Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV, paraphrased) When the Son of Man comes he will separate the sheep and the goats. To the sheep he will say - Come, inherit the kingdom . . . because when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink, when I was a stranger you welcomed me, naked, you clothed me, sick or in prison, you visited me. The righteous will ask – When did we do this? The King will reply – As you did it for the least of these, you were doing it for me.
The Community Church, a Wesleyan congregation in West Oakland, California, has a passion and vision based on these words of Jesus. If you ask the congregation who they are, they will answer, “We are The Community!” Where do you want to be? “The Community!” Who do you want to serve? “The Community – the hungry, strangers, naked, sick and in prison.”
Their pastor, Dr. Lawrence VanHook, says, “The Community Church is surrounded by ‘a mixed bag of opportunity and despair.’ The highly ethnic neighborhood is peppered with poverty, gangs, substance abuse, unemployment, racial/ethnic prejudices, and poor health.”
But Wesleyans in The Community Church are reaching out to the people God loves in this city, even “the least of these.” They are offering hope through strong, Christ-filled messages; a soup kitchen; the Charis House for men recovering from drug and alcohol abuse; health services; education assistance; and employment and financial management training.
Are they making a difference in their community? Definitely! Ask brother Eddie and he will tell you how God delivered him from his drug and alcohol abuse with the church’s help. Now, he is using his handyman skills as a way to reach into the community, using it as a chance to share the hope of Jesus with his neighbors—even “the least of these.”
Sister La’Quise had given up on life, began neglecting her children, and was drinking heavily. But The Community Church brought her hope. Now pursuing a university degree, she uses her talents to help in the church wherever she can and reaches out to others who are suffering like she was—even “the least of these.”
These are just two examples of how God is changing lives at The Community Church in West Oakland, and Dr. VanHook trusts God that will continue.
Pictured: Community Church hosts a regular soup kitchen for those in need of meals.
Pictured: Pastor Lawrence VanHook