NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Local church goes above and beyond to serve the community

Pastor Craig and Agnes MathesonCourtesy Changing Lives Christian Church

Pastor Craig and Agnes Mattheson

Located at 17 Newcomb St. in Haverhill, MA, Changing Lives Christian Church has found multiple ways to help its surrounding community, as well as ways to serve people in communities abroad. Founded by Pastor Craig Mattheson of Methuen, MA, Changing Lives Christian Church has implemented various outreach programs through its ministry over the years, which aim at spreading the message of The Gospel while simultaneously helping those in need.

Changing Lives Christian Church, which is nestled between Town Hall and the Haverhill Public Library, has come to represent a place in the city where one can not only build a relationship with God but also a place where one can receive help, guidance, and support. Mattheson, along with his wife, Agnes, have dedicated their time and energy to create important outreach programs through the church. Changing Lives Christian Church offers a weekly food pantry to the citizens of Haverhill, as well as a donation-based outreach program that raises money for people in Uganda who need food, Bibles, and other necessities. The church also funds and participates in a radio broadcast in Uganda that works at educating a potential audience of 5 million listeners about the Gospel, Jesus Christ, and aims to bring as many of those listeners to salvation as possible.

Changing Lives Christian Church has come a long way over the years, and the wonderful forms of service that it is able to now provide to a vast portion of people is a testament to how much the church has grown since its humble beginnings over 20 years ago. “The church started off in my living room – we only had maybe three or four people when the church had first started,” said Mattheson. “Then the church started to grow and it outgrew the living room, so we started renting a building on the corner of Oakland avenue and Broadway in Methuen. The church outgrew that spot, so then we ended up on 446 Prospect St. We were there for 18 years.”

It was at 446 Prospect St in Methuen when Changing Lives Christian Church began running a weekly food pantry. The idea for a food pantry was suggested by a church member, and the church has been running one ever since, even after having to find a new place to run the church after an unexpected fire destroyed the Prospect Street location. “The building unfortunately in the middle of the night burned down. That was God telling us we needed to get another place. That’s why we’re here now at 17 Newcomb Street,” said Mattheson, with no sense of regret or defeat in his voice.

Since being in Haverhill, Changing Lives Christian Church has cemented itself in the community landscape of the city, and has continued to offer its food pantry services to anyone in need. The food pantry, which is open to the public every Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., aims to provide people with various canned and boxed goods, among other non-perishable necessities. No identification or documentation is needed for anyone who is in the Haverhill area that wants to attend the food pantry at Changing Lives Christian Church. All that is required for anyone seeking food is that they provide their first name.  Haverhill has a large homeless population, which Changing Lives Christian Church is happy to try and accommodate. “There are a lot of homeless people in Haverhill,” said Mattheson, “and they count on the food pantrys, so its a real blessing for us to reach out and say ‘Hey, we’ve got some good stuff for you here.”

Changing Live Christian Church buildingCourtesy of Changing Lives Christian Chur

Changing Lives Christian Church in Haverhill.

The service doesn’t stop there – Changing Lives Christian Church has set up a ministry outreach program through the church that raises money for people in Uganda who are low on resources, like food, and don’t have access to Biblical literature or other Christian resources. A locked donation box is located within the lobby of Changing Lives Christian Church where money can be dropped in order to provide these things. Every cent raised by the church goes to the ministry’s affiliates in Uganda, where it is spent on food, water, Bibles, and other things the people need. Many of those who the money goes to are starving children who do what they have to in order to survive.           

“There’s actually, 7, 8, 9 10, 15 year olds that are on the street and have no parents or anywhere to go. These people look through dumpsters for food. We feel really bad.” said Mattheson. “We’ve given them money in order to buy food and to feed these kids as well. It’s working out great, so we thank God for that.” Changing Lives Christian Church sends every penny  raised in donations straight to Uganda – the church keeps nothing. “We don’t take anything out for costs or expenses. Everything 100% goes to them.” said Mattheson.

The Uganda outreach ministry at Changing Lives Christian Church isn’t the only tie to Uganda that the church has. After learning how to live stream its worship services as a response to the drop in church attendance during the March 2020 COVID-19 lock downs, Mattheson ended up connecting with a live stream viewer who had a special proposition for him. The viewer, from Uganda, messaged Mattheson after a live streamed Sunday worship service. The viewer had a faith centered radio program that they wanted him to teach on. The radio station, known as Grace Radio 92.6 FM in Uganda, reaches the potential of 5 million listeners in the Uganda area.

Mattheson agreed to do a virtual teaching online for the broadcast, where listeners got to hear the pastor teach about Jesus Christ, salvation, and the Gospel. “I do a teaching for the first half hour. The second half hour, the people call the station live, and they give us prayer requests.” said Mattheson. “People were calling in saying, ‘I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior!’ The testimonies are unbelievable.”

Such testimonies were recorded by Grace 92.6 FM and sent to Changing Lives Christian Church, and they show how effective Mattheson’s preaching the Word of God was to the people in Uganda. After a September 2021 broadcast with Mattheson, 3,000 phone calls and SMS messages were dialed and sent in to the radio station declaring salvation and acceptance of Jesus as their Lord and Savior. One listener in Uganda, named Tom, wrote in to Grace FM to share how he was moved by Mattheson’s preaching. Tom testified that “the preaching has been an inspiration for him. He feels he doesn’t get enough of listening to them. He believes the Lord has visited his home.”

Another listener in Uganda, a Pastor Tumwiine, wrote into Grace FM to share how he was moved by Changing Lives Christian Church’s broadcast. Tumwiine said that the radio program was “an answered prayer. He bought a big radio and placed it in his church compound for the people to listen, and the Christians doubled and he bought more chairs to accomdoate all the people.”

The radio broadcast got such a good response that the station asked Mattheson to return the next month, and the month after that. Gladly, the pastor obliged. Soon after, however, the radio program told Changing Lives Christian Church that they couldn’t afford to continue to broadcast. “They contacted me and said, ‘We got some bad news – it costs $120 to be on the radio for one hour and we can’t finance it.” shared Mattheson. This is when Changing Lives Christian Church decided to help sustain the radio broadcast in Uganda by volunteering to finance all future broadcasts for Grace 92.6 FM.

“We said we’d pay that $120 dollars in order for this thing to keep on happening. And that’s what we’ve been doing,” said Mattheson.

 The church continues to think of other new ways to bring the local community of Haverhill into the church, to build fellowship and a sense of togetherness. One Saturday each month at 6pm, Changing Lives Christian Church hosts a free movie night with free refreshments. A Christian themed movie is played on a large projector screen in the church, and it is open to the public. “Our movie night is bringing a lot of people in from Christian singles groups and other churches, so everybody can get together and have a really good night of fun with a really good evangelistic movie in a really good environment.” said Mattheson.

Changing Lives Christian Church holds worship services every Sunday morning at 11a.m., as well as a Bible Study group every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. There is also a prayer meeting every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. Changing Lives Christian Church encourages anyone seeking to grow in their faith to go out to the church and take part in the many services they offer to the public.

It is this dedicated commitment to bettering the community of Haverhill and the community abroad that truly shows how public service, and ultimately service to God, is at the heart of what the church does. “Jesus told us to preach the gospel to every creature,” said Mattheson. “He says ‘Go make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  and teach them what I’ve taught you’…Go doesn’t mean to stay.” And that is just what Changing Lives Christian Church has done.

 

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