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When 8-year-old Jada Garza shared a ministry idea with Karen Abrego, community resource pastor at Ebenezer Christian Center, Abrego asked her to put it in writing.
Jada returned with a five-page outreach plan in pencil, marker, and crayon.
That proposal detailed “Happy Bags,” which are yellow string backpacks printed with the logo and filled with socks, toiletries, snacks, and other items to bless the homeless.
“If Happy Meals can make me happy, happy bags can make others happy,” Jada says.
Now age 10, the fifth-grader not only has mobilized the church for the Happy Bags outreach, but also has received a state resolution for her community service on the floor of the California Senate. She has been featured in a Sacramento television news piece, and received a $500 grant from Building Healthy Communities, a California state endowment program.
It all began when Jada, daughter of Dan G. Garza, Ebenezer’s pastor, noticed a homeless woman who lived behind a restaurant her family frequented.
“God has given her the gift of a tender loving heart to see with compassion those that others don't see,” Abrego says. “She notices the homeless everywhere she goes.” In urban areas, the homeless seemingly become invisible to many.
“They’re so normal you don’t notice them anymore,” Abrego says. “But she does.”
Jada’s team of Ebenezer children help her fill the bags.
“People keep Happy Bags with them, and when they see homeless people, they give one to them,” Jada says.
Every other week, she sits at a table where churchgoers donate items to include in the bags (one itinerating missionary brings soaps and shampoos from hotels) and also donate a suggested $5 per Happy Bag to offset costs. She encourages attendees to add their own items to the bags. So far, she’s distributed around 400.
“Jada is wise beyond her years,” says Nick Garza, secretary-treasurer for the AG’s North Pacific Latin American District (and unrelated to Jada). Nick Garza’s wife, Sandra, is children's pastor at Ebenezer. “I'm just praying that she never learns the word can't.”
Abrego notes Jada’s heritage as the daughter of AG pastors and the granddaughter of past district superintendent Lee Baca. Her grandmother also held AG pastoral credentials. Jada senses the Lord calling her to ministry.
“I want to be a missionary lawyer and a judge after that,” she declares. “I like to help people with their problems.”