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Columbia church breaks barriers to reach homeless community

The Real Church brings Sunday service and resources to Finlay Park every week.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia church breaks barriers of walls by bringing its Sunday service outside to a community that needs it most.

The Real Church began two years ago at Finlay Park in Columbia, as a way to help the homeless community. “People say different things about the homeless, but you need to come for yourself and see,” said Willie White Jr., a volunteer for the church.

Willie's friend and fellow volunteer Keyon added, "all you gotta do is have faith and believe.” Willie and Keyon, along with dozens of others, gather at the park for Sunday service every week. 

Pastor Abednego Sigamani started the tradition two years ago. “Before [the] pandemic, I used to travel to a different country every month to preach the gospel and when the pandemic hit, I didn’t know what to do and was sitting at home," shared Sigamani. "So, the Lord lead me to Finlay Park.”

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Alanah was one of the first people Sigamani met at the park. Alanah told News19, “I was on that stage sleeping when they first started," pointing to the stage at Finlay Park. "They helped us, and from that day on I’ve been coming every Sunday.”

Now, Sigamani’s congregation has grown to over one hundred people, they’re known as The Real Church.

Sigamani told News19, “We keep it real, we don’t want to judge anybody that they’re on the streets or that they’re sinning, we be real to them to tell them Jesus loves them.”

That love is something Keyon can attest to firsthand. “I can count on God to be my secret weapon in my time of need," shared Keyon. "If trouble comes, I know what to do, I know how to pray.”

So does Alanah, who said she no longer sleeps at the park but still comes every Sunday for church. “Now, I’m The Real Church secretary," she said with a big smile. "So, I have some responsibilities, and that in itself helps a lot as well.”

Sigamani said the church's purpose is to change people's lives and help them get off the streets. They take the word “service” beyond preaching, by helping their members with clothing, food, jobs, and shelter. 

If you’d like to help support The Real Church and its cause, you can donate to its Venmo account @the-real-church. Sigamani said 100% of the proceeds go back to the people they help. Sigamani can also be contacted at abednegoministries@gmail.com.

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