By Rogelio Paquini, former senior pastor of West Covina Hills Church, and recently began teaching in the Seminary at Andrews University

Throughout this pandemic, everyone has suffered. There have been losses at all levels. Even though the safer-at-home order prevented us from gathering as we used to, it did not stop us from being a light in one of the darkest times in history. 

Associate Pastor Jillian Lutes and I wanted to be part of the community by helping those in need; however, we did not want to reinvent the wheel. That is why, last November, we challenged the West Covina Hills Church Core (church board) to find organizations already working in the community to form partnerships. 

In January, the pastors met through a video conference with the directors of Shepherd’s Pantry, a ministry already helping the needy in the San Gabriel Valley. Some of our volunteers had already worked with the pantry in the past. That is why it wasn’t difficult to formalize the partnership. 

“The Shepherd’s Pantry partnership actually began several years ago when I was looking for an organization to partner with in teaching our youth group about local hunger,” said Lutes. “When the laypeople started asking how they could help during the pandemic, of course I pointed them to Shepherd’s Pantry. I am grateful that something that was once only done by a small corner of the church is now a whole-church enterprise.”

We agreed to alleviate the pantry’s work with monthly aid to help the area’s community. At the end of January, we shared the church’s first monthly challenge. The project was called the “Undie Challenge.” The collection of items and purchases with financial donations was possible with the help of our volunteers.

We told the congregation we needed 250 pieces of undergarments during the month. When the time ended, the church’s support exceeded all of our expectations. The pantry received 1,074 units of undergarments! With excitement, we announced March’s project, the “Italian Challenge." It consisted of bringing pasta and canned tomato sauce. Once again, the West Covina Hills church members and friends took the task upon themselves and responded accordingly. 

“The congregation responded more enthusiastically than either Pastor Paquini or myself anticipated, “Lutes added. “They seem excited to have a clear, concrete way to do something unselfish for the people in our community.”

In the words of Greg Davis, who is the chief operations officer for Shepherd’s Pantry, “You have blessed needy people with more than 2,500 meals!”

From the establishment of Israel as a nation, God spoke through Moses saying, “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land’”
 (Deuteronomy 15:11, NKJV). Likewise, we are the people of God. Therefore, our responsibility is to aid the poor and the needy in our land.

The partnership has been a blessing for the church, the Shepherd’s Pantry, and the San Gabriel Valley’s needy. For now, the monthly challenges will continue. We are looking forward to the end of the pandemic when we can dive into a more hands-on partnership with this and other organizations in the community.