Pacific Northwest Ministry Pivots, Maximizes Impact Amid Pandemic
By Rachel Eldridge
CHOGNews shared the story in May 2013 of a Church of God congregation in Richland, Washington, that was experiencing exponential growth. Later, in January 2018, the church renovated their existing facility to make more room for ever-increasing numbers of guests at weekend services. Today, in the world of social distancing, the outreach of C3 Tri-Cities (formerly known as Columbia Community Church) has continued to expand—this time, with an even greater focus outside their walls.
“We are probably doing more ministry now than we were when the building was open,” said Pastor Mark Barker in a recent video update. He described more than a dozen resources and programs the church has provided or supported in the community since the pandemic started. Some of these, like C3 Counseling and C3 Resources, were preexisting ministries that the church transitioned into socially distanced environments to continue providing care. Other initiatives were born of the coronavirus situation itself.
When a C3 short-term mission team was unable to go to Jamaica due to travel restrictions, they provided funding to support building a home there for older orphan boys. When a nearby pregnancy resource center had to cancel its spring fundraising banquet and suddenly lost a primary income source, C3 stepped in to help financially. When the local hospital, food bank, and chaplaincy expressed a need for homemade masks, the Mission Support Maidens of C3 started sewing. In fact, they have now sewn over 2,700 masks, and have even shipped masks to organizations in need in New York City.
C3 also was able to purchase webcams for a Christian free health clinic in the Tri-Cities area to expand telehealth services, allowing low-income community members to receive Christ-centered care without COVID-19 exposure. In addition to giving financially, C3 congregants are volunteering by running errands for those at higher risk and distributing food to folks who are hungry.
The list of C3’s partnerships is impressive. Pastor Mark explained that the church was inspired to come alongside other agencies that are positively changing lives. One national organization they worked with was RIP Medical Debt, which empowers donors to help forgive medical debt that is in collections. C3 paid down $1 million, erasing medical debt for almost the whole east side of Washington state.
“Because of the pandemic, we felt many people who have lost their job or had their small business closed, would need some hope and help,” said Pastor Mark. “We are in a crazy time right now, but we are still ministering.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Rachel Eldridge is a freelance writer who takes frequent walks to avoid Zoom burnout. She attends First Church of God in New Albany, Indiana.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.