Reaching the Heart
Cal D. Thompson remembers the powerful feeling that washed over him in June as he handed a mother of five two boxes containing 50 pounds’ worth of fresh produce.
“Her eyes filled with tears as she thanked me for what we were doing,” Thompson, 64, says, his voice filled with passionate energy. “To see the kind of gospel impact we can have in a nonthreatening way makes what I do so exciting.”
That day the ministry he founded, Reach the Heart, in conjunction with Northview Church of Fargo, North Dakota, sponsored an event in which volunteers handed out 2,000 boxes of produce to people in the economically struggling community.
Thompson has long desired to help and reach people with the good news. For nearly 30 years, he fed that passion by serving as the evangelism pastor and then youth pastor at Northview Church (formerly First Assembly). During that time, he also expanded his ministry by directing annual outreach trips, in which he led 3,675 students from both North Dakota and Minnesota to the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in inner-city Chicago.
In August 2019, he transitioned from his full-time ministry position at the church.
“It’s always been about reaching the heart of people,” Thompson says. “Maybe that’s because of what I walked through.” His life-changing event happened in 2009, when he suffered a massive torn aorta eight days before his daughter Brittany’s wedding. The intense pain caused him to faint as soon as he entered the emergency room. When he regained consciousness, a doctor told him his condition would be fatal without immediate open-heart surgery.
“My world changed drastically,” he says. He realized that life on earth is relatively short, and people needed to know about Jesus.
As he dreamed about the kind of ministry he wanted to engage in during this new season of life, he knew it needed to include helping people in rural communities, those who have often been overlooked.
“People are just as desperate for Jesus in smaller communities as they are in the big inner cities,” he says.
While he still loves working with youth, and remains committed to leading groups to Chicago and other large cities, such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis, he also felt the urge to reach out to rural and small-town churches and assist them in outreach events to their residents. So after prayerful consideration and discussion with his wife, Kelly, Thompson founded Reach the Heart, a ministry that hosts events to reach all ages in both urban and rural settings.
His goal is to hold weekend Christian outreach festivals, which include youth and family concerts, a men’s breakfast, a women’s arts or crafting project, children’s programs, and a community-wide dinner. Each festival concludes on Sunday morning with what Thompson calls “the 60” — an hourlong worship service with music, stories, and a gospel presentation as a way to connect people to local churches.
Thompson has a vast vision for Reach the Heart, especially where the Chicago outreach is concerned. He foresees adding to the volunteers who have participated and in the next few years reaching 5,000 participants overall.
Even though Reach the Heart is a new ministry — and has encountered setbacks because of COVID-19 — North Dakota Ministry Network Superintendent Winston G. Titus has no doubt the impact Thompson’s work will have.
“Cal has amazing energy and builds such excitement for ministry that people can’t help but get caught up with him,” says Titus, a longtime friend. “Every day for Cal is a new day with new opportunities.”
Thompson showed that creative outlook by seizing the opportunity to hand out thousands of boxes of food to people in rural communities throughout his district in North Dakota this past spring and summer after cancellation of planned urban and rural outreach festival events.