BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A church without any walls is helping restore hope in the community this holiday with their annual Christmas celebration.
23ABC News spoke to Pastor Ben and churchgoers Thursday to find out more about the festivities and how it’s helping guide others in better path.
"We were renting it for quite a while from a man and he died and he donated it to us in '05," Pastor Ben Hanna of the Church Without Walls said. After one act of kindness Ben decided to use the property he was given to help others who needed it, "Church Without Walls started in ‘07 I'm the Pastor and founder of it and we have no walls as you see back there ..it’s a tent with no walls. We've been outside all year round and we basically work with this local area here with the homeless, alcoholics, drug attics whatever is out here," Ben said.
For the last 12 and half years Pastor Ben has been making sure those dealing with substance abuse or homelessness felt a sense of welcoming beyond his gates at the Church Without Walls, "You know we tell them they're worthy of being clean and their worthy of you know having a life. We have generation, to generation here of alcohol and drugs,” Ben said.
Especially during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas Ben and his team of volunteers go the extra mile, "Christmas we're going to do lunch at 12 o’clock, we have people already starting to work on that, we have probably four churches that are going to be involved. People love to come out and serve during that time because they are doing something for the area and we will probably feed about 300 people," Ben said.
Christmas dinner will be served until the food supply runs out, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the only times the Church Without Walls is aiming to make a difference in the community, “One of the main things right now is that we are doing the kids ministry and it's called no child should go hungry and what we do is children and their parents come get food and they also get spiritual food. It’s been going really well it's been only two months and we served over a thousand some people in two months,” Ben said.
Every Sunday at 6 p.m. the church holds a non-denominational service with a free dinner as well. Every Thursday it also offers free clothes and food to homeless people like Gary Roberts, "They give showers, they give you a whole set of clothes, underwear everything. That means a lot because a lot of times you can't get to where you can wash your clothes," Church volunteer Gary Roberts said.
For many like Gary this is one of the only places they always know that they have an invitation to the dinner table especially during holidays like Christmas and they anticipate it every year, "I'm looking forward to seeing how many people show up cause I think they had 450 people show up to the pit on Thanksgiving," Church volunteer William Bond said.
Pastor Ben said Santa may also attend this years dinner with a few surprises for the children in the community, “I understood that if he doesn't get stuck in the north pole that he'll be here I had a talk with him just the other day."
However, extra help from the community in terms of volunteers or donations is also something that Pastor Ben said will help enrich Christmas time at the Church Without Walls and for those who attend, "Right now our supplies are really low so food donations, we're doing pretty good on clothes donations but right now with winter we need coats, socks and blankets and stuff like that.”
If you would like to make a donation toward the Church Without Walls Christmas dinner you can contact Pastor Ben at 661-932-2628.