Bold in Brooklyn: Refuge Church a Community Hub of Help and Hope
By Aaron Diaz
Brooklyn, New York, has been highly impacted by the global pandemic. However, Pastor Kevin Osbourne of Refuge Church has big plans in store for the hurting people in Brooklyn. “Right now, we do know, based on this pandemic, there are a lot of people down on their luck. So, what we’re trying to do at the church is give what we call a ‘Blessing in a Box,’ which means we are giving food items to families, whether they are families of four or families of two.”
Osbourne states, “We arrange the food boxes based on their wants, as well as their needs. If they like brown rice, perfect. We’d offer white rice if they’d prefer that. We have veggies, as well. If they have small children, we have animal crackers. So, we have a lot of various items, depending on the family. We don’t believe in just giving a family the same thing, because every family dynamic is different.”
The vision of Refuge Church is to help meet the needs of people in Brooklyn. Although Osbourne understands tough times are upon churches financially, that doesn’t mean closing the church doors. In times of trial and hardship, Osbourne knows God’s kingdom is still at work.
“Why would we exist if we can’t meet the needs of our community in a crisis?” he continues. “Whatever these families need. That’s what we’re trying to do for them. Meeting the needs of people is important. We can make an excuse that the pandemic is preventing us from doing ministry, but we are saying we’re here. We haven’t abandoned you. Thank you for not abandoning us.”
The Refuge Church family feels blessed to still be open and able to spread the gospel. During the pandemic’s hardships, only a handful of churches have had this opportunity. Osbourne notes many churches in the Brooklyn area have shut down due to low funds or lack of help from volunteers. Osbourne shares, “We are grateful for what we have to offer, as opposed to people just coming to come. People are coming because they are in need, and they are grateful that the church doors are open.”
Though Refuge Church is open, the pandemic has not made life easy for the church.
“Being ready to meet the people’s needs is important, but progress has been slowed down because people are now sheltered in place. They’re leery of coming out. The church is a trusted place. My church is a trusted place, but many people are not necessarily coming outdoors or coming to the church in terms of walking down the block. Getting the word out has been difficult,” he continued to explain. Given the added obstacles that Osbourne and the church face, there is still a sense of positivity and faith for good things to come.
Osbourne and Refuge Church aren’t just focusing on this project, as God has laid many more goals on their hearts. Refuge Church was awarded the “Change the Story” grant, given to several local Church of God congregations looking to meet the needs around them and help the community. The church as a whole is open to many ideas relating to where the funds will go. “What we’ll do with the funds is up to the people,” added Osbourne. “The people will tell us what to do with those funds. We’re taking surveys from our community to see what needs need to be answered.”
In addition, the church leadership has another project that focuses on the children of the community called “Help Me Learn.” This project is focused on children struggling with receiving a good education. Osbourne shares that “it’s a student-driven student-oriented project to help children learn during this pandemic. Students are using borrowed laptops from the Department of Education, but they don’t have anything on their own.” Osbourne notes many students in the Brooklyn area do not have the funds to buy a stable laptop or have internet access. Refuge Church wants to change this problem, not only for children but for everyone in the community.
Since last summer, many families have lost their jobs meaning many have cut out the luxury of the internet. To fill this need, Refuge Church has opened its doors to people who need to file for unemployment or find a job. Their church is also working on having childcare available for students while their employed parents are at work. Osbourne and his church family are committed to assisting families in finding employment so that they can put food on their table. He concludes, “Being able to meet the needs of people brings a sense of accomplishment to our congregation.”
Refuge Church of God is one of several congregations to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of recent crises:
Aaron Diaz is a junior public relations major. He is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University, and secretary of AU’s Chapter of PRSSA.