Serving Up Love
Clarence and Donna Dunbar’s dream to start a new congregation came true six years ago with the establishment of the Compass Communities church plant.
It’s Sabbath morning at the Compass Communities church plant in Port Charlotte, Florida. You’re just in time for worship, but just so you know, they do church a little differently here.
For starters, they meet in a soup kitchen where they serve up love to people who have fallen through the cracks of society. The jobless, the homeless, and those struggling with disabilities, addictions, or broken lives are all welcomed with a warm hug when they walk through the doors.
This ethnically and economically diverse church is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s leading in the lives of lay pastors Clarence and Donna Dunbar and cofounder Pastor Anthony Wagnersmith.
“We’ve always wanted to plant a church with the main focus of loving people like Jesus did,” says Donna. “We’re learning to follow His method of ministry—mingling with people in our community, meeting their needs, showing them sympathy, winning their confidence, and inviting them to follow God. And as we do, we’re growing!”
One of Compass Communities’ top priorities is the homeless to whom they provide clothing, companionship, and help for numerous addictions. “It’s really neat to see people break the chains of addiction and embrace living the abundant life that Jesus came to give,” says Clarence.
Compass Communities also participates in the soup kitchen program. Their forte is Friday evening when the fare is extra special to remind diners of God’s love for them. Church members personally serve each guest, and there’s even a menu!
Another high-priority group for Compass Communities is the community youth. When Donna learned that there were 8,000 local children who didn’t know Jesus, she joined a ministry for middleschoolers.
“My knees were knocking when I first became involved,” says, Donna. “I was totally out of my element. I prayed, ‘Father, help me to reach Your kids for Your kingdom. Give me the words I need to say,’ and He did!”
Donna learned the children’s names and little things about them. She helped them raise money to go to camp, took them to the mall, and invited them to pool parties at her home. In time she became a trusted friend.
Now some of these children worship with the Compass Communities congregation each week. One such child is an autistic girl named Amber. “I watched Amber change before my eyes as she came to know Jesus,” says Donna. She was baptized recently, and her mother was so overjoyed with Amber’s transformation, she was baptized too!”
Another such child is Alivia. “Alivia used to have nightmares and wake up stabbing her pillow with her hand as if she held a knife.” says Donna. “When she accepted Jesus, the difference in her was like night and day; the demons were gone. She’s my little sunshine now.”
The Compass Communities members have loved quite a few people into their church family. But there’s so much more that they want to do, such as starting a Pathfinder club and hosting seminars. They long for a building of their own so that they can fellowship for more than just a few hours each week and create a center of influence that ministers to the community in even more ways.
“I am so glad that God called me to Compass Communities,” says Donna. “When He calls you, He equips you. I don’t know where He is calling you, but I know that He will. When He does, just go with it. It will be the journey of a lifetime!”
Please pray for Donna and Clarence and all our church planters as they raise new groups of Seventh-day Adventist believers around the world.
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