Missio Dei Oakland (MDO) is a house church network that is positively serving disadvantaged people in East Oakland through compassion, personal connection and spreading the gospel. In July 2012, a church start -up team of four individuals moved to Oakland to plant the ministry with the goal of creating a church for people who didn’t go to church. After community outreach, four high school students gained an interest in Christ and became the first official members of the ministry. Services were held on Friday evenings at a member’s residence. Friends and family members were invited, contributing to the further growth of the church with attendance surpassing double digits. In 2014, a second house church was born, taking place on Thursday evenings. High attendance continued and in early 2017, a third short- lived house church that took place on Mondays was established. By the fall of that year, weekly Sunday service was introduced and reached new people. The church has continued to grow.
I interviewed three church members who were more than happy to share their experiences with MDO. I spoke with Victor, a Thursday house church volunteer who did not want his full name in the article, Jimmy Huynh, who is the longest standing original member and Danny Wu, the longest standing Thursday house member.
How were you introduced to MDO and what motivated you into becoming a member of the church?
“I was introduced to MDO somewhere in late 2016 by my friend, James Song who has been volunteering with the Thursday group for quite some time.” Victor said. “After meeting and getting to know such positive, cool people I knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of.“
“I was introduced to the church in 2012 at an outreach event outside of my high school,” Jimmy said. “Betsy (one of the lead pastors) was there with some others giving away food and drinks for completing surveys. I wasn’t a Christian then but was interested in learning more about God. What drew me in was the hospitality, love and compassion from the church members and my thirst of knowledge for God. Betsy’s guidance and leadership was my main connection.”
“Jimmy invited me to a Halloween party in 2013 and I had no idea that it was going to involve the church,” Danny recalled. “I was isolated and going through a hard time, however through MDO, I started running in to old friends that I hadn’t seen since middle school. We did Bible study together and reconnected. What kept me going was having that network of people that cared about me and learning about God; worshiping and praising him revitalized my outlook on life.”
Any highlights that come to mind?
“MDO grew me more spiritually,” Victor said, “and it’s been great being able to watch others experience the same thing.”
“Last year I brought one of my best friends in to the church similar to how Jimmy brought in me,” Danny said. “I watched him grow and get his life back together similar to how I did with mine. That was my main highlight for 2017.”
Any dark moments?
“Witnessing fellow church members grow distant from God.” Danny said. “Thursdays have regressed to me becoming the only remaining member of the original Thursday group.”
“Last year, 2017, Betsy was out for multiple months due to illness and we were deeply saddened by this. Fridays just weren’t the same without her presence and guidance,” Jimmy said. “She was always in our thoughts and prayers.”
Victor specifically pointed to an accidental fatal shooting involving members of the Monday house church that essentially led to the break up of the group.
“Getting to know those guys for a little bit, hear things were going well for them then something so tragic happens with them out of nowhere was so sad.” Victor said. “It’s unfortunate that, that led to them going their separate ways.”
How has MDO changed your life and what do you look forward to regarding the church’s future?
“MDO’s changed my life by helping me keep myself in a positive surrounding.” Victor said. “I look forward to the MDO’s continued growth and being able to impact lives whether that be giving people rides or hanging out with some of the guys outside of MDO, it’s a great feeling to help out in a positive way.”
“I used to be a goofy slacker and through the church I got my act together,” Jimmy said. “I always had a desire to help others and was able to develop confidence in myself to approach others, specifically homeless people, to lend a helping hand. For the church’s future – continued growth and consistent activity with impacting our community.”
“Going to church gave rejuvenation to my life,” Danny said. “It grew me more as a person and I now have better relationships with my family. Particularly my mother; she was very proud to hear of my coming of faith to God. For 2018, I want to continue to grow as a leader and bring more people into the church.”
My final question was for any words of wisdom. Victor said to “Praise God.” Jimmy said “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” And Danny’s was that “You never know what can happen when you invite a friend to church.”
I conclude this article with the revelation that I am a member of MDO and also the best friend that Danny introduced to the church. My time with MDO has been spiritually revitalizing, aiding me in putting a detrimental obstacle to rest. In my next article I will tell the story of how I became one of the many.