Live Love Ministries gets a home, a new church begins

By Johanna Willett | Oct 17, 2022

Eric Gibbs talks with teenagers in the ministry center before the group leaves for youth camp.

Before Live Love Ministries in Casa Grande had a physical address, Eric and Brittany Gibbs often brought ministry home, filling their living room with school supplies and backpacks in the fall and toys and gifts in the months approaching Christmas.

It was hectic but worth it. The Gibbses, alongside Live Love Ministries church planting team member Julia Curtis, were sharing Jesus with men and women on the Tohono O’odham Nation and in the Gila River Indian Community.

The Gibbses have been doing this since 2010, working in multiple villages, building relationships and starting Bible studies. Every new school year, they hand out hundreds of backpacks and school supplies — this year to about 800 children. And come December, they coordinate Christmas in the Villages, a massive undertaking that provides gifts to anywhere from 700 to 1,000, mostly on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

“We want to work toward a vision of seeing a consistent Gospel presence in every community where we serve,” said Eric, adding that Live Love Ministries is currently active in about 10 different villages.

And while much of that ministry happens in Tohono O’odham communities miles from Casa Grande, at the end of 2019, the team began to pray about finding a permanent home — a pursuit complicated by their limited budget as support-raising missionaries.

Julia Curtis and Brittany and Eric Gibbs (from left to right) work with volunteers (including members of Brittany’s family) in the new Live Love Ministries Center to prepare for Christmas in the Villages last year.

For a time, they borrowed space from Pinal County Cowboy Church but continued to desire a place of their own — a place where hundreds of Christmas gifts could spread out and mission teams could come to stay.

“We wanted a place to plant another church in town and to train indigenous leaders,” Eric added. “We wanted a home base for missions that was close to both reservations that was a place we could come to during the day.”

They prayed specifically that they would have that space at the end of 2020.

“It was the height of COVID and its aftermath,” Eric said. “At the same time, First Baptist Church of Eleven Mile Corner (in Casa Grande) had stopped meeting. … Tim Pruit, the associational missionary, came to me while we were using his church to ask if we were still looking for a physical home.”

It was December 15, 2020.

The pastor of the church had contacted Pruit, the associational mission strategist for the Gila Valley Baptist Association, to ask if the association wanted the church property, which was still owned by the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network. The network, in turn, gave the property to Gila Valley Association, Pruit said. He then thought of Live Love Ministries.

The previous church “wanted to pass their building on to something Gospel-centered and kingdom-minded,” Eric said. “Myself, Brittany and Julie all knew right away this fit perfectly, right between the two reservations. And so, long story short, we said, ‘We’ll take it.’ This was Tuesday and, by Sunday, they voted to give us the building and disband.”

All Nations Church worships together in the new ministry center.

Along with the free building, the congregation left Live Love Ministries a note: “They were praying for us and left some money in the bank account to pay our first bills,” Eric recalled.

It was the end of 2020 and Live Love Ministries had a ministry center.

The collaboration among churches did not stop there. Pruit said that, at the time, the facility was “a throwback to the ’60s and ’70s.”

Churches from around Arizona and in Kentucky sent mission teams to help Live Love Ministries renovate the new center. Those include Pruit’s Pinal County Cowboy Church, Burton Baptist Church in Show Low, Foothills Baptist Church in Ahwatukee and the Church on Randall Place in Pine, Eric said. And projects persist.

“We got to see how churches cooperate together,” Brittany said. “So many people who have helped work on the facility physically have been churches in Arizona that say, ‘We want to partner with you. We see the ministry and want to help you get to where you need to be.’”

Volunteers help sort gifts in the Live Love Ministries Center for Christmas in the Villages last year.

Now, during Christmas in the Villages, wrapping paper and gifts take over the ministry center’s sanctuary, with piles for different communities.

In March 2021, the Gibbses planted All Nations Church of Casa Grande in the ministry center, offering another way to connect with both the local community and the nearby reservations.
“We have gotten to meet new people that the Lord has brought into our ministry, and we were even able to have a baptism service last August where two teenagers got baptized,” Curtis said.

Robby Little has been attending almost since the beginning and now preaches one Sunday each month.

“With Eric, a lot of Native people I talk to and that he talks to trust him because he has been there and built up that trust with them to share the Gospel and speak into their lives,” Little said.
Little said he knows how important trust is in this ministry. A member of the Navajo Nation, he still works with teenagers there at his home church when possible.

“The trust that is built, that is a miracle…” Little said. “Trust has been built not only with the Native community, but also with the community around where the church is.”

Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.

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