Teenage homelessness spurs church planters’ move to Las Vegas

By: Grace Thornton

teenage homelessness

The Alabama Baptist

LAS VEGAS (BP) – Joseph Gibbons and his wife Kristen had been involved in youth ministry in Alabama for a while when God started tugging on their hearts about church planting.

“We just sensed that God was expanding our heart for the church and giving us a burden we didn’t quite have a name for yet,” Gibbons said.

They also had a heart for the next generation, and when they took a trip to Las Vegas to lead a youth weekend at a church there, the burden began to take shape.

“One of the things about Las Vegas — it’s our nation’s capital for teenage homelessness. That was very alarming to us,” Gibbons said. “Then when my wife had a young lady in her small group who was homeless, that stat became a story, and that made it real.”

‘Loving and gracious’

In August 2020, the couple and their two children, Canon and Riley Jo, touched down in the city with plans to plant a church with the North American Mission Board’s Send Network. They were joined by several other Alabamians who felt God leading them to help plant Favor City Church.

For Gibbons, his family’s move to the city was a moment he felt God had been preparing him for his whole life. His dad, John, is Alabama state director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and Gibbons came to faith in Christ as a middle schooler in the FCA context.

As he grew in his faith, he served at his church – Thorington Road Baptist in Montgomery, Ala. – and then went to the University of Mobile. That’s where he met Kristen. They got married right after college, and he served at Dayspring Baptist Church in Mobile as a student pastor.

After a while, they moved to Tuscaloosa for Gibbons to serve in student ministry at Valley View Baptist Church, then back to Dayspring Baptist. Along the way, he crossed paths with a church planter from Las Vegas, and God used his story to clarify Gibbons’ call.

After meeting the homeless teenage girl during their visit, they knew where they were supposed to be.

“We wanted to be in a place where the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few,” he said. “And we really sensed through relationships God had given us and through His Word that He had confirmed this was our next step.”

Dayspring Baptist came alongside the Gibbonses as they explored that call and supported them in every step, he said, adding: “They’ve been so loving and gracious to us.”

Another family who had served with the couple at Dayspring – Joseph and Cyndi Eades – felt God calling them to help the Gibbonses plant Favor City Church. They moved in 2020 with their two daughters, Ansleigh and Cadyn.

And Julianne Patterson, who was discipled by Kristen as a teen at Dayspring, also moved out to join the launch team.

“God has been gracious to grow our team,” Gibbons said. “Our launch team is up to about 20 adults now, and we’ve got others engaging who don’t know Jesus and who are checking out our community to see what it’s all about.”

He asked for Southern Baptists to pray for his team to have continued favor in the city and for them to have wisdom about where to meet and serve.

Missionary support

He also asked for prayer for God to protect the team and their families from spiritual warfare and for continued financial provision. Some of the Gibbonses’ funding comes from support raising and some comes from funds given through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

Every year, 100 percent of the AAEO goes directly to fund missionary work like the Gibbonses’ work in Las Vegas. The national offering goal this year is $70 million.

This article was written by Grace Thornton, a freelance writer in Alabama. It was originally published at thealabamabaptist.com.

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