KANSAS CITY – A Tree of Life grows in Kansas City.
The four-year-old church plant is branching out to reach its urban neighborhood for Christ. Pastor Jerry Akins said the church focuses on serving the Lord by serving people – many of whom are scarred by life.
“It’s hard for them to trust God,” he said. “If they’ve never had a man they could trust, how can they trust God? Then when they do trust God and something bad happens, they regress.”
At Christmas, Tree of Life partnered with Toys For Tots for a successful toy giveaway. The church also hosted a dinner and gave away turkeys and chickens.
“We tried to let families know the church was here to be a blessing and to give back,” Akins said. “They usually see the church as taking, and hardly ever see the church as giving.”
About 200 families, most with several children, participated in the event. Before the dinner, everyone met in the auditorium.
“The majority of people came because they were struggling,” Akins said, “The economy is hard and they knew the only way to get toys was to come to the service.”
He shared a message and gave out Bibles. Seventeen people made decisions for Christ that night.
Tree of Life continues to follow up with those who took part and is planning an Easter outreach. GED classes will be offered and a food pantry in starting to supplement meals the church feeds children on Wednesdays and Sundays.
“Some parents have to send their children to church to eat because they know they blew their money,” Akins said.
Ministering in an inner city, low-income environment has its challenges. Akins has not drawn a salary. The church began meeting four years ago in his home with about 10 members. They now share a facility with Armour Heights Baptist Church and have upwards of 75 in weekly attendance.
“When you’re planting a church, it takes a lot of prayer,” he said. “You really have to hear from God. It takes a lot of prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Akins emphasizes teaching new believers how to change their mindset toward life.
Spring Valley Baptist is the sponsoring church, but Akins said Tree of Life needs more ongoing support before they can make it on their own.
“We’re like eaglets in the nest,” he said. “We want to fly, but we’re not strong enough. We want to fly with the eagles, then go back and plant churches.”
Though putting down roots is difficult, Tree of Life remains committed to serving.
“It’s hard work, but we’re getting it done,” Akins said.