Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s Essentials Outreach
Story by Margot Bass
Photos by Justus Martin and Patrick Lima
On Saturday, May 9, more than 1,400 cars lined up in Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s (CCFTL) parking lot for the Essentials Outreach. Volunteers shared not only food and essentials, but encouragement and prayer with local residents at several ministry stations. With a smile, Drew Eales, director of young adult ministries, shared with recipients, “You have a Good Shepherd who cares for you, who loves you, who sees you right in this moment. He knows your every need.”
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3
A bird’s-eye view of the stream of cars coming to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s Essentials Outreach.
Drew prayed the words of Psalm 23 with many, including people with medical needs and others whose families were experiencing turmoil as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We didn’t know if people were churched or unchurched, but they might remember someone reading the psalm to them. What deep meaning it has and how impactful it could be in their lives!” As guests drove through the different stations, he observed them smiling, waving, and even wiping away tears of relief. “They were grateful for the physical help,” Drew recalled, “but we were there to provide spiritual help as well.”
The Essentials Outreach was able to meet a variety of needs, both physical and spiritual.
Lead Pastor Doug Sauder wholeheartedly agreed: “Even more than physical needs, it’s the smiles and people coming to ask for prayer. One woman walked here. One guy came on his motorcycle. They’re just looking for hope.” Doug stood for a while at the church entrance, smiling and greeting people in their cars as they arrived. He yelled “Happy Mother’s Day!” to the ladies and welcomed the steady line of vehicles.
Volunteers hold up encouraging signs to encourage those who came to the Essentials Outreach.
A 60-year-old former social worker and single mom of an autistic son with significant health issues came for help. After a difficult divorce, she found herself the sole supporter of her son. She called to thank the church for the outreach. “I have strong faith, but this is the first time I’ve needed someone. I have been living month-to-month . . . just trying to survive. This virus has put me out of work, not eligible for unemployment, and really feeling desperate,” she expressed in tears. “I cannot tell you what a difference it made for me and my son—not only for the food and the wonderful essential items, but for my spirit. I received the most kind, loving words. Somebody prayed with me and everybody was happy to be there. Everyone made us feel special, not bad about being in line.”
To celebrate Mother’s Day, an Essentials Outreach volunteer hands a rose to a mom.
Although the event officially started at 10 a.m., cars began to arrive outside the church gates three hours earlier, according to Jared Stefani, director of local outreach. Hundreds of cars waited in long lines to pick up free toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo and conditioner, dish soap, batteries, laundry pods, fruit, vegetables, milk, and eggs. Jared explained, “There’s been a spirit of fear—people are losing jobs, and many are scared to go out of their homes. We just wanted to honor the Lord and bless the community with the love of Jesus in a difficult time, while still honoring social distancing and CDC guidelines.” Jared added that supplies were donated by the church and different organizations that CCFTL often works with.
Fort Lauderdale’s Essentials Outreach provided fresh fruit and other produce to those in need.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
It was far more than a food distribution. “Jesus was present in every conversation, as every item was given out,” Jared reflected. The event was filled with enthusiasm and energy—many volunteers held signs and danced joyfully as worship music played all day. More than 115 masked volunteers—from young children to senior adults—encouraged and prayed with people waiting in line. They also handed out prayer cards and copies of the Gospel of John. Every mother received a rose and a personal gift. As visitors tuned into a selected radio station for instructions on how to accept the donations, they heard a Gospel presentation and the testimony of a CCFTL pastor who had been healed from COVID-19.
Those with spiritual needs had the opportunity to receive prayer.
At least one person accepted Christ that day. Jared recounted excitedly, “On the radio I heard, ‘Someone in line has given their heart to the Lord!’ I thought that was awesome since we hadn’t even started yet.”
“Likewise, I [Jesus] say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
A volunteer holds up a sign celebrating Mother’s Day at Cavlary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s Essentials Outreach.
Supplies never ran out. After the event concluded at 2 p.m., the remaining supplies were donated to other ministries and CCFTL campuses. Jared reported, “On Monday, we took the remaining vegetables, fruit, milk, and eggs (which had been kept in a refrigerated truck) to Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Cross Hospital to bless all the doctors, nurses, and staff.”
Those who attended the Essentials Outreach were greeted by friendly volunteers.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.