When a new ministry debuts Sunday evening, the pastor delivering a message of hope to the downtrodden will have heightened credibility.
He has been there, and he has overcome a horrific situation, which he acknowledges was largely self-inflicted.
Tortosa resident Chris Appleton, 43, will step to the pulpit at 6 p.m. to begin services of Living Word Maricopa, which each Sunday evening is renting Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave., across the street from Maricopa High School.
“Everyone has experienced pain at one time or another. That’s our target audience,” Appleton said. “Anyone who is hurting, needs encouragement, needs to be lifted up, that’s our target audience. We want to help families, help marriages, anyone who needs encouragement. We try to reach people at every level. We want to be here and pray with them.”
In the late 1990s, Appleton was alone on the streets in central California, addicted, he says, to drugs. Pastor Ruben Reyna, founder of Living Word, which now has churches and homes up and down the California coast, in Texas, New Mexico, the Philippines, and now Arizona, found Appleton and took him in.
Appleton went through Reyna’s intensive program to turn his life around.
“I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol since 1997,” Appleton said. “The program worked for me.”
He has since dedicated his life to helping others overcome dire situations.
After Appleton completed seminary training, Reyna dispatched Appleton and his wife, Rosa, 41, to Maricopa to start a ministry.
“We look to be a prayer beacon,” Appleton said. “I know this: Everyone you talk to, they’re either in a storm of life, they’ve just come out of a storm, or they’re about to go into one. If we can be known for anything it’s that we are here to pray. I know everybody can use a prayer, every family can use a prayer. And that’s really what we are about, praying. How can we pray for you today? How can we be a blessing in prayer? My wife prays every night from midnight to 3 in the morning with all the prayer needs.
“Our mission statement is ‘Reaching, Teaching, Mending, Sending.’ We teach the word. We try to mend hearts – there are a lot of hurting people out there – and try to help send them into whatever destiny the Lord has for their lives.”
Living Word’s plan is to conduct one Sunday-evening service a week in the rented facility until it can build its own church.
“When we reached out, Community of Hope opened its doors to us,” Appleton said. “They’ve really been generous. They’re letting us use sound equipment, they’ve been hospitable, friendly and loving. They’re a real blessing.”
Living Word attempts to not only save souls but also lives, according to Appleton, pointing to his own journey.
“Part of what Living Word does is take guys off the streets, help get them cleaned up and help them become a better person,” Appleton said.
Living Word has a church in Apache Junction, a home in Superior and more churches coming in the Valley, according to Appleton.
More information: livingwordarizona.com