As those years progressed, Jesus began to send His followers out to do the same things, using His power and authority. At the end of His ministry, He gave the “great commission” to all His followers. We are commanded to go out to folks near, a little farther, far and to the farthest places to make more followers.
At Vineyard City Church, we started backwards! In 2004, a terrible tsunami devastated South Asia. When we learned that there were 3 small churches in Sri Lanka that were doing a herculean job of helping rebuild their neighbors houses and villages, we began to support them. Since then we have taken five teams to Sri Lanka, the farthest point on the planet from Tucson!
Next, Katrina hit New Orleans and we repeated the process. The Vineyard in Kenner, by the airport, was a major staging center for relief work for the next three years. Besides feeding 300 people three times a day for three years, they targeted one of the most urgent needs. Before a homeowner could schedule an inspection, which would decide whether they would be allowed to rebuild their house, they had to gut the house. Insurance companies were not paying for that and contractors were charging $10 thousand to do it. So, people were having to give up on their homes. The Kenner Vineyard announced they would gut anyone’s house for free who asked! We had the privilege of sending three teams over those years to gut houses, often while the homeowner helped in tears.
Those opportunities set us on a path. We like disasters — the part where we get to join in God’s work of rebuilding the ruins! Since 2004, we have sent teams to Mexico, Galveston (Hurricane Rita), Cedar Rapids (Mississippi River flood) and Haiti.
It made us wonder when we would get to do more in Tucson! That began to change when we started working with refugees here. We became a sister church to Goshen Ministries, an African congregation in Tucson that has many refugees from the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. Goshen also has two churches and an orphanage in Burundi. We have been part of three teams to Burundi so far and sponsor most of the orphans. We value our relationships with the Goshen folks here and in Africa very much!
Three years ago we began a monthly outreach to the homeless in our parks. Our team makes sandwiches and takes them to parks where the homeless hang out. Our people hand out food and look for opportunities to hang out with the folks they are serving. Our church is multi-ethnic and economically varied, and serving the poor has always been a big part of who we are.
A year ago, we moved into our own facility, which has opened new ministry doors. After years of conversation with the Community Food Bank, we have become a partner and have a food pantry that is open to everyone, three days a week. And our new Social Services ministry helps people with resume preparation and job hunting. Several people have been hired through leads we gave them in the first two months of this ministry! These ministries are in their baby steps but have excellent leaders, and we hope for great things!
We are eager to see what Jesus has ahead for us. We have learned that He still helps people, and that He lets us join Him. And he is always up to something exciting! If you would like to pray with or play with someone half way around the world, or help rebuild a house or a life near or far, we can give you that opportunity. We would love to welcome you!