Joseph Gibbons said you never know what someone’s story is going to be in Las Vegas. Any person you meet could be a blackjack dealer or a businessperson, a “cirque” dancer or a gondolier.
Maki is an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter. When his family started attending Favor City Church, where Gibbons is pastor, Maki could tell something changed in their home.
“After seeing his family come to Christ, he said, ‘My whole home is different, my family is different, things are really great. It’s a good season,’” Gibbons recalled. “And I said, ‘Man, that’s Jesus. That’s why they’re able to have better attitudes and all that.’ ”
“And he said, ‘I’m ready,’ and gave his life to Christ right there on his back porch.”
‘God gave us purpose’
Maki shared his testimony at Favor City Church’s first birthday service Oct. 2, alongside his wife, Chas.
“God gave us a purpose in this church, and it all started with us surrendering it all to Him and taking the leap,” Maki said. “Trusting Him, we have a stronger family, a beautiful community that we can surround ourselves with and we are not alone in this journey of following Christ.”
Gibbons noted he and his wife, Kristen, have seen that story repeated since they moved from Alabama in August 2020 to start building relationships and laying the groundwork to plant Favor City Church a little over a year later.
Since getting started, they’ve seen 23 people baptized and 30 decisions for Christ.
One of those was a man named Fernando from Puerto Rico who said when he heard Gibbons speaking about Jesus he heard it “in my heart like you were speaking in my heart language.”
Fernando’s baptism started a string of others coming to Christ, and Gibbons said it’s been “a cool journey to see such a diverse church.”
The congregation has a large group of Hawaiians and also sees a lot of Hmong families come through the doors.
“You walk in our church, and you see Las Vegas, which is beautiful,” Gibbons said of the diversity. “A lot of that is God’s hand of grace being able to plant in the pandemic.”
The Gibbons started the church by talking with people in the community while they shopped, got haircuts and went for walks in the park, building relationships as they went. It took 18 months with one of Kristen’s friends before the young mom was ready to believe in Jesus. With others, like Maki and Chas, it was faster.
“God has just set up divine appointments,” Gibbons affirmed. “We’ve seen people find community and fall in love with Christ.”
Some of those have been youth — around 25 or 30 attend any event the church holds.
That makes the Gibbons excited, because youth ministry was one of the things that took the couple there in the first place. He had been a youth minister in Alabama. On a vision trip to Las Vegas his wife’s heart had been broken learning the city was the capital of teenage homelessness.
“It’s been cool to see those types of things that were dreams in our heart that God had put there, to see them come to life and the stories that come from that,” Gibbons said.