Love In the Name of Christ

Mosaic with Christian characters on the walls of the temple in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
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The Faith Community – Column by Bob Shillingstad

The local church is God’s answer to community brokenness and a part of His plan of redemption and restoration. Over five years ago, an interview with Shand and Rachel Grady told us the story of how they began the ministry of Love In the Name of Christ Kootenai County or Love INC KC. There are more than 110 Love INC locations across 29 states that partner with 5,500 Christian churches to serve hundreds of thousands of people in need. Love INC KC now has a new Executive Director, Stephen Pichotta, who was hired eight months ago and is excited about the mission ahead. Stephen is married to Rebekah, and they have three children aged 11, 8, and 4. In a recent interview, Pichotta related the need that is present in Kootenai County that many are not aware of.

As of 2021, 179,789 people live in Kootenai County with 10 percent of these households living below the federal poverty level (FPL) and another 31 percent considered Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). ALICE households earn above the FPL but are often employed in multiple jobs and don’t make enough to offset basic household necessities. Roughly 41 percent of households in our community struggle to make ends meet and need material support.

Additionally, there are many more in our community in need of relational support and community, including our elderly and veteran population, foster care families, single moms and dads, women fleeing domestic violence, and those living with the crippling and isolating effects of mental illness.

The local church is uniquely gifted, poised, and called to respond. No one church can fully meet all the needs; instead, it takes a faith community working together across denominational lines to address multifaceted needs in a holistic, biblical, redemptive, and relational manner. Love INC works to engage churches in pooling their resources together (volunteers, ministries, and finances) to confront these challenges in the name of Jesus.

We asked Pichotta to be more specific about how a church can become involved and what resources Love INC brings to a family. He answered with an example, “When someone shows up at the church in need, perhaps money for utilities, fuel, groceries, or a variety of issues – the church wants to help but is not sure if this is legitimate: ‘Are we the sixth Church today?’ With the model that Love INC provides, the pastoral staff helps them set an appointment by calling Love INC. There they have trained volunteers to take care of the immediate need and walk them through a series of questions, find out the underlying problems, and how they can be met.”

This process made sense, but Pichotta stressed that while meeting material needs is often what brings individuals to Love INC, the ultimate goal is to help each person have a relationship with Christ and be part of a church community for ongoing support. Pichotta gave a recap of their ministry and how they have trained volunteers to provide assistance with employment, budgeting, family counseling, and financial help. They also work with other ministries in the area as a referral network. The training of the volunteers is a program called Redemptive Compassion and has been developed specifically to meet the needs of people seeking assistance.

Pichotta was quick to point out that this is not a handout, but a hand up. A hand up offers compassion and the capacity to redeem. A hand up to struggling neighbors recognizes the core values of redemptive compassion, which maintain that everyone has value, capacity, and potential.

The mission and vision of Love INC is “To see the Christian churches of Kootenai County unified and mobilized in the name of Christ, fully engaged in living out their faith, loving their neighbors, and seeking the transformation of their communities.” The church should be leading this effort. Currently, Love INC KC has 14 local churches participating, with a need for many more, not just to help those in need but to send a message to the community that the church and Jesus are alive in our community. Their annual fundraiser, Boundless Love, is on May 4th. For more information about the ministry or the fundraiser, call 208-903-4281 or go to their website at