Located in the heart of downtown Kodiak across from the boat harbor, Abba Father Christian Fellowship is on the periphery of the more established neighborhood churches. Many of the people who walk through its doors are transients: fishermen passing through, Coastguardsmen on cutters or patrols on their way to Bering Sea, cannery workers, homeless folk.
Some come in work clothes, just off the boat or a long cannery shift, without benefit of a shower.
If there happens to be an odor of fish – which, obviously comes with a fishing community— the flock at Abba Father is not offended.
“The best part of our congregation is that we walk in love,” said Minister Cynthia Harden, who minsters at Abba Father with her husband, Pastor Rony Harden. “The smell doesn’t bother us. They sit where they want to sit. We meet and greet and we hug.
“We weren’t called to the so-called ‘pretty people,’” Rony said. “We knew that our ministry was to people who were discarded or discounted. We knew that from the beginning.”
Being in the heart of the city gives the Hardens and their congregation an opportunity to minister effectively to people that get neglected, said Rony. “Downtown people are overlooked – the homeless, the less fortunate. We weren’t called to the well-to-do, but to those who need a helping hand.”
Through counseling, mentoring and preaching the Word of God, the Hardens seek to free people from spiritual imprisonment and realize their potential as sons and daughters of God.
That “spiritual darkness” is something that everybody deals with, including the pastors, said Rony.
During this past year, the church body went through what the Hardens call “corporate deliverance,” from strongholds and addictions that cause spiritual bondage.
“Those things were front and center for different people in our congregation, including myself,” said Rony. “The Lord showed me that I had some strongholds.” In order for Rony to lead the ministry in a “more excellent way… closely aligned with (God’s) will,” he had to be free of certain attitudes and church traditions, he said.
“We had corporate prayer; we had teaching on deliverance …so people could understand what they were experiencing. I had to teach them to talk about demons,” what the Bible refers to as “strong men who hamper our lives. We applied the Word of God. Through the process people were delivered and received freedom,” Rony said.
Abba Father recently celebrated its third anniversary. During the two weeks leading up to the event, the congregation participated in a 15-day fruit and vegetable fast, going without meat, sugar and dairy products.
Through corporate intercessory prayer, “We saw the Lord move in our lives,” Rony said.
By the time special guests, Bishop Darryl Martin and his wife, Pastor Regina Martin, of Manhattan Christian Fellowship Church in Topeka, Kansas, arrived, “the ground had been tilled and was ready for the seed to be sown,” said Rony.
The doors of Abba Father were opened in Jan. 2012 after Rony served a short term as interim pastor of the Kodiak Assembly of God.
The congregation began meeting in the Kodiak Electric Association auditorium and in June of 2013, moved into the Shelikof Avenue building which used to be a laundromat and hair salon.
Besides preaching and pastoring, Harden is Transportation Assistant with the Coast Guard.
Rony served 30 years in military. At age 17, he joined the Marines.
After serving in that branch for nearly eight years, he was released as part of a military draw-down.
He got a job with the Department of Corrections in Washington, DC, and soon met Cynthia, who also worked for the Department.
Cynthia was drawn to prison work because she wanted to help people, she said. At times she served as officer to the chaplain.
“I want to help people to get their lives back together,” she said. “I want people to be saved.
“Everybody deserves a second chance. God gives us chance after chance. Where would we be if God had turned His back on us? God is a God of second chances. We all need a second chance.”
After the Hardens married in 1991, Rony joined the Coast Guard.
He served two tours in the Seattle area and one in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where he was involved with the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.
In 1999 the Hardens were transferred to CG Activities Far East located at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, and from there they went to Guam.
During that tour, Rony answered the call to the ministry.
Fondly recalling her relationship with her childhood pastor’s wife – the First Lady— Cynthia was delighted with her husband’s decision.
“I’d walk around the house and say, ‘I want to be married to a minister.’ When (Rony) said he was going to be a pastor, I burst out laughing. It was one of my dreams.”
In 2006, the Hardens got transferred to the Coast Guard Pay Center in Topeka. He received personal training for the ministry under Bishop Darryl Martin.
He looked forward to retiring in Topeka, but his plans changed when he got orders to come to Kodiak.
His pastor told Harden that God “showed him a vision that I’d come here to do His work," Rony said. "The Coast Guard was the catalyst God used to get me here. “
The Hardens are joined by their congregation in doing the Lord’s work. They prepare meals for the hungry and give clothing to the needy.
They continue to trust God, seeking His blessing and favor as the ministry continues to grow, said Rony. “We want to be a viable part of this community.”
“Our church isn’t about the numbers,” said Cynthia, “but it’s about the helping and the love that we share among each other and the people that walk through that door.
“When they come here, they feel the love, and that’s what God is all about.”
RONY AND CYNTHIA HARDEN (Photo Courtesy of Rony Harden)