It's 5 am, I don't want to get up! I have to get my family up at 4:30am in order to get there on time. I just wanna go back to bed, it's too cold. It takes me 30 minutes to drive to church every Sunday morning. It's still dark, uggghhh! But Daddy, we wanna go! There will be no one there except me. My wife doesn't want to go! OK, Lord, I'm here. The whole family is on its way. They're waiting for us! We are praying on our way there. I'll just start the coffee and get busy. We're here, and they are waiting to see us. O Lord, it's still cold and dark, but our guests are so appreciative of everything we do for them. My wife and I will just let the kids sleep in the car. Lord, forgive my selfish thoughts earlier this morning; and thank you for blessing us with this ministry. Lord thank you for getting us here safely so that we can minister to our guests. Their happy faces and hugs are more important that sleeping in any day. I'm sure glad my whole family is here. My kids love this ministry. Lord, thank you for your Agape Love! Lord, thank you for your blessings! Amen! Amen! — Ernesto Mendivil
It was just about two years ago when Pastor Sergio Camacho and several of the Latino Congregation starting making burritos and coffee in their homes; and then sharing them with people who slept under the freeway overpasses. In April of 2012 – Easter Sunday – Pastor Sergio brought the breakfast to the church Fellowship Hall. We served 18 people that day. Easter of 2013 found us serving 95 men, women and children – Awesome! The Breakfast became named Agape Café; coupled with a host of new team members, we continue to serve between 60 and 90 people each week. Some are homeless, some are forgotten or lonely; some are not homeless but are just getting by on what they get in a stipend each month – Homelessness and poverty know no gender, ethnicity, religion, age or race.
It is our belief that Jesus Christ calls us to serve, minister to and care for the lost, the least and the lonely or anyone in need. No one is ever turned away.
Every Sunday morning starting at 6:00 am, approximately between 10 and 15 team members gather to prepare breakfast. At 7:30am our guests enter the Fellowship Hall to hugs and warm wishes – if someone doesn't want a hug, we respect their privacy. Breakfast starts with coffee, cereal, milk, juice and a blessing of our guests, team members and the food. The meal consists of just about any combination. On Thanksgiving, yes we did, we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and rolls for Breakfast. Biscuits and gravy are a treat, and we have even served hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad and baked beans on 4th of July – yes, for breakfast. Pancakes, waffles, sausages, burritos, corned beef hash, are a few of the dishes we serve. Sometime the staff gets creative.
Everyone who volunteers on our team brings a special gift of dedication, compassion and love for this ministry. Of the originals from the Latino Ministry, only a couple are left, along with two people from OUMC; we are excited about the addition of others who come from different churches and religious backgrounds – all because they heard what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it. Even the children of team members take part in the weekly process.
About a year ago, Pastor Sergio's grant funds ran out; and we were faced with how to maintain this ministry. But today we have private donations from team members and members of OUMC. We also have held two concerts featuring our organist/pianist/composer, Vern Nelson; and held a fundraiser selling fireworks at 4th of July.
Agape Café is truly blessed. This year, we were recipients of a used French door refrigerator/freezer donated by Sheri and Joseph LaRoche; and a brand new freezer donated by Edde and Pastor Sergio. This eases the use of the other refrigerator and freezers in the main kitchen which is used by all ministries. We are also fortunate to receive extra food from our semi-monthly Second Harvest Food Distributions.
We also started a Homeless Project account where funds are available at the discretion of the team to help with a small amount for gas, bus ticket or personal products. We were able to help a young man get a used laptop so that he could take online courses for construction.
Last Christmas, we gave each guest a sweatshirt. This year through the generosity of Barbara Johnson and Carol Roberts who made drawstring bags, and donations from many Churchfamily members, we will be giving our guests bags of personal items for their daily health. We also made a special Christmas tree for them by taking their pictures and attaching them to jar rings and jar lids. Last Sunday they hung them on their very own Christmas tree. They were so grateful and delighted. How many of them ever get a Christmas tree? For the next three weeks, Vern Nelson will lead them in singing Christmas Carols and other holiday songs. We even had one man who got on stage to sing and direct a couple of songs. Then we are joined by Donna Daniels, Richard Shea, and Janice Fowler from our Praise Team to sing along.
Many Sundays we have someone who will deliver a message. This needs to start happening every Sunday. Several times we have had guests who have shared a testimony about their journey. Pastor Sergio is now serving communion to our guests who choose to participate. Several weeks ago, he had 19 guests who shared in communion.
Thank you to all of you who make this ministry a thriving possibility and reality.
We have fun. We have heart-ache. We have sharing. We have worries. We have opportunities to nurture. We have struggles. We have grateful guests who trust us. We have disagreements. We have LOVE – Agape Love. Most of all we have an awesome God, who blesses this ministry every day and gives us Grace.
We lift this ministry up to God's Glory.
Ernesto Mendivil, "da Boss," and Sharyl Lewis
along with youth: