Monday’s Chapel service marked the start of Prayer Week, and Grand Canyon University Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin told students they would be engaged and challenged.
Griffin’s opening words resonated with an audience that listened closely to stories from CityServe guest speakers from across the country who reinforced GCU President Brian Mueller’s mission for involvement.
In 2021, GCU became the first college campus in the nation to open a CityServe HUB, or distribution center, which receives household goods and other items from major retailers and distributes them to 120 churches and other community partners. Those partners then deliver those items to families who need them. So far, GCU CityServe has distributed more than $10 million of goods that have been received by families throughout Arizona.
“It takes everybody saying we’re going to join together to do this,” Mueller said during a panel discussion that included CityServe co-founder and chairman Dave Donaldson; CityServe co-founder and president Wendell Vinson; New Life Church founder and lead pastor Rick Bezet and his brother and Bayside Community Church pastor Randy Bezet.
Mueller elaborated that there are ways for governments, businesses and wealthy people to benefit. “But we do it without losing our testimony.”
Prayer Week events, organized by the Spiritual Life Department, continue at 7:30 p.m. today with “The Gathering” at Antelope Gymnasium. Wednesday’s theme is “Prayer for our Students,” with students encouraged to attend a life group on their floor or with friends. “Prayer for our Leaders” will be the theme of The Sanctuary at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Sunset Auditorium. The week concludes with “Prayer for our City and World,” with students encouraged to serve the community by volunteering with an outreach team.
During Monday’s service, Donaldson shared that he wanted to be in the deep end when he dedicated his life to the Lord and to service. He spoke about a recent partnership between CityServe and Hyatt Hotels to feed 800 people in Maui who lost everything in the August wildfires.
Donaldson described the relationships CityServe shares with companies such as Amazon, Costco and Home Depot. Discolored, flawed or discontinued products that otherwise would be headed to landfills are collected by CityServe and distributed to thousands of churches and Christian nonprofits around the world to serve families in need.
Donaldson said one mother was so appreciative that CityServe provided beds and furniture to her children who had been sleeping on a floor.
“Every time I put my kids down, I think of a God that cares and a church that cares,” Donaldson was told by the mother, now a CityServe leader.
Rick Bezet revealed the power of CityServe and how it helped him surpass a goal that once looked unachievable in Arkansas.
“When we started in Arkansas, we had a vision for 50 (CityServe) campuses,” Bezet said. “We’re not there. We’re not even close to it. We had only 18 campuses in our state.
“But one day, the leaders of CityServe pulled us aside and said, ‘Rick, could you adjust your vision a little bit?’ … But with CityServe, we’re now partnered with 200 churches in the state of Arkansas. We‘re making a big difference because of CityServe.”
Randy Bezet was introduced to CityServe by his brother and recalled, “God had a moment with me.”
He recalled a 9-year-old boy in his neighborhood who was killed after being struck by a truck. Randy Bezet said God reminded him of his mission to help his Sarasota, Florida, community and that he drove by the house of the boy who was killed, but “you’re not doing anything about it.”
He told God, “We’re going to make a difference in the community, and when there’s a need, we’re going to raise our hands and love people.“
He disclosed the roots of his friendship with Mixon Fruit Farms president Dean Mixon 25 years ago when Bayside was established. Mixon was one of seven people who attended the first meeting.
In recent years, when Mixon was planning to shut down his business, some of his land and a warehouse was allocated to help CityServe impact the community and the state. That combination has helped CityServe build nine campuses in four counties on the West Coast of Florida.
“That’s the church being missional, and that’s the business leader being missional, and how can I influence how the Lord has blessed me to do something that lives well beyond me – that lives in eternity with heaven by serving hurting people and partnering with the church?” Randy Bizet said.
“That’s accelerates the vision very rapidly.”
Vinson shared a story about the impact and motivation provided by churches in Ukraine under the leadership of Pastor and Bishop Victor Pavlovski.
Vinson said churches in Moldova, the poorest country in Eastern Europe, extended their arms to nearly 1 million refugees – mostly comprised of women, children and the elderly.
“It’s humbling and inspiring to all of us,” said Vinson, who received praise from Mueller for his work in Central California.
Perhaps the most touching story was delivered via video from Amber Fischer, who disclosed how she fell into drugs, alcohol and the adult dancing business.
“I could never see myself get free from drugs and alcohol,” Fischer said.
But with the help of the M Street Navigation Center in Bakersfield (where Vinson’s CityServe base is located), Fischer started her rebound with shelter, food and support.
And now she looks forward to seeing the two youngest of her five boys, whom she lost at an early age because they “were lost to the system,” Fischer said.
“Now they’re 18 and 16,” said Fischer, proudly displaying a certificate displaying that she graduated from the CityServe Educational Collaborative.
“They are coming soon. I can’t wait. They’re looking for me now. Mom is ready.”
Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected].