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Church Partners with Texas Rangers Catcher to Help Kids

Refuge Church (AG) has found their partnership with Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos and his foundation a great way to positively impact their inner-city neighborhood.

The street had been closed to traffic, thousands of kids and parents were eagerly standing in line, and more than 100 church volunteers, as well as five professional baseball players, were happily handing out hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies to kids who might otherwise go without.

Pastors Carlos and Rosa Ramos, pastors of Refuge Church (AG) for the past 10 years, partnered with the Robinson Chirinos Foundation on Saturday, Aug. 15, to give 1,000 kids backpacks filled with school supplies and provide them with an exciting fun-filled day they may never forget.

Refuge Church, located in inner-city Fort Worth, Texas, is a bilingual church within the AG South Central Hispanic District, having both Spanish and English services and a combined attendance of 500 to 600. The Ramoses have been reaching out to their community with a back-to-school bash for the past six years. However, last year, through a series of "coincidental" contacts, the church was able to partner with Chirinos, who is a catcher for Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers.

"Our youth pastors, Isai and Isabel Iglesias, have a friend who owns some insurance companies," Rosa explains. "Isabel contacted her friend to see if her insurance company would be willing to make a donation to help purchase some of the back-to-school supplies for the children."

Isabel's phone call to her friend came at the perfect time. Her friend just so happened to be helping Chirinos, a strong Christian, launch his new foundation and they were looking for a Christian organization to partner with.

Last year Refuge Church and the Robinson Chirinos Foundation joined for the first time to help kids by providing backpacks filled with supplies. "We put the registration out online," Rosa recalls, "and decided to check its progress about a week later -- we already had more than 500 kids signed up!" At that point, Rosa says they had to close registration because prior to that they never had more than a few hundred kids sign up and wanted to make sure they would have enough supplies. But even though registration was closed, when the day came, they gave away more than 800 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids.

Carlos expresses his appreciation for the partnership with Chirinos, but says it's all God. "God's timing -- He's never early, He's never late, He's always on time! I'm humbled by the opportunity God has given us to partner with them [the Foundation] and impact our community," he says. 

This year, with the help of the foundation, the donations of local businesses, and over 100 volunteers, the church gave out 1,000 backpacks to kids who were thrilled to get their new school supplies, with some literally jumping in excitement and joy.

Rosa says that there were some kids and families in attendance simply because of the Texas Rangers presence, which was fun to see. But she says so many more were there because of the financial need that exists in the community. But as far as the partnership with the foundation is concerned, the Ramoses have been deeply impressed by Chirinos' commitment to Christ and his selflessness.

"Robinson, who is from Venezuela, came to the Lord after suffering a severe concussion and was out of baseball for a year," Rosa says. "Now, he's like the unofficial chaplain for the team, mentoring other players in their Christian lives."

In fact, Robinson and his wife showed up on the Wednesday night before the backpack giveaway to help fill backpacks with school supplies. He then stayed and delivered a devotional message to those in attendance.

The Back-to-School Bash has become Refuge Church's biggest event in the neighborhood, surpassing their Easter, Christmas and VBS outreaches. Rosa says that the line started forming this year before 7 a.m. and the event didn't start until 10 a.m. "When I looked at the line, it was almost overwhelming -- it just wrapped around and around and down the street," she says, laughing at the memory.

Carlos, who was able to spend time interacting with guests, helping them feel welcomed and find what they needed, says that looking back, the small, simple conversations with people and knowing that the church can be a blessing to them, means a lot. "It definitely warms my heart and makes me so thankful for what Christ has done in our lives in order for us to show the love of Christ," he says.

But the bash is more than free school supplies, it could quite possibly be the highlight of the summer for these children and families. Tacos, cotton candy, bottled water, a rock climbing wall, face painting, snow cones, a petting zoo, T-shirts, pony rides, toddler carnival games, a concert along with haircuts, groceries, dental supplies, drawings for gift cards -- all for free. Not to mention that Chirinos and several of his teammates, including Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Corporan, and Yovani Gallardo were there helping and signing autographs.

Carlos, in a moment of reflection, recalls how the church originally started their Back-to-School outreach 6 years ago by placing some school supplies in 50 brown paper lunch bags secured with rubber bands. "God has taken our small beginning and used it for His glory and honor," he observes with obvious satisfaction.

The Ramoses say they are excited to see the church connecting. "We're starting to network with the community and they're beginning to see that we're here for them as well," Rosa says.

Seeing the church's two congregations working together and representing Christ to their community is a blessing for Carlos. But are the efforts making an impact? Carlos shares a story: "A class was going door-to-door in our neighborhood, handing out fliers and telling people about the Back-to-School Bash," he says. "They stopped at one house and the person who answered the door said, 'Oh, you're the church that's always doing stuff for us.' Hearing that brings tears to my eyes -- knowing that's how our neighbors view our church, and that we are an encouragement to them!"

It was two young children who touched Rosa's heart.

"They had just left the prayer tent (where 30 people made decisions for Christ that day) and their parents were in the parking lot to pick them up," Rosa says. "The parents stopped to thank the parking lot attendant for the event, expressing how they couldn't believe all of this was for free. He explained that this was what the church was about -- it was the heart of our pastor to reach the community for Jesus. He then invited the parents to Sunday service. As they turned to walk away, the kids came running back, hugged the legs of the parking lot attendant and said, 'Thank you for telling our mom and dad about Jesus!'"

Both of the children were at church the next day -- along with at least five other new families, due directly to the outreach.

"We have taken the words of Matthew Barnett to heart," Carlos says. "This is not about trying to build a great church, but being the spiritual janitors of our city. We're here to pick up the broken pieces and allow God to build His church."




Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.