Every Sunday a parade of food, party supplies and household goods streams past Los Angeles One Church as the 20 or so congregants celebrate Jesus in their rented space, a tiny room off the foyer of a Compton, California dollar store.
As shoppers enter and exit, they are invited to take Bibles or books and other goodies carefully arrayed on a table. In late summer, they make room for flyers promoting free PowerPacks®, colorful backpacks filled with school supplies and age-appropriate gospel literature, provided through a partnership with Cru® Inner City. Since teaming up with Inner City four years ago, the church has used PowerPacks to reach its neighbors.
"With every backpack we give out — when we do it at church or when we give door to door — we ask them if we can share the gospel with them," said Pastor Chan Kwak, who moved from his native Koreatown to plant the Compton church, now five years old.
During one home encounter, Pastor Chan met a single mom. They chatted for a bit before he asked the woman if she was open to a conversation about Jesus.
"Can I bring my son out?" she asked him.
Within minutes, 13-year-old James was standing next to his mother. He listened intently to Pastor Chan. Not only did James accept Christ that day, he asked how he could become involved in the church.
"He was very thankful and happy to receive the backpack and the gospel message," Pastor Chan recalled.
James was not alone as others also committed their lives to Christ through the backpack giveaways.
"We have many that accept Christ, but no connection to our church permanently," the pastor said, stressing they deal with the neighborhood's high transient rate through consistent use of social media and emails. Before long, the church's email list climbed to 264, 10 times greater than the size of the congregation.
Many of those relationships, the pastor said, are directly attributed to the PowerPacks and other Inner City Compassionate Products™ such as Boxes of Love® and Easter Bags. Without those resources, the outreach capability of Los Angeles One would be greatly diminished.
"We have a lot of hindrances in doing church, but nothing stops Jesus from doing ministry. So that doesn't stop us," he said.
Beyond blessing strangers with the gospel and goodies, Pastor Chan said Cru's resources are critical in helping the spiritual development of his small flock as they step out in faith by putting the Great Commission into practice. While the backpacks will wear out and their contents eventually be used up, the evangelism training they receive as part of the PowerPack® distribution is a timeless multiplier of workers and resources.
"It's just, really, people who are dedicated and giving up their time and their energy," the pastor, a full-time architect, said. "None of us are paid."
For its initial outreach, One Church LA anticipated needing 30 PowerPacks. After distributing flyers, more than 100 children were pre-registered to receive the backpacks.
"They had to buy all their own stuff outside the 30," said Tom Norris, the former co-team director for Inner City's work in Los Angeles.
The following year, the city team was able to bump up the distribution to One Church to 75 backpacks.
"That was pretty cool that we're able to serve him ... because this is a young church plant," Tom said. "It's not like they have a lot of resources. He's a bi-vocational pastor."
Children are not the only beneficiaries of the PowerPack distribution. Pastor Chan said that when a new One Church LA attendee heard about the project, she immediately offered to set up a game for the outreach event.
"She's purchasing — out of her own pocket — the game materials and she's only been at our church for a few months. She's actually going through our newcomers and membership class right now but she's already stepping up to serve the community."
Pastor Chan said he's grateful for resources that allow his small congregation to give in ways far greater than its means. He considers it exponential giving.
"Money and numbers should never be an issue for the kingdom of God," Pastor Chan said, evidenced by his PowerPack outreach, which produced the fruit of changed lives.
Lori Arnold serves as the senior writer for Cru's inner-city ministry.
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