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Arkansas Church Reaches Multiple Generations of One Family for Christ

The Current Church traces a family’s 1,600-mile journey to experience a spiritual and physical new life.
Since Skid Row played an integral role in establishing The Current Outreach Church, it’s only fitting that today a pair of Los Angeles natives are key ministry volunteers.

Charlene Duran Church oversees The Current’s food pantry, while her husband, John, leads its outreach team. With his heavily tattooed appearance, the former prison inmate has a heart for ministry to homeless people, says his wife of 23 years.

“John can reach so many people other people can’t,” says Charlene, 62. “He looks different, so people are eager to hear what he has to say. It’s amazing how he can reach people and they’re willing to listen to him and pray. They weep because he knows what they’re going through.”

The most fascinating element of John and Charlene's story is the way they wound up in Arkansas. It stretches back to The Current’s formation in 2008.

Soon after joining Butterfield AG, Kevin Hardcastle, lead pastor of The Current Outreach Church, approached Pastor Ronnie G. Gilmore, who pastors First AG of Hot Springs Village, with a request. Kevin had visited Skid Row previously and wanted to take a mission team there. The pastor agreed on one condition: when Hardcastle returned, that he would minister to the homeless population in Van Buren, a town of 23,000 in northwestern Arkansas.

The week after they came back from LA, Hardcastle led The Current’s first worship service under a bridge. Eight years later, Hardcastle led a mission team to LA, which he visited annually from 2008-21.

On that 2016 trip, a woman came to revival services. Patrise L. Palacol had been staying in a Skid Row homeless shelter with her two youngest sons, then ages 7 and 6. Having been involved with drugs at one time and losing a place to live, she spent weeks in her 2002 van before deciding to get off the streets.

The first night she heard the gospel, Palacol was among the first to respond to Hardcastle’s invitation to follow Christ. She burst into tears at the altar.

“She prayed a prayer and had a real experience,” Hardcastle recalls. “The Lord was all over her. We were raffling off bicycles and tents to get people to come to services. That night one of her boys won a bicycle and it was his birthday. It was a real God thing.”

At one point that week, the pastor asked Palacol how the church could pray for her. She replied that she wanted stability for her family. After they prayed, he asked if she were willing to relocate.

“I said ‘yes’ right away,” Palacol says. “Anything would be better than Skid Row. When he said, ‘We’re in Arkansas,’ I said, ‘Where’s that?’ It seemed like a different part of the world.”

The mission team scraped together cash left from their trip budget and gave her $243 for gas and food. Deacon Bruce Crabtree also offered a Garmin GPS system he had insisted on bringing even though his wife, Frankie, had told him it wasn’t necessary. Thanks to GPS, Palacol managed the 1,600-mile trip over three days, traveling in a van without power steering, air conditioning, or working windows.

Touching a Family

The night she arrived, the Crabtrees provided Palacol and her sons a home; their children were grown so they had two bedrooms available. The Palacols stayed there for three weeks while Frankie helped Palacol apply for housing, enroll in GED classes, get a driver’s license, and find a job.

“She was like a mother to me,” says Palacol, then estranged from her mother. “That people I didn’t even know could have such love in their heart touched me.”

However, the miracle that changed Palacol’s life was just beginning. The year after moving, she told her mother about the church that had rescued her. At first, Charlene thought: This doesn’t sound like my daughter. She wondered if Palacol had joined a cult.

Yet when John was released from the latest of a string of prison sentences, Charlene—who had just finished chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer—told him, “I spoke to my daughter and she has the joy of the Lord in her. I want that before I die.”

That desire led to telephone conversations with Hardcastle about coming to Van Buren. Charlene kept thanking the pastor for what he had done for Palacol and her sons.

“They didn’t know how to get here; they just wanted to get out of California and get a fresh start,” the pastor says. “We sent them $250. They made it to Van Buren with a U-Haul truck and no place to go. The church had an RV in the back. We hooked it up and let them live there until they got their feet up under them.”

Both Charlene and John accepted Christ and were filled with the Spirit after moving to Arkansas. After never spending more than nine months out of lock-up for 25 years, John has been working steadily for seven years; he is currently employed by a manufacturer of air conditioning units.

“My husband is a totally new man,” Charlene says. “God has changed his life dramatically. Because of God changing his life, we now own our own home, which we purchased two months ago. If it weren’t for The Current Church, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Her daughter is equally grateful for all her blessings. They include being reunited with her husband, who came to Arkansas after his release from prison. A longtime painter, Vernon has been battling cancer since 2021 and is disabled because of his chemo treatments.

“He’s keeping my husband alive for us,” says 37-year-old Palacol about what God is doing in her life now. “I have a stable life that I didn’t think I would ever have. We’re not rich, but we’re comfortable and we don’t go without.”

Hardcastle is also grateful for what God has done in the family’s life. Because of what they heard about Palacol, Charlene, and John, other extended family moved to Van Buren. The pastor says there are about 20 family members among the 35 Californians who are part of The Current.

“It’s been incredible; it’s such a beautiful story,” Hardcastle says. “It’s amazing what God has done in their life.”

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.