Church Spotlight: Expanded Mission

The Gathering
Covenant Church

Patterson, California
Weekly Attendance: 100
Established: 1911
Name Change: 2020

Amigos de Jesús
Covenant Church

Patterson, California
Weekly Attendance: 75
Established: 2018

The Gathering Covenant Church and Amigos de Jesús Covenant Church have teamed up with other local churches in Patterson, California, in a community enrichment effort called the Church Without Walls. Their initial goal was for pastors to meet together to pray for their community and pray for unity in the church. But their mission expanded in the wake of Covid.

As the need for a food pantry in the area grew, Church Without Walls opened a food pantry housed at the Gathering, a church of about 100 people. Amigos de Jesús Covenant pastor César Buitrago says, “It happened very organically. God began bringing food our way.”

The pantry, which is open twice a
week, is staffed by 10-15 volunteers.
Some recipients of the weekly food boxes come early to help assemble boxes and unload food.

Latino churches from nearby Modesto had pallets of food to offer. A local dairy farmer brought milk and cheese. The USDA began providing food as did the Pepsi and Quaker companies. A nearby middle school donated the proceeds of their food drive. Canned food and bread products, all donated by church and community members, round out the weekly offerings. The local Lions Club, where Peter Foster, pastor of the Gathering is a member, donated $5,000 a month for the first five months to supplement the donated food. And more than $20,000 has been donated by people in the community.

“It’s not our food pantry,” Foster is quick to say. The collaborative effort has brought in volunteers and donations from many area churches. Participation from a local shelter has also helped.

The Gathering’s fellowship hall has been completely transformed into the food pantry. Three refrigerators and a large freezer, all donated, line the walls and food boxes are stacked high. A shipping container in the parking lot also houses food.

Cars line up on the street as early as 30 minutes before the pantry opens, and each week 150–200 families receive food boxes and prayer. Buitrago, who planted Amigos de Jesús Covenant three years ago, says, “I had been praying for ways to reach out in the community and when the food pantry started, as many as 90 percent of the cars had Latinos in them! I am able to pray for them in Spanish and it is such a blessing.”

During the holidays, families who came to the food pantry received a special Christmas dinner box complete with turkeys and hams. A volunteer bought toys for all the kids who came through the line.

As volunteers prayed and talked with families at the food pantry, they learned about people who were struggling with Covid or needed help as they sheltered in place. Now Church Without Walls has begun a new ministry delivering food to families living with a Covid-positive relative. They drop off food and offer prayer over the phone for the recipients.

“This is a huge witness to what church should be,” says Foster. “We have been given this gift to serve our community—to partner with them to meet their needs. God provides for the project and paves the way for it. We are just trying to discern what God is up to and join him in it.”

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