Community Freedom: Uniting Unlikely Groups to Plant a Church In A Prison
EastLake Church is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church located in the suburb of Eastlake in the City of Chula Vista, twenty minutes south of San Diego proper. Since 1991, EastLake Church has been in the thick of this diverse community helping people find and follow Jesus. We take this mission seriously. It informs all that we do and how we do it.
In keeping with our desire to expand Jesus’ kingdom reach, about 3 years ago, our Executive Team started asking “What would it look like to be the church ‘out there?’ Are there communities that currently do not have access to a faith community?” As we opened up these conversations, God began opening doors first at a retirement community center, and then at a state prison – the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility on the outskirts of East Chula Vista.
Church planting is not something to enter into lightly, particularly in unconventional locations such as a state prison! Our partnership with Community Freedom – Community Christian Church and Alpha Prison & Reentry has been instrumental in equipping and resourcing our team for ministry to prisoners. In late 2018 a handful of staff and volunteers from EastLake Church launched its first service at Donovan with about 40 inmates inside Echo Yard. Over the last year, attendance at the weekly worship service has grown to over 100 inmates, 66 of whom are enrolled in the re-entry program through our partnership with Alpha Prisons.
Earlier this year EastLake Church hosted a simulcast of Leadercast Live 2019 both inside Donovan prison and our Chula Vista main campus. This is a huge family win for the EastLake Church Network as it exhibited our commitment to help an otherwise unserved community to grow in their love of and faith in Jesus and his church. God has shown up in so many surprising and unexpected ways behind those walls! We are grateful to be able to participate in his Kingdom work at Donovan.
-Luke Crosby, EastLake Church