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Christianity with Its Sleeves Rolled Up: California City Food Program

written by Rev. Ron Sparks
Pastor at The Community Church of California City

     At first blush you might think Ron Sparks is building a survivalists’ compound, a not unreasonable conclusion given the newly acquired semi-trailer size containers and huge freezer units soon to be packed with food – enough for 6000 people. 

      His plans, however, encompass not a fearful withdrawal from a society deemed on the brink of collapse but, instead, the building of a commune of hope (“Christianity with its sleeves rolled up,”), a cooperative effort by his Community Church of California City, UCC and other church and secular groups to feed the hungry in towns throughout the Mojave Desert. 

      Rev. Sparks, who challenges his flock to be “contagiously committed people who follow and love a caring and compassionate Lord,” is the (pun intended) sparkplug behind a program to meet the food needs of their neighbors.

     Working with him to build this program are the people of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Foursquare Church, Catholic Charities, Knights of Columbus and The Bakersfield Food Pantry and city administration and community volunteers.  Providing clothing for distribution to those participating in the food program will be the local Assembly of God Church.

     “The food will be brought in from Bakersfield every two weeks,” he explains.  “We will distribute it, three times a week, in California City and volunteers from Boron, North Edwards and Mojave will collect then distribute the food for their communities.  It comes to us boxed (“A” boxes for small families, “B” for larger ones), which makes it easy to give out.

     “We did a trial run last month, with minimal publicity, and had people lined up around the corner of the church.  We expect even larger turnouts once the program is announced in local newspapers.

      “My church’s Emergency Food Pantry will continue operating as an extra resource for the weekends and emergencies.  The Assembly of God’s monthly clothing distribution will also continue, as will other groups’ programs, i.e. a monthly sit-down hot meal, Angel Food Ministries’ distribution of food to low-income families and one which offers weekly organic food boxes.”

      Asked about plans for the program’s development, Sparks said, “The first volunteer training session will be in February (additional ones will be scheduled as new volunteers join us) and will be followed by our first major distribution.  Soon – also in February, I hope, we will begin classes to educate volunteers in handling the paperwork required by the food distribution site – reporting of needs to determine the volume of food to be provided.

     “We also hope to sponsor Health Fairs and job education programs (One possibility would be to run a local diner where on-the-job training in restaurant jobs would be offered).  These plans are in the working stage of development – don’t want to burn volunteers out by doing too much too soon!  

     “It is our hope that the other twelve churches in this area will join us in this endeavor.  In fact, consider this article an invitation to them and to other groups and individuals interesting in helping their neighbors in need.  EVERYONE is welcome!”

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