A Ministry for Everyone
Ana Mochoge couldn’t see an end to the line of cars queuing to enter the parking lot of the Dallas First Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was told they extended from the service road out onto the highway, just north of downtown Dallas. Mochoge and a team of volunteers were hosting a drive-through event to provide free toys and children’s clothing to families in need. It was nearing Christmas, and 2020 had been a tough year for most. The giveaway was a fresh take on God’s Closet, a ministry Mochoge brought to Dallas First.
“We hadn’t been able to provide our normal program of having people come into our facilities to ‘shop’ for the items they needed because of the pandemic. We wanted to continue the program, but wanted to do it in a safe way for our community. We took some time to plan and came up with a drive-through shop,” says Mochoge.
Mochoge has always had a passion for working with children and providing for their needs. She loves her work as a teacher, educating third and fourth graders at Dallas Christian Academy. Mochoge had come across an article about God’s Closet by chance while vacationing out of state in 2016, and realized it was a ministry that would perfectly fit the needs of her Dallas community. God’s Closet is a community engagement ministry of the North American Division's Adventist Community Services department. It was founded in 2009 by Merryl Tschoepe and now has 42 chapters across North America and Australia.
“I told my husband, “How awesome would it be to start something like that in Dallas. At the time there was only one chapter in Texas, in San Antonio. After discussing it with my pastor, I was able to speak to Merryl. She was excited and told me, ‘It’s going to be a process but we’ll go through it step by step,’ and we were able to host our first event in 2017,” she says.
One of the major steps in setting up a ministry such as this is having consistent donations of clothing and goods. For Dallas First, the donations mainly come from two local consignment shops. Approaching local businesses to ask for donations was definitely stepping outside of Mochoge’s comfort zone, but seeing the need in her community drove her to push past that discomfort. “We now have an ongoing relationship with these shops and pick up their donations every week. We’re so very grateful for their partnership and support,” she says.
Mochoge says donations also come from church members, other nearby churches, and also from the community members they serve. “We have become acquainted with many of them over the years, and when we see them we ask about their kids, and some have begun to return the clothing their children outgrow to share with someone else.”
One of the things Mochoge loves most about the ministry is that everyone can be involved. There are many moving parts and tasks, and people of all talents are needed. Donations have to be picked up and sorted, shelves have to be stocked, the events have to be communicated to the community, and assistance is needed during the events.
“That’s the beauty of it, that you can include everyone, our teachers and students, community members, church, and even our youth clubs. Everyone can be involved,” she says.
Being a part of a community service ministry has also been a blessing to Mochoge’s family. She and her husband, Martin, have two young children, Andre and Alyssa. Mochoge jokes that Alyssa, born in 2017, has grown up in God’s Closet.
“My kids love it. They come to the sorting and events and they see me going through our own things at home to donate. We’ll see a child pick up a toy that we gave and we’ll talk about it later, ‘Wasn’t it amazing for us to be able to share with others?’ It’s so important to me to have them involved and learning to serve other people.”
Mochoge says it’s important for a church to understand the true needs of the community and fit a ministry around those needs. For some locations, it may be more important to focus on food security than providing clothing. The Dallas church recently added a new program, God’s Table, as a food pantry for the community and an extension of the already-robust community service program.
The pastor and members of the Dallas First church are driven to serve their community, believing that providing for the needs of those around them is following the example of Christ. “That’s what Christ did when he was here on earth, creating connections and relationships. When people know that you love and care for them, they are then going to be open to other things, as well,” says Mochoge. There are no obligations for community members in order to take part in these events. “There are no strings attached. They register when they come to the event. We offer to pray with them, but we don’t want them to feel pressured. Bible studies are available if they’re requested and we have a Bible worker who follows up. Some have become curious and asked questions about our church and several have enrolled their children in our church’s Adventurer Club.”
Mochoge feels that God guides the right people at the right time to their ministry. She shares that a woman came to their drive-through event, and got out of the car.
“The volunteers tried to explain that she needed to stay in her car and drive through the event, but she said ‘No, no my car is burning up.’ She needed help because the car was overheating. She was crying and her husband was yelling and cursing at her over the phone, and we learned that he was abusive. On that day we had two volunteers, one was a mechanic and one works in a women’s shelter. They were able to give her some advice and let her know there was a place for her to come and get help, and the mechanic was able to tow her car and fix it for her for free. It was more than toys and clothes, we were able to help her in the way she needed it right then.”
For Mochoge, reaching out to the community changes her perspective. Focusing on others over herself takes her attention away focusing only on her needs, and helps her to see God’s love more clearly.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” she says.
By Jessica Lozano. Lozano is the Communication Director and Record Editor for the Southwestern Union. She lives in Cleburne, Texas, with her family.