Delivering Hope: Fuel Church

Fuel Church in Kokomo, Indiana, is known in the community for a unique reason: a brightly colored box truck with the words “Neighborhood Hope Dealer” emblazoned on the side.

“We use the truck for outreaches,” says Senior Pastor Jacob Burgei. “We fill it with food and take it to local pantries. We take it through parades and hand out candy. We deliver free ice cream to the community. We’ve even filled it with presents and driven it to homeless and women’s shelters.”

Delivering hope in different forms is just one way that Fuel Church finds needs in the community and looks for ways to fill them. According to Burgei, addiction is a huge problem in the area.

“About 50 to 60% of the people in our congregation are in recovery,” he says. “As a church, we’ve gone after lost people. We want to take people from dope to hope.”

Fuel Church does this through a partnership with Valley of Grace, a faith-based addiction recovery organization that helps people locate and fund in-patient rehabilitation.

“We financially invest in people and offer scholarships to get them the necessary help,” Burgei explains. “We get them plugged in at our church and connect them to a sponsor. We’ve helped hundreds of people find freedom from addiction.”

He describes Fuel Church as a welcoming and diverse community. “The atmosphere just hits home with people who weren’t raised in church. People feel loved and accepted as they are. We are a beautiful mosaic of God’s people. We draw people from all ages and backgrounds.”

Before the coronavirus, Burgei preached at both of the church’s campuses each Sunday, but the pandemic pushed Fuel Church into livestreaming, with positive results.

“We’ve been able to reach more people,” he says. “It’s been challenging, but God has brought good things from it.”

As the church has grown, Burgei has learned the importance of narrowing his focus. “I’m the type of person who wants to be involved in everything,” he says. “But I have learned to delegate and zero in on three things: casting vision for the church, building leaders and my personal walk with God.”

Burgei knows it is easy to get caught up in busyness, but he has learned that his prayer life has to be nonnegotiable. “Without it, I’m just a public speaker,” he says. “I’ve got to stay connected to the vine if I want to act as a shepherd to others.”

One of those people that Burgei has shepherded is Nathan White, who had struggled with addiction for 20 years. In March 2015, he was arrested and served 47 days in jail.

“I got saved while I was incarcerated, and I knew I’d need a support system to stay clean after my release,” he says. “I posted a photo of my sons and myself on social media, and Pastor Jacob ‘liked’ the photo. I saw on his profile that he was the pastor at Fuel. I decided to attend services there the next week.”

White could hardly believe the welcome he received. “I’ve never walked into a place like Fuel,” he says. “There was no judgement. They just loved me.”

The next day, White met with Burgei. “I spent three hours in his office, just talking to him,” White says. “He just poured into me.”

The people at Fuel helped White get plugged into the recovery community. “I had wanted to stop using drugs for years, but I didn’t know how,” he says. “They helped me. They walked with me and showed me how to live a life without drugs.”

White recently celebrated 27 months clean. “I don’t think I could have done it without the people at Fuel,” he says. “I latched onto the message of grace and hope they share. I’m a completely different person today.”

—Diane Stark

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Kokomo, Indiana
Senior Pastor: Jacob Burgei
Twitter: @PJacobBurgei
Founded: 2015
Affiliation: Nondenominational
Locations: 2
Attendance: 1,347
Growth: +290 (27%)
Fastest-Growing: 39