When Andy Setiawan transitioned from his role as youth pastor at The Assembly in Columbus to outreach pastor in January, he knew he was going to be “in it 100 percent.” Outreach has always been integral to The Assembly congregation, whether as volunteers clearing tornado debris from the yards of people they’ve never met or hoisting hammers on a home repair for someone in need of a little help. It’s all about the premise “love where you live.”
Two ways The Assembly wants to demonstrate that community care is by this weekend’s opening of The Exchange, a thrift store located on the church campus, next to Lowe’s on Military Road, and by reopening its Care Center, a food pantry that is about much more than just food.
“The church is not based only on the four walls of a building; we want to be in the community,” said Setiawan. “The Exchange was birthed from the vision of our lead pastor, Jody Gurley, and his wife. We want to have a thrift store that can bless the community with low prices on items, with proceeds going to local and global missionaries.”
The Exchange is not meant to compete with other area thrift stores, but to be an added blessing to the community, Setiawan said about the Sunday suits, infant clothes, bow ties, knick knacks, furniture and even Halloween costumes priced more like a yard sale than a thrift store.
Proceeds from The Exchange will support missions, especially an ongoing program to rescue victims of sex trafficking networks. A portion of funds will also support missions locally and also globally, in places including Austria, Macedonia and Indonesia, Setiawan said.
Congregation response since January has been strong, the outreach pastor added.
“We have been given a lot of great volunteers, and we also partner with the Golden Triangle Homeless Coalition.”
Donations from church families and community members to The Exchange are currently being accepted on Wednesdays from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Donations are also accepted Sundays between 10-10:45 a.m.
“I was really excited about The Exchange because all the donations go to missions, and we have an amazing team at our church; they’re really hard workers. Our whole church is passionate about this,” said The Exchange coordinator Katrina Burton.
The Exchange is open every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 2201 Military Road.
The Assembly’s food pantry, the Care Center, has been in existence for some time, but had to close when COVID-19 hit. The center is a main hub for the Mississippi Food Network, said Setiawan.
“We had to shut down our center during the pandemic, but now we are ready to bless our community with free food, free hot meals, free stuff for the kids and offer prayer for whoever needs it on that food drive day,” the pastor explained.
The Care Center is open every second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m.-noon. Recipients must be Lowndes County residents and are asked to provide two proofs of residency and a valid ID.
“It’s more than food,” said Care Center coordinator Susanne Levister. “It’s also giving an ear when they need to talk, praying with people that need it when they don’t really know where to turn. That’s why I love that it’s called the Care Center.”
Levister recounted the story of one man who visited the pantry when it was open previously. With a tear in his eye, he said that no one had ever prayed for him before.
“We’re revamped and reopening, and we’re so excited about it,” Levister said about the center.
The effects of a year-long pandemic as well as the shorter term stress of an ice storm have brought the reasons for The Exchange and the Care Center into sharp focus for The Assembly’s congregation.
“It’s all about the good of the community,” said Setiawan. “It’s time to make a difference, and it has to start with us. Love where you live.”
Editor’s note: For more information about these outreach missions, contact Andy Setiawan at email@example.com or call 662-328-6374 or 662-352-6991.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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