Being the Church in your Community
DATE POSTED: 03/26/2019  |     |   Category: Outreach

By Grant Bowles – Pastor, FBC, Sanger

By Grant Bowles – Pastor, FBC, Sanger

Growing up in Sanger I knew our community had pockets of need. During my childhood those pockets were relatively well defined and easy to see. Poverty was ensconced in two primary areas with the rest of the community fairly well placed in the middle of the economic spectrum – or at least that was my experience. Moving back to Sanger I saw the reality of our community today.

Demographics can tell us part of the story. Sanger is the second youngest city in Denton County, with a median age of 29.5. Housing affordability is the primary driver of our population allowing young families to buy a house they couldn’t afford elsewhere in Denton County. Another factor in our demographic is a lower than average education level. Sanger ranks lower than the national average in adults with a Bachelor degree or higher.

One of Sanger’s greatest needs is food insufficiency and a lack of resiliency, which is the ability to bounce back from a crisis. The difference in Sanger today versus the Sanger I knew 30 years ago is that the poverty is diffused throughout the community. We still have a couple of defined areas of lower economic levels, but the poor are spread throughout the community as young families have moved into older homes vacated by the original owners which makes seeing the poverty more difficult.

FBC, Sanger began to recognize the need before I was called as pastor. The church started a ministry called God’s Table that provided a free hot meal once a week. The expectations were low; however, 30 to 40 people arrived every Monday for a home cooked meal. When I returned to Sanger, I began praying that God would help me see the needs and provide a way to begin meeting those needs. I prayed for over two years with no specific answer. One day a church member walked into my office and invited me to go with him to Denton and check out a ministry called First Refuge. Because he offered to buy my lunch, I agreed and went with him. Little did I know that this one visit would bring new radical opportunities.

God waited more than two years before He answered my prayer. As I pondered his timing, I realized there were several reasons. God was preparing FBC, Sanger for what he was about to do. A Hispanic church that met in a home we owned moved out, creating a vacancy in a building that would be needed for what was to come. The church gradually began to see and meet the needs in our community through the God’s Table ministry. Our leadership began looking closely at our demographics and became convinced that we needed to do more. I believe another reason for the delayed answer was that First Refuge had hired a new Director who needed time to become grounded and ready for expansion. God had not answered earlier because He was moving the pieces on the chess board in place.

At the proper time everything fell into place, even some things we had not thought possible. Sanger ISD and the city government were invited to apply for a grant to address resiliency and food insufficiency through a non-profit. The leadership of the schools and city government knew about our plans to work with First Refuge, so they contacted us about applying for a cooperative grant. God brought something to the table we never expected. The schools, city government, First Refuge and FBC Sanger are now working together, without violating the separation of church and state, to address the needs of our community.

Every 1st Saturday, we host a Mobile Food Pantry in our parking lot. Denton Hunger Coalition provides the food, FBC, Sanger provides the space and the Sanger community provides the workers. When we first advertised the Mobile Food Pantry, people with no attachment to our church asked to help. Now every month, our members stand side by side with community members, often individuals with no church background, handing out food and sharing God’s love. This gives a new meaning to servant evangelism. In coordination with this opportunity, we will be opening First Refuge Sanger by the end of the summer.

God has been so faithful and provided in ways we never expected which inspired our church to dream bigger. We are now organizing a one-day service event for our community called Serve Sanger. We began spreading the word to enlist volunteers. To our amazement, more people have volunteered than were needed to complete the projects. Serving our community has provided the opportunity to share the Gospel, not only to those we serve but with those serving with us. In previous years, finding the funds to provide the materials for a major service project would have been impossible; however, last year our Missions Committee challenged the church to contribute to a 4th missions offering. We emphasize our regular SBC missions’ offerings in their specified time slot, but we also use the summer months to raise funds for mission projects in Sanger.

Your community has needs. They are probably different than the needs of Sanger. Ask God to open your eyes to the needs in your community. Then get ready, because, when the time is right, God will answer in ways you never would have imagined.

 

 

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