CityServe leader: Move toward those in pain

Wendell Vinson was moved by what he saw at Chapel on Monday and tried to move students by what he said.

Photos by Ralph Freso/Slideshow

CityServe President Wendell Vinson speaks at colleges regularly on behalf of his charitable organization.

But just as Grand Canyon University is the only one that is a CityServe HUB, its weekly Chapel service is special.

No wonder Vinson and fellow speaker Rick Bezet got so into it Monday morning as more than 6,000 voices sang at the top of their lungs with a Worship team of GCU alumni. Later, Vinson still was brimming with emotion after seeing Chapel for the first time.

“Amazing. Amazing. Just an amazing culture here,” he said. “You can feel it on the campus – just the passion to see students have an experience at GCU that really shapes them, not just educationally but really helps form who they are spiritually here and in the community.

“That outward community passion, you can feel it here from the administration all the way to the students. I’ve talked to a ton of students who are engaged in some way in community outreach. That’s really the game-changer.

“Most of the time we’re challenging students without having an on-campus expression of CityServe. So this is quite different and exciting because I think it’s going to become a model.”

Vinson and Rick Bezet (left) are passionate about CityServe's mission.

Vinson urged the attending students to become a model for what the world needs when there is so much pain, just as CityServe does by getting household goods and furniture in the hands of people who need it the most. He and Dave Donaldson founded the organization.

“I don’t have to tell you this morning that our world is hurting,” he said.

NEXT CHAPEL SPEAKER (11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 24, GCU Arena)
Jodi Hickerson, Mission Church, Ventura, California

He was so passionate, his voice seemingly reflected that pain by the way it was cracking. He emphasized his point again a few minutes later:

“I don’t have to tell you this, but there is a darkness hovering over our land.”

But what he did have to tell listeners is where he believes the church has fallen short.

“We’re known more for what we’re against than what we’re for,” he said. “And certainly, the enemy of our soul, the enemy of mankind, he wants the church to be known more for what it’s against than what it’s for.

“I’m here to tell you this morning, students, that the church of Jesus Christ, God’s people, we are here for all the right things. We are for people. Amen? We care about people.

“We are for people being elevated out of poverty. We are for people being elevated out of brokenness and addiction and isolation. We are for people coming to know how much God loves and cares for them.”

It all starts, Vinson added, with what Jesus said in Luke 4:18:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
    because He has anointed Me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free. …”

Aaron Bolton kneels in praise during the alumni Worship team's performance.

Vinson likened Christians’ calling to what the body does when it tries to heal a wound – the white blood cells move toward the injury.

“If we’re going to authentically live out who we proclaim to be, we’re going to have to be people who move toward the pain in our culture,” he said.

There’s no time to waste, as Jesus noted in John 4:35:

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

The kindness of the Lord is like a superpower that God has given every one of us.

Wendell Vinson, CityServe President and co-founder

He also addressed the work to be done when he said this in Matthew 25:35-36:

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.”

The pain is everywhere.

Vinson said that in his 39 years as pastor of Canyon Hills Assembly of God in Bakersfield, California, “I don’t recall ever having anyone come to me and say, ‘Pastor, I’m doing great, my marriage is really strong, my kids are great, my work’s great, I’ve got money in the bank, I love my job, I need to get saved.’ Never.

“People come out of their pain and they come out of their emptiness, and it is there that they recognize their need.”

It all comes down to kindness.

“The kindness of the Lord is like a superpower that God has given every one of us …” he said. “When we operate in the kindness and compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ, it causes the barriers to the Gospel to be lowered. People’s hearts open. They don’t fully understand it. But in a toxic culture like we’re living in right now, people sense genuine kindness and compassion.”

When it was his turn, Bezet had Vinson and the audience laughing with his stories.

Bezet, pastor of Arkansas’ New Life Church and also a CityServe leader, spoke next and echoed Vinson’s sentiments, declaring that it’s complicated to love people these days because people have so many “unshakeable convictions.”

“It comes down to the value of a soul,” Bezet said.

He told the story of his daughter trying to run away from home when she was a toddler and being shepherded by a kindhearted woman who spotted her near a highway and made sure she returned home safely.

“I would pick my friends based on who was helping my lost little girl,” he said.

That’s an example of an urgent need, and Vinson emphasized that there’s no time to lose. It’s not something to put off until it’s more convenient.

“There has never been a greater moment than the moment you’re living in right now,” he said.

But as he indicated earlier, he probably he didn’t have to tell you that.

Contact Rick Vacek, Senior Manager for Internal Communications, at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Harrison Russell, who graduated from GCU in 2019, performs with the alumni Worship team.

The alumni Worship team performed for more than a half-hour and had the Chapel crowd fired up:

Worship leaders: Harrison Russell, Emma Lemus, Roxy Farcas, Aaron Bolton

Bass: Matt McCartin

Electric guitar: Joseph Vaught, Thad Lewis

Drums: Connor Brown

Keys: Morgan Breitling


Related content:

GCU News: God's work isn't for meek, Dyer tells Chapel

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GCU News: Fiery talk burns with passion for living God

GCU News: Welch keeps it real, shows his zeal for Jesus

GCU News: Mueller marvels at spirit of opening Chapel

GCU News: Students step up to plate for campus worship


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