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Monday, March 8, 2021

Local ministry promotes community outreach, engagement

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The scriptures say that all things work together for the good of those who love Christ. That passage is quite evident when looking at the story of Vincent and Amber Reaves. The pair has joined forces as husband and wife to not only raise a family, but also to raise awareness in the community around the need for outreach.

Vincent and Amber have similar upbringings. Though they were each raised in rough environments in Indianapolis, the two found the faith community to be a consistent refuge. As a child, Amber would make sure she and her siblings attended church regularly. Vincent, whose mother was not involved in church, attended on his own. 

“I was a little kid in church by myself before my mother or anybody,” he said. “I would go to the Caring Place and different neighborhood centers. I was the one who was going and finding church, because they always had something to offer.”

When he was 8 years old, Vincent’s mother joined him, and at age 15, he accepted a call to ministry, earned his minister’s license and preached his first sermon. 

“At 15 learning that this is the call on your life … that meant a lot. I knew that God was just speaking to me. It wouldn’t let me sleep, wouldn’t let me rest,” he said. 

Though he had accepted that call, Vincent found himself down a different path after college and during the beginning stages of his barbering career. 

“I wanted to do my teenager thing and it lapped over to 20, 21, 22, 23 … I went through some really trying times in that area,” he said. “The things I was getting into … I was partying a lot. It was time to go back to church.”

Amber, who had a strong faith foundation as well, fell into some hard times that led her to reconnect with what she knew — the church. 

“I grew up in a low-income family, single mom … my brother was murdered in 1998,” she said. “I never wanted my environment to define me.” As a teen mother of four, Amber experienced a particularly challenging moment. “I got to a point in my life where everything failed. Like, just crumbled.” She and her children were homeless and stayed in a local Salvation Army shelter from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2009. 

It was the church that got Vincent and Amber back on track as individuals and led them to creating a family. It was also where their ministry was born. 

Amber recalls that one night, while lying in bed, she heard a loud voice that reminded her of her mother calling to her through the house. 

Amber got out of bed and said she felt the spirit of God instruct her to contact parents of children she knew. In 2012, she and Vincent started hosting a praise and worship camp out of their home on Thursday nights. Dozens of children would be dropped off and fed a meal before the group would join in praise and fellowship. Sometime later they began having Bible study at homeless camps in the city, where they would feed the residents and teach from scripture. 

“That’s when it felt like, this is what you’re supposed to be doing right here,” said Amber. 

Last year, the pair decided to leave the church they were attending to strike out on their own. One of their first events was a community day during Memorial Day weekend. This August, Living for God Community Church will celebrate its first anniversary. 

“We’re smaller, we’re younger,” said Amber. “Some weeks we have 30-40 (attendees), some weeks it’s just us and the kids, but you just keep going.”  

“God made a way and opened a door. Even when we questioned it, God opened another door,” said Vincent. 

Beyond the ministry, Vincent, 29, and Amber, 34, both run businesses. He is a barber and she runs an event planning service. 

When asked how they balance it all, Amber shared that it’s an “interesting” situation and that Vincent’s mother, Shirley Strayhorn, whom they affectionately call “Overseer,” has been a huge help. 

“(I) don’t sweat the small stuff,” Amber said. “If you do you’ll be sweating all day. We just move forward with whatever God has had us to do.” 

For the Reaves family, that divine to-do list focuses on outreach and community engagement. 

“It’s about reaching the last, the least and the lost. We come into the walls (of the church) to build strength to teach and disciple so we can go out and be effective in the community,” said Amber. 

“People don’t want to come to church. That’s the sad reality that we’re facing. People don’t want to come to the church so the church has to come to the people,” she said.  

“I feel like churches should offer the same things as a community center. People will flock to them because they have utility help, food, etc. People are not looking at the eternal, they are looking at the temporal. A lot of times they need tangible things that they can see, touch and feel right now, and we want to be able to bring them in and supply those things.”

Through their ministry, the couple hopes to connect people with resources and help families learn to become self-sufficient.

This Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. at Willard Park located at 1901 E. Washington St., Living for God will host their second annual Community Day. People can expect to have food, prizes, a prayer tent, live entertainment, community resource vendors and much more, all completely free of charge. For more information, visit facebook.com/SERVE100. 

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