Growing a church through serving

By Send Relief Staff

Red Hook Redemption Church wasn’t planning participating in the MLK Day of Service.

Located in the Red Hook neighborhood of New York City, the church is based in a neighborhood known for being a food desert and has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. With 30,000 people living below the poverty line in Red Hook, it is home to the second largest low-income housing region in the city. The church team was already taking advantage of their opportunities to serve their neighbors, and between those efforts and the daily new challenges leading a church through a pandemic, church planter Edwin Pacheco already had his hands full.

But a community leader approached Pacheco with a donation of hats, gloves and scarves for seniors, and the seed of a service day was planted, and church members gathered to distribute the donations on January 18.

Soon, word spread, and more donations from friends and community partners came rolling in, and 200 sets of winter wear were packed and distributed to underserved senior citizens.

Pacheco shared, “We as a church leverage these opportunities to go outside instead of being online during COVID to disciple and take opportunities to connect with people. We’ve found the best way to serve our community is by listening. We have a strong presence in the neighborhood, as we base our main form of community off of Luke 10 and the breaking of bread with others, so when COVID hit, we had already established such strong relationships with community partners that people who weren’t in church at all called me to see what we were going to do because we had a reputation of service.”

After listening and discovering the biggest pressing need in his community post-pandemic was food relief, Pancheco partnered with local food banks and nonprofits to ensure his neighbors were fed. In a matter of months, his team had distributed 1.6 million pounds of food. They are still distributing 800 boxes a week to Red Hook residents and delivering another 800 to surrounding neighborhoods also in need.

Pancheco shared that many members of the community who have been recipients of help from the church had gospel his team, have joint the church and are themselves volunteering to distribute aid!

As a result of these efforts, Redemption has doubled in size since the pandemic.

“It’s ironic because we thought quarantine would suffocate our two-year-old church. We thought this would be our demise, but people are getting more and more connected to God and Biblical community by sharing food in the midst of an event that should be shaking people’s faith,” Pancheco commented. “We are not a Sunday gathering—we are a real discipleship program, and the pandemic has forced us to practice what we preach. I would encourage church planters who feel like they’re not large enough or don’t have enough money to not let that deter them from the mission. If we had waited for everything to fall into place, we never would have the ministry we do today. So step out in obedience.”

Pray for Redemption Red Hook to locate a physical space for their congregation to meet in soon, so that they may run their community outreach more efficiently, and pray for the ongoing food shortage so many families are experiencing in light of the pandemic.

Published January 28, 2021

Send Relief Staff