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Church steps out of its own ‘comfort zone’ and into the lives of homeless people

After church one Sunday in November, members of Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church heated water in a 100-cup coffee pot, packed it in one of three cars with prepackaged cups of soup, colorful scarves, hats and gloves, and plastic baggies of hygiene and toiletries products. 

Julene Trimborn
Julene Trimborn with packages of soup

Stepping outside their church walls, out of their element and outside their comfort zones, nine members, including the associate pastor, the Rev. Julene Trimborn, went to a spot under the freeway and offered soup, warmth, necessities and friendship to homeless people who sleep there.

Glad Tidings, which is at Fourth and Havana, previously had food and clothing banks, but when they rented the space to a school for six years, they began to give out gift certificates at local supermarkets to people in need who came to the church.

Julene said it was the first time in her 28 years of ministry at the church that they had done something like this.  Since Nov. 15 they have also visited the people there on Nov. 29, Dec. 13 and Jan. 3.

“It showed God’s love more than anything I have done or any sermon I have preached,” Julene said.  “It’s about why we as the church exist.”

Previously, the church’s group of 15 older women have knit scarves, hats and gloves to give to Vanessa Behan, Ogden Hall and street ministries.  They also have made quilts and sent them to overseas missions.  Now their wider church office suggests that they buy and send gift cards from a major retail chain with stores around the world.  Younger women who work find buying gift cards is something they can do.

Glad tidings Church
Julene Trimborn, Ann Potter and Dana Bretch prepare soup, knits and toiletries for homeless people.

“I’d never done anything like this.  At first, we had no idea what we were doing,” said Julene, who has a food handlers permit. “We did not plan ahead to organize details, but just did what we could do.” 

The previous Sunday, several members went to the area near Division and Third to locate people who might need what they had to offer.  They saw blankets in the skateboard park under the freeway.

Since then, she estimates that 25 different people have gone, including four teens.

“It was a blessing to us,” Julene said.  “We have been sheltered and would not have experienced the blessing if we stayed in our church walls.  Too often we wonder why people are on the street, but the fact that they are there, we should care.”

The blessing came in the smiles, gratitude and appreciation of the homeless people for the gifts of some of the basics of life.  On the first day, the church members set out boxes with the knit goods and bags of toiletries, asking if the people could use them.

“People came out of nowhere.  Eventually more than 40 came in the hour and a half we were there,” she said.

One man, who calls himself Father Time, said, “You did more than you will ever know.”

Both groups brought each other happiness.

glad tidings knitters
Two of the Glad Tidings knitters.

Beyond the food and things shared, Julene said they entered into conversation and listened to stories.

She found the men and women “polite” and “just people.”  She thought everyone looked the same, bundled in warm clothing so it was hard to tell who the homeless people were.

Many were vets.  One said he never thought he’d be there.  He was living paycheck to paycheck until he lost his job.

“Many of them are like us, but had bad times.  Some saw things in war and will never be the same.  They were there, hungry and cold,” she said.

“We’re not a rich church.  Many in our church have been laid off. It’s up to us to do what we can do to meet a need and to be grateful for what we have.”

“Although we went out of our comfort zone, we were comfortable,” she said.  “We don’t have such experiences within the church walls.  It was more fulfilling than anything I could buy.”

She said it was about being inspired to do what was at hand, what the church could do with what they have.

“If we wait for enough time, enough money or someone to organize something, we may not do anything, but if I bring what I have—a few sandwiches, knit goods, extra coats, or cups of soup—it doesn’t require training, just common sense,” she said.

“We did not do it to lift up the church, but to follow God’s call to go to the highways and byways.  We did not even talk about God, but we showed who God is.  God is love, not religion, but relationship,” Julene affirmed.

Julene was pleased that on Nov. 15, two other church groups were doing the same thing.

“We helped each other as churches should do,” she said.  “There have been too many splits in churches, with people packing their bags and going because they want something done their way.  We need to minister in God’s way.  We were God’s church ministering together.

“We’re the church, not a building.  We can go anywhere and we’re the church.  We may have differences, but we need to focus on doing what Jesus said to do and quit talking about our differences,” she said.

Another time, a young man from Life Center recognized Julene and her husband, the Rev. Charles (Chuck) Trimborn, who is senior pastor at Glad Tidings.  He stopped, joined them in handing things out, offered to come again and gave them $15.

They used the $15 to buy boots for one woman, whose shoes had been stolen, making it hard for her to get out of her bedroll.

Julene gave some background on her ministry.  She and Chuck, who have been married 40 years, met at the University of Montana where he studied business and she studied music. 

They moved to Spokane for him to work in real estate and began attending the church in 1976.  Sharing his business savvy and serving on the board sparked his call to ministry. 

While studying, he served seven years under the previous senior pastor.  Then the church asked him to be senior pastor in 1987.  Julene became youth pastor, then associate pastor also responsible for music.  She teaches Bible classes and sometimes preaches.

Both had training through Berean College of the Bible, an Assembly of God school in Springfield, Mo., that offers graduate and undergraduate distance-learning studies in theology.  Chuck graduated in 1982 and she graduated in 1989 and was ordained in 1990.

Glad Tidings, a large congregation before splits because of the freeway and differences of opinion, now has 150 members.

The church started in 1939 in a building near Sacred Heart Hospital.  Its present building includes an education wing built in the 1950s and rebuilt after a fire.  The sanctuary was built in the 1960s and an addition in 1974.

Julene was the first woman to serve as a pastor at that church, but she said Assembly of God churches have always recognized women in ministry.

The new aspect of ministry to people under the freeway is also “blazing a trail” for new life in the congregation, she added.  “People have risen to the occasion.  There is no feeling like participating in this—for doing what we have been taught in the Bible to do—for those who go and for those who are bringing things we can take.”

“We took a leap of faith.  I can see how God multiplied the simple things we have taken.  I believe it’s our ministry,” Julene said.

For information, call 927-8609 or email