NAMPA, Idaho (BP) – When Anders Snyder met Brandon, the man was leaning on the side of the church, head in his hands.
“He was released from jail that day,” Anders said. “He didn’t know where to go, what to do, and he didn’t come to the church to see anybody. He was just sitting in our shade. He was just kind of hopeless, lost, no plans.”
So, Anders went and sat beside him and asked him what his story was. The two went to lunch, and when Anders shared the Gospel with him, Brandon said he didn’t know anyone cared, let alone God. He thought he was one of society’s throwaways.
The idea of being loved was brand new, and the idea of a different life even newer.
“We’ve been walking with Brandon for a while now, and he’s responded to Jesus,” Anders said. “He comes from a broken family and started using drugs when he was way too young to even think about that kind of stuff.”
It’s not an uncommon story in the neighborhood in Nampa, Idaho, where Anders and his wife Jessica moved to help replant Calvary Church Nampa. For a long time, a lot of people there have needed a new story, and the church did, too. That’s what brought the Snyders there. The call to lead a replant – to help a dying church turn things around – had burned in their hearts for a few years before God brought them to the city of nearly 100,000.
When they arrived, they found a diverse community waiting for them, one with both Mormon and Christian influences – and with few healthy churches. Neighborhoods around the church with a mix of Anglo and Hispanic residents were aging and declining, Anders said. Drugs are a big problem, as is poverty and hunger.
But at Calvary Church Nampa, they’re all about offering new stories, and they’re showing the neighborhood the kind of care that drew in Brandon. They’ve gone door to door passing out Christmas cookies and light bulbs with the goal of loving their neighbors and creating a chance to share how Jesus loves them, too.
“We wanted to be in a context where people from the periphery can hear that message that we care, and God does, and so we’re going to put effort into being right in the mix with you,” Anders said.
And one day while they were at the laundromat giving out free soap and change for laundry, they met a woman named Alyssa with a story like Brandon’s. God worked right there amid the washing machines, Anders said. A church member named Shawna was able to share her faith with Alyssa and tell her about the love she had found in Jesus.
“It was the same thing as Brandon. She had no idea that anybody cared like that, let alone God,” Anders said. “She accepted Christ that day.”
But even with a clean start spiritually, Alyssa still had some things in her life to deal with.
“Two weeks later, she was back in jail because of lingering things from her choices, and so we lost track of her for more than a month,” Anders said. “My first time ever talking on a phone through the glass at a jail was with her when we finally dug up where she was. And she was in tears, like, ‘You came? You came to see me?’”
Absolutely, he told her. She was a sister in Christ, and as her family, they were going to walk with her. And even then, he could already see the Holy Spirit at work in her life. She shared with him that she didn’t understand it, but she had felt drawn to pray and be thankful instead of despairing.
“We believe the Gospel affects lives and changes people,” Anders said.
And he and Jessica believe a church that comes back to life can be a strong witness to that.
“It tells a compelling testimony of the resurrected Christ, that something can come back from the dead,” he said.
So far, they’ve seen God grow their little church from a core team of around 35 members to more than 100 people. The Snyders didn’t go in trying to make the church the next cool place to be. They simply preached the Gospel and urged members to develop deeper relationships with one another and go into the neighborhoods sharing the hope of the Gospel.
Shifting cultures in the church is a slow process, Anders said, but over time, God has given them momentum and opened hearts to the message of hope in Jesus.
“We hope to be a multiplying, a sending, preparing kind of a place, as well as just keeping the doors open,” Anders said. “And I pray that it reverberates out to the nations.”
The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provides half of NAMB’s annual budget, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to serve missionaries in the field. The offering is used on the field for training, support and care for missionaries like the Snyders and for evangelism resources.