Churches feed the needy during pandemic
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Churches of Christ across the nation have had to get creative in finding ways to serve their communities.
The economic shutdown left many families struggling to put food on the table, which provided some churches an opportunity to step in and help.
From Texas to Ohio, food drives and meal services helped fill the gaps for families in need.
“It is so encouraging to see the church come together to serve those in need,” said Caroline Morales, a children’s minister and volunteer coordinator with Houston’s Impact Church of Christ. “We have been able to serve more families in a much more efficient manner because of their help. We are so thankful that Jesus brings us all together to love others.”
The Impact church has served the community through its resource and food distribution centers since 1986. Before the coronavirus outbreak, the church would serve an average of 225 families a week. Since mid-March, that number has grown to as many as 800.
Jeanine Devine and her husband, Frank, who is an elder of the Memorial Church of Christ, about 10 miles west of the Impact church, have been volunteering at the food drive once a week.
“I Iove coming to Impact because it’s seeing God in action,” Jeanine said. “It gives you the goosebumps.”
About 35 miles north of Houston, Grace Crossing, a Community Church of Christ in Conroe, Texas, has also changed the way its food distribution ministry operates.
Before the pandemic, the congregation held a food distribution every month from its pavilion. Volunteers were able to meet, converse with, pray with and minister to the people they were serving.
But due to COVID-19 safety protocols in the county, the National Guard was called in to assist in the distribution.
“… for now, the important thing is that we’re serving the people by distributing food, and we continue to do that in the name of Jesus and are prayerful for them in this ministry.”
Grace Crossing minister Doug Peters said the number of church volunteers was limited, and instead of meeting and ministering to people face to face, food recipients were required to stay in their cars.
“We look forward to the time we can have more interpersonal relationships and have a close conversation and (take) prayer requests with the people,” Peters said. “But, for now, the important thing is that we’re serving the people by distributing food, and we continue to do that in the name of Jesus and are prayerful for them in this ministry.”
Two hundred miles north, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called his friend Sammie L. Berry, minister for the Dallas West Church of Christ, asking if he would help organize an event to provide milk for families in need.
“Of course I said, ‘Absolutely! I would be happy to do it,’” Berry said.
Berry’s congregation partnered with Borden Dairy, the Dallas Independent School District and local faith leaders to give out 1,000 gallons of milk — in the pouring rain — to families in need. Volunteers were sporting rain jackets, ponchos, umbrellas, and of course, masks.
“My fear was, we have these thousand gallons of milk, and people wouldn’t show up in the rain. But they came,” Berry said. “We were supposed to be there from 3 until 6. Well, at about 5, we were back in our cars going home because we were turning people away.”
The Gray Road Church of Christ, north of Cincinnati, hosted a contactless grocery drive for its community. About 40 mask-wearing church volunteers helped provide produce, chicken, fish and laundry detergent to 1,100 families in need.
“We entitled it ‘Caring in a Crisis’ because we believe that the church ought to be able to care at all times, especially this time,” minister Jeremy Flowers said.
“It means a lot to me because coming up as a child my family depended on getting subsidized food from various community resources,” he said. “I’m just glad because now I’m in a position personally, spiritually and financially where I can give back to the community where we reside.”
The Newburg Church of Christ near Louisville, Ky., provided a meal to its community in another form: a drive-thru cookout.
Minister Bryan C. Jones brought the idea to the congregation as a way to let the community know that the church was there to help them.
The church served hot dogs, hamburgers and chips. Members also passed out hand sanitizer and toys to the kids. In all, 177 families were fed.
“It just felt good to let people know that we’re here for them, to help them out,” said Shannon Pearson, a member of the Newburg church.