When a church’s outreach budget is in the hundreds of dollars — or less — for the year, it can make impacting a community through meeting a need a bit more than challenging. But that’s the reality for hundreds if not thousands of small AG churches that struggle to pay their pastors, much less have a cash reserve for outreach within their communities.
But for smaller churches in the Oklahoma district and surrounding states who are looking to not only fill a physical need in their communities, but also share the compassion and love of Christ through an outreach, The Kaleo Foundation may very well be their answer.
Sam and Pam Walker are AG ministers who spent years as the assimilation and outreach pastors of Crossroads Church, a large church located in Oklahoma City. Through their ministry and connections for outreach, the couple became acutely aware that smaller churches, especially in rural areas, were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to affording outreach — the faith was there, but the funds were not.
In 2017, God led the Walkers to do something about the disparity. Through teaming with different organizations, what began as a ministry out of a garage has exploded into a multi-million-dollar non-profit in a 30,000-square-foot (soon to have a larger footprint in their community) facility. The foundation, based in Oklahoma City, partners with over 340 evangelical churches and ministries to reach out to children and families through meeting practical needs while also representing Christ as the One to meet spiritual needs.
“The name ‘Kaleo’ in Greek means ‘called,’ as we’ve been called to do this work,” Sam explains. “Our mission is to equip Christians to love, serve, and give hope to those in need.”
The Walkers, through The Kaleo Foundation, give smaller evangelical churches the opportunity to present their local school children, teachers, families, police, and others gifts that normally total into the thousands of dollars. In addition, more than 2,000 individuals and families are being provided with nutritious meals each week through a COVID-19 disaster relief program. They also provide family boxes that they’ve provided since their existence.
“We’ve been able to bless pastors of small churches as well,” Sam says. “Through a gift from Men’s Wearhouse we were able to provide pastors with suits, sport coats, dress pants, dress shoes, and dress shirts — suits valued at hundreds and some even up to one thousand dollars.”
The Kaleo Foundation annually receives millions of dollars of seeds for gardening, which they distribute to a variety of sources — including churches, cooperatives, and the state farm bureau that use them for community gardens or to help people grow their own fresh produce.
The generosity and compassion does come at a cost. The Walkers rely heavily upon volunteers to help with the unloading, sorting, bagging, and loading of items. However, Sam and Pam are heavily involved in the processes. “We hope that larger churches and ministries will come to recognize the value of what we are doing and help support the foundation,” Sam says, “then we could hire a couple of staff people and we could reduce our personal work hours down to 60 or so a week.”
Pastor Robbie Willis of Lavaca (Arkansas) First Assembly, a congregation of about 50, says The Kaleo Foundation has enabled his church to do outreaches to their community of about 2,400 they never could have managed on their own.
“We had to apply to the foundation to receive assistance,” Willis says. “The reason is, they’re looking for partnerships to use their goods strategically to reach people for Christ — not just to give stuff away.”
Willis says the first time he and volunteers went to visit the Walkers and The Kaleo Foundation, they had two pick-ups towing two trailers. The foundation filled them. Since then, they have made two additional visits.
“They had made up these bags filled with snacks, drinks, hygiene supplies, educational resources, toys — all kinds of things for kids — and each sack weighed about 15 to 20 pounds,” Willis recalls. “They sent us home with 500 of those along with cases of concentrated sports drinks and an incredible amount of Starbuck’s coffee.”
The kids’ bags were used in an outreach to the local schools in Lavaca, while the coffee (thousands of servings) was placed in the teachers’ lounges and shared with the local police department. The church used a combination of resources from The Kaleo Foundation, Convoy of Hope, and Simmons Food to then provide a chicken fajita nacho dinner for about 100 families in the community.
Willis said to promote the meal, teams went door-to-door in several housing communities, letting people know that even though it was July — not Christmas — Jesus is still the hope of the world. They also distributed coffee to adults, a bag of gift-wrapped toys to kids, and invited them to the meal, where the gospel was presented.
“A mom and her two kids, so moved by what God was doing, visited for the first time the Sunday morning after the Saturday outreach and immediately plugged in,” Willis says. “Then her mother, nieces, and nephews started to attend. Two months later, her husband started to come. Three weeks after that, we prayed for deliverance of nightmares he was having from his military experiences . . . he hasn’t had a nightmare since and God healed him of knee pain he has had for 15 years. With that, he surrendered his life to Christ and has been serving at the church faithfully ever since.”
Although many small churches focus on reaching their schools and civil servants through their partnership with The Kaleo Foundation, Pam says there’s another segment of society that is also in desperate need of churches’ attention.
“Not only are we wanting churches in schools, we believe the elderly, the seniors, are the forgotten, the invisible,” Pam says. “We ask that churches pray, asking God to guide them where to go . . . it could be a nursing home or a senior living in a home all alone, or kids in foster care or who have aged out of the system – there’s no limit to what God wants to do in and through the lives of our pastors and our churches, they just need to be aware of their surroundings.”
Pam shares a story of a home for those suffering with AIDS, that when she entered the home, she was shocked by the living conditions and how hot it was in the home. “There, a bottle of cold water can change a person,” she observes, “and not just the patients, but you also have nurses, the cook, and other staff whose lives can be touched.” It should be noted that she took the time to pray with them before leaving.
The Walkers say that another focus of The Kaleo Foundation has been Native Americans.
“There are 39 tribes in Oklahoma, and prior to COVID, we were reaching well over half of them,” Sam says. “They came in regularly, prior to the pandemic. It’s a blessing to give pastors of Native American churches something they can use to entice their own people to come in and hear the gospel.”
Sam and Pam note that nothing leaves the warehouse without prayer. Pastors picking up product are encouraged to pray with the educators and others they minister to.
“Through hundreds of distributions, we’ve only had one principal refuse prayer,” Sam says. “That principal, and others, later visited the warehouse on a tour with their superintendent who came to say, ‘Thanks.’ God worked it out that we ultimately got to pray with and for that principal.”
Although the Walkers walk a razor-thin financial line, Sam says the first year of operation they gave out over $10 million of product, while receiving $28,000 of support. That ratio continues today. Volunteers have been key to keeping the ministry going, and despite the lack of income, the Walkers are not backing down — they are committed to what God has called them to do.
As the Walkers believe, “He is faithful if we are committed!”