If you’ve been around Allison Park Church (APC) for any length of time, you’ve heard the phrase “reach the one.” This phrase conveys the idea that we are called to reach the one person who is lost, hurting, or broken. This idea is even part of our mission statement “changing the world one life at a time.” But, what’s the story behind this important part of Allison Park Church DNA? It might surprise you.
The story begins in 1986 with Pastor James Callahan (affectionately known as Pastor Cal) and his wife Vickie–who were serving as APC’s children’s pastors–leading “Junior Church.” The couple felt called to start a Vacation Bible School to reach the children in the area. That first year they reached 499 kids, blending children from both the urban and suburban areas.
“The next year, In 1987, I was driving around. God spoke to me that we were to reach 1,000 kids. I thought, ‘How is that possible?’ God told me to hold two VBS services,” Pastor Cal says. “And we did.”
Then, two weeks before the VBS, Vickie came to Pastor Cal and said, “Here’s the deal. We have supplies for 1,200 kids, but only 200 kids are signed up. I think you need to talk to God.”
Pastor Cal wrestled with God about what they were going to do. On his way home, Pastor Cal pulled off the road and told God, “I’m not going home until I hear from you, God.” That’s when God spoke to his heart.
“First of all, I don’t want you to worry about the 200, and I don’t want you to worry about the 1,200. I just want you to care for the one.”
“What one?” Pastor Cal asked God.
“The one who is really far away, the one that people have trouble with, will you send someone to get them?”
“Sure,” Pastor Cal said to God, “we can do that.”
“ What about the handicapped? Will you rent a handicap accessible van to fill with the neighborhood kids?”
Pastor Cal drove home with peace in his heart, knowing exactly what they needed to do. After that, everything started falling into place. That year they reached more than 1,100 little ones. “Caring for the one makes all the difference,” Pastor Cal says.
Since then, the call to “reach the one” has become an important part of Allison Park Church.
Pastor Cal puts it this way, “What we have to understand is when we have Jesus in our hearts the most important thing is that we see and hear what he sees and hears. We are his followers to make a difference. And the most important thing to Jesus is people. We need to be God-sensitive and see the value in every person.”
“People can sense it when you really care about them. It works with everyone– with the kids, the homeless, seniors, hospital visits. Take the time to reach the one,” he says. “And at APC we bring them in, raise them up, train them, and then send them out to reach some more ones.”