CORPUS CHRISTI - Juan Rena was hungry and hurting when he came to the Crossbridge Fellowship Church food pantry. He had no idea how the Lord would change his life in the following year and lead him to become the director of the ministry that impacted him in so many ways.
Addicted to cocaine and meth for more than 25 years, Juan wanted to find a way to turn his life around and find meaning again. He was also in need of food, which led him to Crossbridge's food pantry just a few streets away from his home where he could come twice a month for essential needs.
As Juan and his girlfriend, Tina, received food each month, they noticed something different in the people that were serving them and wanted to know more. After Tina started attending services at the church, her life changed dramatically and Juan noticed an amazing difference.
"Her attitude changed and everything," Juan said. "One day, I said, 'I'm going with you to church, I want to see what made you different.'"
While sitting in the sanctuary and listening to Pastor Mario Quezada share the Gospel, Juan realized he needed a Savior.
"When I first came to the church, I could feel the Holy Spirit in the church," Juan said. "God got ahold of my life and now He keeps me going."
Shortly after, Juan met with Pastor Mario and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. The change in Juan was evident to all who knew him.
Juan was baptized last September and began attending the church regularly. Pastor Mario also performed the marriage ceremony for Juan and Tina a few weeks later and the couple began giving back by volunteering at the Crossbridge Fellowship food pantry that had meant so much to them.
"When I see these people, I just want to love them," Juan said. "They break your heart. I like to see them smile. They never complain, they just say 'thank you.' It's such a blessing to serve them."
Run almost entirely by volunteers, the food pantry receives assistance from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, as well as tithes from members of the church to provide much needed essentials for the needy in their community. Last year, they served between 100-200 people a month, and now the rapidly growing ministry meets the needs of up to 500 individuals.
"People are not only coming to receive food," Pastor Quezada said. "They are now returning to come and serve."
Every other Friday, church members and food recipients join together at the church to unload crates of food that are stocked on the shelves for less than 24 hours before being handed out.
Crossbridge Fellowship Church has seen a significant growth in their church, close to a 25% increase in attendance, over the past few years as this ministry has grown.
The conversations about Christ and encouragement that community members are receiving, in addition to food, has made a great impact as the church reaches beyond their walls to meet the needs of their neighbors.
"We really encourage our people who come to receive what they need, but also hear about Christ," Pastor Mario said. "We let them know the physical part of the food will be exhausted in a few days, but the spiritual nourishment is what will stay with them."
And now, just a year after joining the church, Juan has been asked to serve as the director for the ministry that helped change his life.
"God has done an amazing thing in Juan's life," Pastor Mario recounted. "He has given his life to the Lord and now he is running our food pantry."
When Juan began coming to the food pantry, he was looking for help to meet his physical needs. As the members of Crossbridge Fellowship Church reached out to him and shared the love of Jesus, his life was truly transformed and now he is giving back in the best way possible - through humble service and thanksgiving.
To give to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, click here.