It occurs every Monday from 10:45am to noon at 325 Roberts Lane in Oildale at trailer space #30. There is no building, just a couple of tables and chairs and the sky overhead. For the past five years a group of men from the “Pit” meet for lunch and fellowship and spend time studying God’s Word. Their lives have been impacted by the Lord, and they in turn are sharing God’s love with others.
This area is known as the Pit by everyone in Oildale. The name originated because one would have to walk down a highly sloped area, like a pit, to reach many of the apartments. Approximately 30 people currently live in the Pit. It is a tough area inhabited with many loving people. “I like it. It’s our home,” says Bill, one of the Bible study members. “My family has been at this location for 29 years. We’ve had good times and bad times, but it’s our home.”
The area has its share of problems such has high unemployment, vandalism and drugs. The men witness these problems daily, but see this as an opportunity to share God’s Word and His love with others. “This is where God wants me. I tried a lot of ways to get out, but God always returned me, so here I am,” says Steve, another bible study member.
The Bible study is led by Ken Alvis, one of the pastors at RiverLakes Church. As Ken describes it, “These are my guys. I love and care for them. God has placed each of these men at this location and they are an inspiration to me and others on how to live life and show God’s love to your neighbors in a difficult environment.” Over the last five years this group of men has gone verse-by-verse through at least 20 books of the Bible. The guys see the benefit of meeting and studying God’s Word together. “It helps me go through life,” says Bill. Steve agrees and adds, “Meeting has helped me in a couple of ways. Being with the guys and looking at God’s Word keeps me more patient with life and less likely to be angry with others. And any time you ingest the Word you grow in grace.” Another regular member is Larry who offers his thoughts, “It’s good to chat with others about life and faith. I really don’t want to miss our Bible study. It’s relaxing, peaceful and I learn about God.” Through the years the group has celebrated birthdays, attended RiverLakes Men’s events, gone to the movies and recently absorbed the sudden death of one of the men from the group. They have lived life together.
In the Pit their presence is evident by how they serve and help others. Larry reaches out to them and makes himself available. He explains, “I’m friendly to others. I try to let my light shine. There have been times I tried to help people get off drugs or drinking and get their life turned around.” Bill is blunt about the difficulty in helping others as he remarks, “Well, I talk to everyone. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what they have to say because it’s bad stuff, but I do. In my small way, I try to show them the way to the Lord.”
Steve has taken helping others to another level. Over the years he has opened his home to over 100 people in need for a place to stay for a couple of days. He has strict rules. No drugs, no drinking and he shares the gospel with each one. “I just try to help those in need. We need to help others even if they don’t appreciate it. I always pray for them. Sometimes they don’t ask for prayer, but I’ll do it anyway. They need it. Heck, we all need prayer all the time.” Steve also has a unique way for people to hear about the Lord. He has installed large speakers outside his home and plays Christian music throughout the day. He unapologetically defends this by stating, “You need to fill your mind with the things of God, not things of the world.”
Spiritual maturity in the men is also evidenced by how they defend the Truth with others. Larry explains: “It irritates me when people say the Bible is not true. I tell them, ‘I hear you saying this but I never see you reading the Bible so how would you know it’s not true?’ The Bible is truth! Then I invite them to our Monday Bible study where we read and talk about the Bible.” Another example is how the men approach a regular attendee who has not yet accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. He is interested enough to attend regularly and be a part of the group. The men readily accept him, encourage him, and share the gospel with him. Not once, nor twice, but on a regular basis. They have helped him understand terms such as sin, grace, and being born again. And they are continually praying for him, specifically for his salvation.
Each man has a favorite Bible verse or story such as the temptation of Jesus or the story of Ruth and the villain Haman. However, Larry’s favorite Bible verse, which he learned as a child in AWANA, best sums up the guys. It is Romans 1:16 which says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”