When the homeless come to the church, Colon tries to keep everyone safely distanced while he shares the gospel and learns their needs. Still, he knows there’s a contagion risk for him and his staff. “We’re grateful to be able to expose ourselves to harm’s way to serve others,” he said. “The basis of our service is that Christ has given us everything. Everything. So we’re eager to share the love of Christ during these difficult times.”
A former addict himself, Colon described the pandemic’s forced isolation measures as particularly hard for addicts trying to stay clean and sober. “Stinking thinking” can take hold when an addict is alone, and he’ll imagine using drugs or alcohol again. The pastor said the church needs to be in touch with such people every day, giving them hope: “When meetings close, addicts die.”
People still call the church regularly, asking for help to detox and change. But currently the pastors are struggling to find places that will take them in: Hospitals and rehab facilities are locking down their programs and refusing newcomers to avoid any risk of coronavirus infection.
The church is serving other vulnerable populations in the pandemic as well. In early April, another local church phoned RHOW to request groceries for 50 immigrant families. Now RHOW distributes 200 bags of groceries weekly to that church and others. The immigrant families who requested groceries are construction workers, maids, and car attendants who, because of their legal status, may not receive checks from the government stimulus package. RHOW also provides Bible studies, baby supplies, and food to single moms.
However, the church’s resources are draining. With a ministry budget of $350,000 a year, the church had less than two months of funds in reserve when the pandemic hit. Most funding came through offerings at its now-suspended Sunday services.
Despite the challenges, Colon is hopeful the pandemic could provide an answer to the church’s prayers for revival as people recognize their dependence on God. He said atheists have been coming to the church’s online prayer meetings: “It’s a wonderful thing, the spiritual hunger. Because nothing else works.”