Love and Good Works in Delco
Love and Good Works in Delco

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Calvary Chapel Delco, PA, Abounds in Love and Good Works

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Geraldine Wilkins, Laura Briggs, and Heather Curley

Story originally from Issue 74 of Calvary Chapel Magazine

Believers at Calvary Chapel Delaware County, PA (CC Delco), have a passion for sharing the love of Jesus in practical and personal ways with the hurting. Many have opened not only their hearts but also their homes.

Happily crammed into a living room with 15 other people, Valentin Cayetano, 20, sat relishing his first Christmas with brightly wrapped gifts and a big, glowing tree. Originally from The Bronx, he had met the Merideths at A House on Beekman, a Christian outreach in the South Bronx where he accepted Christ at age 16. After drawing her name weeks before, Valentin had bought a gift for the Merideths’ daughter-in-law, Julia. He held his breath as she opened it—a funny coffee mug with gun handles. Julia was delighted, and Valentin couldn’t stop beaming.

Guy hugs child after baptism

Senior Pastor Bob Guaglione of Calvary Chapel Delaware County, PA (CC Delco), hugs a young boy after his water baptism in June.

Then his spiritual mom, Lisa Merideth, passed him a gift—and another. He thought, Am I dreaming? Is all of this for me? Inside were clothes—just his size and style. Filled with emotion, he waded through the wrapping paper and boxes to hug Lisa. “Thank you. I appreciate you a lot,” he said, “I love you.”

Wrapping her arms around the burly young man, Lisa replied, “You’re welcome. I’ll always be here for you. I love you too.” He knew she meant it because, from the time he’d met Lisa four years earlier, he had felt the love of Jesus from her.

“I’d never had that type of love before. I felt that somebody really cared about me. I was shocked,” recalled Valentin, now 22 and back in The Bronx for a season. Having lived with the Merideths for a year and a half, Valentin recounted, “I learned so much from them—about God, patience, the Bible, prayer. Serving people has become my passion. I gave my sandwich to a guy on the subway today; I learned that from them—just to help people.”

Reflecting on God’s heart for people, Lisa said, “The Father has a plan for all of us—and Valentin believes God has more for his life than living off the system or selling drugs. He wants to graduate and be a chef. He’s working toward that dream.”

Christmas reading

Originally from The Bronx, NY, Valentin Cayetano (left), felt Christ’s love during his first Christmas with the Merideth family of CC Delco.

Compassion and Justice

Thriving in its 24th year, CC Delco is seated west of Philadelphia and is within driving distance to vulnerable areas such as downtown Philly, Kensington, PA, and Camden, NJ. The church partners with nearly 20 local ministries and non-profits. Senior Pastor Bob Guaglione explained, “We have a heart for those suffering from injustice, for those in need—in the inner city or across the ocean—whether people lack love or food or freedom. As followers of Christ, not only are we to preach the Gospel, but we should be the first to bring justice to the oppressed.”

He cited Micah 6:8 which says, He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Church building

Nearly 1,700 people attend CC Delco’s two Sunday morning services.

To help his flock connect with local needs, eight years ago Pastor Bob started hosting Compassion & Justice Weekends twice a year. “On Saturday, we fan out—we take our people to about 18 different venues into the inner city, to Chester, to Kensington, to Camden, NJ—so that God would break their hearts because of the things they see. Then on Sunday we talk about issues related to injustice: poverty, sex trafficking, abortion. Interest in local ministry really caught fire. Over the years, we have seen people stepping out in faith to partner with other ministries or to start new ones.”

Pastor Bob added, “Just writing a check isn’t enough for us anymore; we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What we do is a stepping stone to preach the Gospel.”

"Get prayer" circle

Care Pastor Bob Banks (left) of CC Delco and believer Wendy McDermontt (right) listen to the concerns of a lady who walked up for prayer at a New Covenant Ministries outreach.

Bob was inspired by his wife Monica ten years ago when she felt moved by God to help those suffering from global injustice. She recalled, “I began seeing things in Scripture I hadn’t seen before. I was convicted of how little time I spent engaging with the poor and needy. In Matthew 25, Jesus separates the sheep from the goats [the true believers from the false], saying, ‘inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ (v. 40b). I realized that, although doing good works doesn’t make us Christians, God put on my heart to have a lifestyle of caring for the poor.”

To inspire his flock to serve others, Bob often invites leaders of local ministries to speak on Sundays in order to “make the church aware of the broken world and encourage them to use their gifts and talents to change things.” And they have. Many at CC Delco have started reaching out to those in need. “My greatest joy is watching people step out in faith,” Bob said, “because when you step out in faith, you see the hand of God. Faith grows by taking that step—not just reading your Bible and praying.”

Man kneels to talk

Tom Williams (right), New Covenant Ministries founder, has been sharing the Gospel for 20 years in hard-hit New Jersey neighborhoods.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

“It’s important for all believers to find their passion and use their gifts. When you look at Scripture, there are so many spiritual gifts. Everyone wants to contribute,” Pastor Bob related. “When you step out and use your gifts on a mission trip, you come alive. We’re trying to help people do that all year.”

Serving food

Volunteers serve at Cityteam’s Hope Cafe, a Saturday outreach in Philadelphia where those in need are served a restaurant-style dinner. Mike Mooney of CC Delco (blue shirt) serves food with a program participant.

One Person at a Time

A college professor and medical education analyst, Joseph Oaster of CC Delco felt called to help adults read but wasn’t sure how. When former soccer player Adam Bruckner visited CC Delco to share about his ministry to the homeless, Philly Restart, Joseph immediately offered to help. Within a few weeks, Joseph met Mark Thompson—a 50-something, undiagnosed dyslexic who had asked Adam for some old children’s books to learn to read.

“Now Mark goes to Sunday School, and stands up to read with tears in his eyes. His pastor said he even reads the King James Bible,” Joseph recounted. Since November 2011, Joseph has spent nearly 700 hours tutoring in reading, GED prep, math, and English. “I don’t turn anyone away. It’s the best two hours of my week,” he reflected. “We can’t sit on the sidelines. Jesus said, ‘Go make disciples,’ but if people can’t read, then they can’t read the Bible. They also can’t get their GED or fill out a job application.”

Men read

Education analyst Joseph Oaster (left) of CC Delco tutors Mark with his literacy skills through the Philly Restart ministry.

Adam Bruckner of Philly Restart appreciates the CC Delco believers who help him serve food to the homeless, get them IDs to apply for jobs and services, and assist at-risk children with homework. “They get it. They are in it for the long-term, to build relationships and show the love of Jesus,” Adam said. “They aren’t serving out of guilt but out of love. Guilt-inspired compassion is not as effective as love-inspired compassion.”

Getting to know Philly’s homeless opened Adam’s eyes. He explained that many poor are just one step from homelessness: “If they get evicted, if they lose their job, if they have a big medical bill and no one to help them—that’s it. They’re out on the streets.” Adam rejects the stereotypes that the homeless are lazy, addicts, or made bad choices: “It’s easy for people to be critical of the homeless, to say it’s their fault. But we need to treat others as we would like to be treated—whether or not we had made mistakes.” Every Monday, Philly Restart serves between 150-300 plates of food. “Since 2002, I’ve written out about 70,000 checks to help people get their IDs,” Adam stated. “As believers, we need to decide whether we want to be just observers of the problem or put our faith into action.”

Engaging conversation

John (black T-shirt), who also disciples men in Cityteam’s Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery for Men program, answers questions after a Bible study.

Saving Saturdays

Inspired during a Compassion & Justice Weekend, Karissa Mooney stepped up to lead the Saving Saturdays outreach seven years ago. She recalled her first trip: “About 15 of us came down to Logan’s Circle with sandwiches. We met with the homeless, listened to their stories. I realized I needed to be here.” Nowadays the volunteers bring food, coffee, toiletries, clothing, shoes, and books every other Saturday. “We get to know them. That’s what keeps us going there—the relationships. We listen and accept them for who they are so that we can have honest conversations.”

For Karissa and her husband Mike, she said, “It’s been a process of slowly committing to God that we’re going to be missionaries here. We have had three people live with us—two in addiction. None of it was expected, just following God’s leading.” As an engineer, Karissa naturally gravitates toward order and rules. “But God keeps giving me His heart for people. He has taught us not to be afraid of getting our hands dirty. It’s a joy when we think about others instead of ourselves.”

Hands in air

John Clifford, a chef and Cityteam food-services coordinator, conducts a Bible study every Saturday evening after residents enjoy a special dinner at Cityteam’s Hope Cafe.

Karissa cited Acts 20:24, But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. She reflected, “We are called to testify to God’s grace, and we should seek Him for what He asks each of us to do—that’s our purpose. He has plans for us that are better than anything we could do ourselves.”

Homeless man talks

Mike Mooney (blue T-shirt) and other Saving Saturday volunteers distribute food, clothing, water, and toiletries in Logan Circle in Center City, Philadelphia.

Joy in His Will

Mackenzie Taylor, 19, was a broken-hearted teen who responded to Jesus’ love at a summer outreach at CC Delco. Rejected by her father, Mackenzie feared that God did not love her. Invited by a Christian friend, she gave her heart to Jesus in her junior year. Now in college, she interns at CC Delco and reaches young people. “This generation watches YouTube instead of TV, so I created a YouTube channel to talk about my faith. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but I have to follow where He is leading me. How amazing that He can use a platform like this for His glory.”

She hears many stories of rejection or abuse among teens: “Every story is different, but it’s the same underlying hurt and pain. So many girls feel that the way they are treated is their fault, and that they are never going to be loved. A lot of them are so young, your heart breaks for them. I’m so grateful to be able to share my testimony with them. That makes my pain worth it, to be able to help someone else.” She cited Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. She added, “No matter what we are going through, His love is incredible; and He works all things for our good.”

Adam Bruckner talks with woman

Adam Bruckner (right), Philly Restart founder, left pro soccer to help thousands of homeless people acquire ID cards to apply for services and housing. His ministry serves on Mondays near City Hall.

Caring for the Flock

A team of care chaplains ministers to hurting members of the large congregation. Care Pastor Bob Banks explained, “The chaplains are like our triage—they go out and meet with people, pray with them, understand their need. If the person needs more intense care, then a pastor will go.” Professional counselors help train the care chaplains.

Chaplains also visit shut-ins and caregivers: “Being a caregiver is a tough job; spiritually, you can dry up. We are a lifeline for them.” In addition, special groups minister to those grieving, divorced, or addicted to drugs or pornography.

Food line

Nancy Cross and Bob Banks (center) of CC Delco serve local residents with Philly Restart.

When caring for the hurting, Bob Banks suggested, “It’s critical to pray before, during, and after. Second, listen. Often, people just need someone to listen. Keep healthy boundaries with compassion and discernment.” He added, “None of this is worth anything unless it’s done in love. We need to be His hands and feet, and have His heart for people.”

Love one another fervently with a pure heart. 1 Peter 1:22

Conversation with guys

Senior Pastor Bob Guaglione (left) talks with attendee Zach Koshy (right) after a church service at CC Delco.

 

Two men praying with lady

Paul Wieland (center) prays with Jared and Da’Near’a Lawrence after a service at CC Delco.

 

Kids clapping

Student Shane Veloski (grey shirt) and his middle school youth leader Nate Rich sing praise songs.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 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.

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