Young church plant finds creative ways to minister during COVID-19

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by Deborah Leuthold

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of The Church at Estrella prayed and asked God how to “do church.” The 2-year-old church plant could no longer meet in Westar Elementary School where they had been holding regular services.

Like many churches, they were looking for ways to serve their neighbors while unable to physically gather. So they used their contacts and asked around, and someone came up with a sweet idea.

“We contracted with an ice cream truck to drive around our community,” pastor Charles Scheffe said.

When people came out of their houses with money in hand to buy ice cream, they were told the ice cream was free, courtesy of The Church at Estrella.

“We invited them to online church and told them TCE was there for them,” Scheffe said. “We have a generous God who has been generous to us, so we get to be generous to others. As a result, so many cool things have come out of these ministries, including more opportunities to reach the community.”

The church has also been making protective face coverings — an idea that came out of a community Facebook post.

“We have an online women’s community group, and we’re connected to other community Facebook groups,” said LaRey Bond, who organized the mask-making. “When someone posted they needed a mask, we asked, ‘Who can help?'”

There are now 15 women making masks.

The group created a Facebook page called the Mask Making Ladies of Estrella, where they take orders. In less than a month, the women have sewn and given away more than 1,500 masks, mostly in their community but also to people in California, Ohio, Texas, New York and at the army base at Fort Benning, Ga.

“We put the masks, packaged and labeled with people’s names, in a bin on my front porch,” Bond said. “People come by and take what they’ve ordered. It’s all free, but we’ve received more than $1,000 in donations, which have all gone to purchase mask material.”

The Church at Estrella is a North American Mission Board church plant sponsored by First Baptist Church of Edmond, Okla. Scheffe and his wife Stefanie were members of First Baptist Church of Edmond when they felt the call to plant a church in Arizona.

They toured the Phoenix area. By God’s leading, they found themselves in Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear, Ariz., and knew it was where they were supposed to be. With their daughters, Addisyn (10) and Londyn (3), they launched The Church at Estrella in 2018.

“Our purpose is to bring light into darkness,” Scheffe said. “We prayed and knew God would do what God does — provide the inspiration, direction and wherewithal to connect in meaningful ways with those in our community.”

Bond, whose family became involved with The Church at Estrella through a free soccer event last year, echoed those sentiments.

“God has done so much in our community and in our lives,” she said. “I am so grateful to find something I didn’t know I was missing.”

Credit: Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com)

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