Houston’s First has been a friend to “the least of these” since the church was established nearly 175 years ago. As Houston has grown, so have the needs of people who now call it home. God is raising new leaders from Houston’s First and opening up new facilities across the city to meet those needs.
Since opening its doors in 2008, the Faith Center on Long Point Road in Spring Branch has provided for many tangible needs needs near The Loop Campus. As refugees have been resettled in Houston, God is using programs like Houston 1:8, the “stay-at-home mission trip,” and people like Houston’s First members Megan and JP Johnson to meet needs across the city. The young couple has been on the forefront of establishing the new Faith Center-Harwin in Southwest Houston, serving refugees primarily from Bhutan, Burma and Nepal — many of whom lived in tent camps before coming to the United States.
“We are reaching the nations,” said Megan. “We are blessed with many resources, so God is bringing the nations to us!”
Three years ago during the Houston Project, since renamed Houston 1:8, Megan and JP were asked to join another couple from their Life Bible Study as assistant site leaders. When the leaders had to relocate to another city, the Johnsons were put in charge of an inner-city site. That baptism by re developed in them a love for international missions.
After the site leader assignment, the Johnsons registered for a three-hour class, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.”
“The ‘Perspectives’ class was life-changing,” said Megan. “It helped us to see God’s heart for unreached people.” Many of the people they began ministering to had come from the 10-40 window (regions of the eastern hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the western hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator), a part of the globe whose residents have been widely unreached by the Gospel.
Megan and JP began ministering at Los Arcos apartment community, an international refugee site. When apartment management shut down the program, they searched and discovered a similar community at SunBlossom Mountain on Ranchester Street near Harwin in Southwest Houston. It would become one of the next Houston 1:8 ministry sites in 2013
The team at SunBlossom ministered to 250 children and fed 400 people each night. After the week was over, the Johnsons were faced with a decision. “How could we leave and not come back until next year?” said Megan.
Using Faith Center Director Scotty Sanders’ Spring Branch model, Megan and JP set up Kids’ Club at SunBlossom. Every other Saturday, the Johnsons along with 10 volunteers from Awaken (Single Adults) and Catalyst (Married Young Adults) Life Bible Studies ministered to between 30 and 60 refugee children.
The following year, the Houston’s First Leadership Team — Pastor Gregg, David Self, William Taylor, and Stephen Smith — began praying and the Johnsons began looking for a site to open a new Faith Center near SunBlossom. For a solid year, the door was shut.
Last summer, Houston 1:8 prayer teams went out to SunBlossom and began praying over it and the surrounding area, hoping God would move in the neighborhood and open the door for the new Faith Center site nearby. The team went out in July, and by September they had signed a lease.
During that season of prayer a “spa,” casino and other businesses near the apartment community closed their doors. “God put His stamp on this area,” said Megan. “Light moved in and all the darkness moved out.”
In addition to holding Saturday Kids’ Club at SunBlossom Apartments, the new Faith Center-Harwin, located across the street, will partner with other ministries such as One Community, a faith-based organization that provides volunteers to teach ESL classes and helps refugees along the path to citizenship. Refugee Project o ers a variety of classes including art and business, and teaching women marketable skills such as craft making to provide them a sustainable income. Fair Trade Fridays allow refugee artisans space where subscription holders can pick up a box of their wares.
Like the Faith Center in Spring Branch, a food pantry and clothing distribution center will open soon at Faith Center-Harwin. The Houston Food Bank will partner with them.
“We need so many volunteers throughout the week and on Saturdays,” said Megan. “Kids’ Club and the food pantry and clothes closet will need people who are dedicated to ll those positions each week.”
JP says some people avoid getting involved in missions because they feel they must be apologists for Christianity. “Being a local ‘missionary’ is not hard,” he said. “If you just love on people, God will use you where you are. We let Christ change them.”
The Johnsons are amazed at the progression of their involvement in ministry to refugee communities. “We weren’t seeking to do this ve years ago,” said Megan. “It’s been a series of ongoing yesses to God that brought us to where we are today. We said yes to simple opportunities of serving, and the lesson we learned is how to share God with the nations.”