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Acts of Kindness

Food distribution blesses Native American reservations impacted by pandemic.
Marty Paxson’s community received an unexpected helping hand in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The senior pastor of Whiteriver Assembly of God, with 300 adherents on the Fort Apache Native American reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona, recalls the pandemic “brought everyone to a panic.”

In response, the church made a plea for help on social media. Whiteriver has a population of 4,100.

“We asked members of the church to drop off donations of personal hygiene products and nonperishable foods, so that we could hand them out to as many families as possible,” Paxson recalls. “Leaders from Radiant Church saw our Facebook post about wanting to help our community and we came together so that 200 families received help.”

Besides Whiteriver Assembly, Radiant Church, an AG megachurch in Surprise, Arizona, connected with other AG Native American congregations in the state through a food distribution in June coordinated with Convoy of Hope.

Greg Marquart, lead pastor of 3,100-strong Radiant Church, says the congregation became aware of the needs through the Assemblies of God Arizona Ministry Network.

“The Arizona Ministry Network was instrumental in connecting us with the pastors and churches, and Convoy of Hope blessed us with two semi truckloads of food,” says Marquart. “God really set this up and went before us in an amazing and life-changing way.”

Refrigerated trucks, vans, and pickups transported hundreds of bags of food as well as pallets of water and cleaning products. The effort provided for more than 6,000 people on the reservations.

Radiant Church staff member Michael D. Miller, accompanied by U.S. missionary Randy J. Wren, drove a truckload of supplies six hours to Fort Defiance for distribution at The Family Church Revival Center. Miller is a former truck driver.

Ken W. Delaney, pastor of The Family Church Revival Center, arranged for townspeople in the Navajo Nation community to receive the goods.

“It was so good to show the community that we cared about them,” Wren says.

Delaney says the goods blessed more than 200 families in the Fort Defiance area, which has seen a comparatively high number of positive cases of COVID-19.

“Radiant Church compassionately arrived in the area to be a great blessing to so many,” says Delaney, whose congregation has more than 150 attendees.

Joel A. Cornelius, pastor of Tuba City Assembly, notes that the novel coronavirus drastically impacted the Navajo reservation town of 9,700.

“We were working under strict guidelines that prohibited a lot of movement and we had been doing our best to respond to the needs,” says Cornelius, whose congregation drew more than 220 regular attendees prior to the virus outbreak. “Being able to work together with Convoy and Radiant provided an opportunity to share God’s love not in a sermon, but in an act of kindness.” Over 1,450 families received meals in the outreach.

During the time of the food distribution, Marquart says Radiant also connected with the USDA Farmers to Families food box program.

“Not only were we able to take refrigerated food to the reservations, but we were also able to do a door-to-door distribution of these boxes to a high poverty, primarily Hispanic community nearby,” he says.

Marquart adds that Radiant Church recently established Radiant Community Services, a nonprofit organization which aims to distribute food and other supplies to those who need it most in partnership with organizations such as Convoy of Hope and businesses like The Home Depot and Sprouts Farmers Market.

“We are providing a distribution center for those without food and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Marquart says.

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.