ORANGE — On the first day of 2022, pastors, politicians and leaders in Southeast Texas came together in Orange for the inaugural Orange County Texas Unity Fest — an evening of prayer and worship for the city and the region.
The event took place at the riverfront boardwalk in Orange. It was organized by Johnny Asevedo, pastor of the newly formed Destiny Church, which opened its doors in 2020 right before the pandemic took over the world.
In a time when the country has been strained and polarized, he hosted this event to call people to come together. Many churches and Christian outreach groups were represented in the gathering, including Restoration Church, Life Church, The Sound Church, Grace Community Church, Community Church, The Hub and others.
“We’re contending for our region,” Asevedo said. “The church talks about breaking down walls and stuff but they do nothing about it. Our heart has always been to actively go after it. That means partnering, that means reaching out, that means connecting and being active.”
Asevedo climbed onto the platform at the start of the meeting and encouraged everyone in attendance to be the “ecclesia” and “koininia” in this new year. Both are Greek words that mean “gathering of those summoned,” and “Christian fellowship,” respectively. He called for Christians to put aside denominational differences to meet the needs of the people in the communities so nobody goes without.
His church, though new, has been doing this already. They prayed and felt God telling them to open a food pantry right outside their building. Since doing that, multiple people have come to tell them that their pantry fed them and their whole family as they faced layoffs from work and other challenging life circumstances.
“We always say you can either go to church or you can be the church,” Asevedo said. “We want to kick off January 1, 2022 with restoration, unity and declaring God’s heart over our city.”
Orange Mayor Larry Spears Jr., made some remarks as well, emphasizing that in all things, he tries to put Christ first in his leadership of the city. He urged people to do as Jesus did in an early account in the gospel of Luke, when he broke away from his parents and stayed behind in the temple. Depending upon the translation, the scripture could read that Jesus was in his Father’s house or that Jesus was doing his Father’s business.
“So there’s a time to be in your Father’s house and there’s a time to be about our Father’s business,” Spears told the audience. “That’s what this is all about.”
Spears prayed over the gathering, asking for blessings, protection from storms and inclement weather, and provision for children, schools, and leaders in the area.
Jonathan Petty, a worship leader at Destiny Church, took the stage with his acoustic guitar and led the motley congregation in song. They sang contemporary classics such as “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin, which bled into traditional hymns like Carl Boberg’s “How Great Thou Art.” Spontaneously, some people would pray aloud. Others prayed in silence.
Rhonda Peveto, who attends Destiny Church, came specifically to pray against racism. She said that she is from this area and moved away, but when she came back and was looking for a church in the Yellow Pages, there were listings for all-white churches and all-Black churches.
“That shouldn’t be,” Peveto said.
Even now, she has friends who say they are going to take their white children out of a school with mostly Black children.
Derek and Becky Evers, founders of The Hub, a Saratoga-based organization which exists to equip the church for service, traveled to Orange to support Asevedo and pray specific blessings over the area in regards to finding—and being—the solution to a problem that troubles them nationwide.
“The biggest problem that we have in America is single-parent homes and it’s having a negative impact on society,” Derek said. “The church — we’re sons of the greatest Father in the world and it’s not just an idea. It’s an experience with a real Father. I think if we can reveal that Father in the way that we serve a community to heal a lot of the needs, it’ll take care of a lot of the crime, it will take care of a lot of the poverty mindset.”
Becky grew up in a home without her father, she said, and even now as mother of an eleven year old, it is something she is still working through with the help of God, her Father, who showed her that though she did not have her biological father with her, she still had the wisdom and mentorship of other godly men in her life.
“God created us to be interdependent,” she said, bringing up the idea of mentoring to change not just behaviors but also mindsets. “That’s my heart for the body of Christ at large, that we actually come into harmony with one another and with the heartbeat of heaven.”
Written by Rachel Kersey