“The world is my community.” –Pam Ayers (Co-Founder of GAP Ministries)
A child who had been in multiple placements and in and out of foster care stood before a judge when he thought everyone had given up on him. The judge said, “we are not giving up until you’ve tried GAP Ministries, because the love over there changes people.” When directors of All Grace Outreach (AGO), George and Jill Guzzardo, decided to support GAP Ministries through AGO, they could not have predicted the parallels and relationship about to unfold in their partnership.
All Grace Outreach-a 501(c)3 charitable organization-prioritizes it’s beneficiaries based on these biblical principles:
1. Those who spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. (Matt 28:18-20)
2. Those who help widows (1 Tim 5:3) and…
3. Those who financially support orphans in need. (James 1:27)
As expected, GAP Ministries was prayerfully selected by the directors of All Grace Outreach as recipients for financial support due to their obedience in meeting all three criteria. This encouraged the Guzzardos, who are local leaders in Tucson, Arizona, to form an alliance with the creators of GAP and go deeper into their story.
“When we first met Greg and Pam, we already knew there was such a strong parallel and connection – it blew my mind. The similarities in challenges for both of us early on were such strong catalysts and turning points and just knowing where they were and what they have done to benchmark this ministry, it’s absolutely incredible and we are so grateful for their example.” Jill Guzzardo
Here’s their story:
Greg and Pam Ayers started GAP in 1999 after several detours in their professional careers led them to the conclusion that what they were doing was not part of God’s calling for their life.
……….”We felt like God was saying, step away. So we did. Immediately, I wrote my resignation letter to the finance company I was working for and somehow “by God-cident” the letter was sent to the entire banking system, across several states and God used it to completely transform hearts. I shared my testimony in that letter and because of it I had phone calls coming in regularly for 2.5 weeks: 30-40 people accepted Christ over the phone and I had prayed for healing for nearly 70 people whom I did not know. I had more impact for the kingdom of God in those couple of weeks than I did my entire life up to that point.” Greg Ayers (Co-Founder of GAP)
The Ayers knew that they wanted to serve in ministry, they just didn’t know to what capacity or in what direction. After attending seminary, they decided to do missions work over-seas which eventually led them to the idea of starting a local church where they could build it from the outside-in.
“We thought that’s what we were suppose to do because it’s all we knew; and eventually it just started to feel like we were ‘playing church’ when God kept saying ‘be the church’.” Pam Ayers
After walking away from that first church they started, Greg and Pam chose to take a completely different path which led them to Tucson, AZ to a location that was far from what they wanted. However, upon arrival, they both were overwhelmed with emotion and knew that it was exactly where God wanted them…so they stayed. Immediately they purchased a home and through prayer and fasting decided to start their ministry in Tucson.
“In Exodus chapters 3 & 4 when God calls Moses, he answered, “Here I am.” God showed Moses that he could use what was in his hand, the staff, to convince the Pharaoh that God had sent him. When our family started GAP Ministries in 1999, God showed us that we should start with what we had in our hand–a home and food in our pantry.” Greg Ayers
“We knew that biblically we had a responsibility to take care of the orphans and the widows so this is where we knew we needed to start. So we began to foster children. Eventually we were licensed as group home providers and were considered an orphanage.” Pam Ayers
Their original mission was to create a true church without walls, inspired by a ministry in Florida that was already beginning to implement this concept but was not sustainable. God truly led the Ayers through a mine-field early on when He made a way for them to start several programs that few ministries ever have the funding to create.
The programs can be summarized in 3 defined areas–Family, Community and Ministry.
(We are) Family:
Foster children, teens, young adults and families from birth to age 21 years of age who are in custody of the state by caring for them in a Splash House. There are currently 14 SPLASH Homes with up to 10 children of various ages living in each house, including sibling groups; these were created for the purpose of showing the children what it means to be a family. Live-in “house-parents” are married couples, who love and treat the children like their own by sharing God’s unconditional love as a vital part of the healing process. (A Story of Love–referring specifically to Splash Homes, will be featured in Part 2 of this All Grace Outreach series).
George Guzzardo agrees, “Let’s make a difference in the family, outside of the church.”
(We are) Community:
- GAP’s community warehouse program is called BOOST where they share fresh food and basic needs items with over 60 Southern Arizona nonprofits serving the needy.
- Community kitchen and food truck was designed to train young people in the culinary arts, maximize the use of donated perishable food and feed thousands in the community including their partnership with a local school district.
- Outreach was designed to partner with nonprofits, churches, businesses and schools where they provide food, backpacks and toys at Christmas to low-income children and their families.
- Backpack 2 School had a vision to impact elementary students in Title 1 schools by filling backpacks with all necessary school supplies to start the school year. In 2014, GAP gave out over 2,500 backpacks.
- Fall Family Feast, Fundraising Events and so much more by standing in the gap for the community.
(We are) Ministry:
- GAP has partnered with a number of faith-based partners to host and participate in prayer and worship gatherings all around Tucson.
- They have helped to see over 2,500 hours of prayer and worship mobilized for the needs of Tucson.
- Every week several prayer meetings are hosted at GAP for schools, the community and the larger Tucson area.
“Everything we do at GAP is what the church should be doing. I really believe GAP is a church without a steeple. We are doing the functions of a New Testament church under the umbrella of a 501(c)3 organization.” Greg Ayers
What GAP Ministries is doing could potentially be a duplicatable model for other ministries. In fact, the pace at which they are growing is unheard of and they’ve even attracted the attention of government leaders because of the impact they are making in the state of Arizona, specifically in the foster care system:
“I want to reach everyone! Not just those in the faith community. If I don’t get around them I can’t rub off on them. Because our arms are extended to reach even further the government is now coming to us asking, “how can you help us do what you are doing?” Of the 17,000 foster children in the state of Arizona residing in multiple foster systems, GAP Ministries was one of the only programs that received emotionally positive feedback from kids. THAT is why the government wants our help.” Pam Ayers
With every AGO subsciption that gets purchased through Life Leadership, 100% of the corporate profits go towards supporting causes like GAP ministries and kids, teens and young adults–just like Blanca.
Please share in the comments section how All Grace Outreach has affected your life!
(…and stay tuned for Part 2 of this AGO series)