.
At first their feeding ministry was run entirely by church members. When locals began seeing the good that was happening there, they started bringing money for donations and volunteering to help. Instead of only allowing church members to serve, Roblero welcomed people to join in. As these new volunteers spent more time with the church members, they felt a shift in their own hearts. Six people have come to know Christ as a result of volunteering through the church.
Welcoming volunteers from outside the church membership is a great way to minister not just to those in need, but also to those who would not be at a feeding ministry otherwise. Every new relationship built through the ministry has been an opportunity to share the Gospel.
As people have come to know the Lord, Roblero has put emphasis on discipling them so that they are strong in their faith. He explained that sometimes when new Christians ask questions about Christianity, it is easy to just point them to a Scripture or a book. Though these resources are often helpful, sitting down with them and ensuring that they fully understand the Gospel is the best way to strengthen their faith.
“Now our job is to disciple them and help them mature in the Lord so that they can begin to share the love of Christ with other families,” Roblero said.
What started as a feeding ministry grew into something bigger as the church got to know the families they were serving. When Roblero noticed that all of the cars receiving food boxes had young kids in the back, he decided the church would collect shoes to give out to the children. The church began gathering new pairs of shoes and asking for donations from other churches and businesses, especially those who had partnered with them before. They set up an online registration for families in need of new shoes, and within a few hours the 200 pairs had been claimed.
The church held a Christmas party to give away the 200 pairs of shoes in-person on December 13. They wrapped the shoes in Christmas wrapping paper, gave out hot chocolate and played festive music. One woman even volunteered to make 500 tamales for the event. The event was much larger than Iglesia Bautista Horeb was used to, Roblero explained. If each of the 200 children receiving shoes brought one parent, that was already 400 people. In order to adapt the event to COVID-19, they held it outside, spacing family groups out six-feet from one another. At the end of passing out the shoes, Roblero shared the Gospel with everyone there, and 25 people accepted Christ.
Making the event fun and treating it as a Christmas party instead of simply handing out the shoes provided the church with a chance to get to know the people they were serving. Instead of just a transactional donation, the church gave people a memorable moment to draw them back to the church.
The most important thing to remember when reaching out to your community, Roblero said, is to have faith in God. There will be hardships, and people unwilling to help, but if you keep your eyes fixed on the Lord, it will all be worth it.
“If you are faithful in the little He will be faithful in the lots,” Roblero said. “And He has done that for us.”
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