Clear Lake church extends its neighborhood to include Galveston
By Steve Lestarjette
Who is my neighbor? “Whoever is in need,” answers the youth of Christ’s Church in Clear Lake.
After a summer retreat to Galveston Island in 2011, the church’s middle and high school students began thinking about praying about the human needs they had seen up close — hungry children, families huddled in houses and apartment projects that were literally falling down around them, drug addictions, gangs, men and women with no means to break free of poverty, the only life style they knew.
Spurred by the vision of its youth, the church was back on the island within months, serving meals, providing “dignity bags” of toothpaste, toothbrushes and other essentials — and offering prayer to any islander who would lay claim to it.
The first month saw 50 people venture out to pick up a sandwich and dignity bag. The next month, working with Streetscape kitchen, volunteers brought smoked brisket, potato salad, corn on the cob, beans and cookies enough for 150 — and 300 showed up. No one went away hungry.
The Go! Galveston! Outreach has been going strong ever since. One Sunday a month, more than 30 Christ’s Church volunteers, youth and adults, pack cars and vans with food, dignity bags, clothing, and more.
“We have to be love in action before we can share a message of hope,“ Gibler says.
The outreach team sets up in one of Galveston’s neediest areas to provide spiritual counseling, teach, coach, pray, and encourage people in all areas. They talk about financial needs, getting a job, getting off welfare, salvation, parenting, relationships, taking pride in the community, and how to know God better.
More than 2,400 people were served during 2013 by Go! Galveston! Outreach, Gibler reports. Especially children. “Children are a primary focus. For many, we are the only hugs, love and image of Christ they receive. When we come down, the children come out in mass. They will even come sick because they don’t want to miss out.”
Preparing to serve so many individuals is an enormous undertaking. “We don’t try to skimp,” Gibler says. “Sometimes it takes 14 hours or more of cooking the day before to prepare the food.”
And that’s not all. Each month, volunteers must shop for clothes at resale shops, sort donated clothes by size and gender, assembly dignity bags, prepare a Bible story for the children, and pray.
“Members of the congregation and community donate all the food for a month, as well as help prepare it,” the youth pastor acknowledges. This Christmas, for the second year in a row, a family provided a tamale Christmas, and sends along 300 beautifully decorated cupcakes every month.
The effort is rewarded. Each month, homes in the neighborhood empty when the Christ’s Church team appears on the scene. The outreach draws entire families, the homeless, people with addictions, people trapped in welfare, and gang members.
Is it working?
“We know lives are changing!” Gibler emphasizes. “We have seen healings as we pray. We have seen hearts transformed. People who have never known anything but the welfare system are getting jobs, becoming better parents, even going to college.
“The children are most affected. They don’t want to leave. They have learned to pray on their own. One boy says he is called to be a pastor. They are learning what love is.”
Loving people is what it’s all about, Gibler says. “We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
And who is our neighbor? Christ’s Church has extended its neighborhood to include Galveston and the world.