I was Hungry and You Fed Me

I was Hungry and You Fed Me

In 2002, God called us to launch an interracial church for the lost and left out: addicts, alcoholics, ex-offenders and their families. There are 167 churches in Charlottesville, Virginia, but few welcome these outcasts. A group of ten Christians applied to the American Baptist Churches of the USA for support for a new church. God’s timing is always perfect! The New Life 2010 initiative had just been established with a goal of “planting 1,010 new churches, reaching 1,000,010 new believers and vitalizing a multitude of caring ministries by the year 2010.” The American Baptists offered us $25,000 and two years of training at the Church Planters’ Institute to establish New Beginnings Christian Community.

The Institute emphasized the importance of listening to the needs and gifts of our members and visitors. So when two older women, who were dependent on disability assistance, expressed their concern for the hungry people who came to our worship service, we began offering breakfast. But one meal a week was not enough. We then asked our members to donate canned goods. When those supplies proved inadequate, Maureen Little Path, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe, along with her friend, Peggy Mayo, suggested that we join the Blue Ridge Food Bank. The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger relief agency in the United States, supporting more than 200 food banks across the country. Thus, we began our Food Ministry seventeen years ago.

Every Wednesday, Peggy and Maureen picked up food from the Food Bank and stored it in Pastor Liz Emrey’s garage. Our church could only afford to rent a space for worship on Sunday mornings, thus Rev. Emrey’s garage was recruited for storing the food in the two refrigerators and freezers donated by Lowe’s. At first, 20 – then eventually seventy – people “shopped” for canned goods, frozen meat, vegetables, fruits, and bakery products after our Sunday worship service. Our outreach kept multiplying through word of mouth.

When health concerns were raised about storing food in the garage, we rented a room at neighboring Hinton Avenue Methodist Church. For the next four years, we provided food after our Sunday worship services at nearby Clark Elementary School. Impressed by our expanding number of volunteers and “shoppers,” the Food Bank connected us with Wal-Mart, which donated thousands of pounds of food with an expiring shelf life.

Over the years, we expanded our ministry team to Co-Pastors, Liz Emrey and Brenda Brown-Grooms, and Associate Minister Rev. Gregory A. Moyer. In 2015, we were finally able to fully rent a building 24/7. Our new home in downtown Charlottesville is near a bus line and also has a storage room for our refrigerators, freezers, and shelves for groceries. Along with our enlarged space came donations from Food Lion. We then switched to handing out food on Saturdays to accommodate people from other churches.

Early on, we decided that we would not require any identification so that we could welcome people who were undocumented or homeless. This meant that we were excluded from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) surplus food distribution and needed to rely on grants to supplement our food supply. With God’s guidance, we successfully obtained funding from the American Baptist Churches USA’s Matthew 25 Grant, Food Lion, Dave Matthew’s Band BAMA Works, Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, Carecasters Foundation, Breeden Fund, Aetna, Mercy Fund, and Lowe’s. Some of our “shoppers” even donated vegetables from their gardens.

We constantly emphasize that our Food Ministry is an expression of Christ’s love for our community. Thus, we encourage our “shoppers” to be givers as well as takers. Many of them bring extra cans and pasta to donate. There is a real spirit of generosity among the recipients. Everyone is polite and helpful. There is no grabbing or pushing.

Since the pandemic, our Food Ministry has multiplied three-fold. We are now open four days a week serving 300-350 and occasionally 400 needy families. Many people have come to our Food Ministry for the first time. Some of them have lost their jobs; others had their hours cut back. One in six Charlottesville residents – nearly 8,000 people – lacks access to affordable, healthy food. Families have to choose between paying rent, which has gone up 42% in Charlottesville since 2011, or providing groceries for their loved ones.

As news of our Food Ministry has spread locally, we have attracted many new volunteers. Now, not only our church members collect, sort, and distribute the food, but also members from Congregation Beth Israel, The Charlottesville Unitarian Universalist Church, Olivet Presbyterian Church, Christ Community Church and an assortment of non-affiliated Charlottesvillians. Even the local jail has volunteered to supply us with work-release inmates. This has expanded our understanding of inclusiveness in God’s beloved community.

Our volunteers do not hand people pre-packaged bags of assorted groceries because “one size does not fit all.” Even hungry people have particular tastes and preferences as well as food allergies. We also do not want to find our donations discarded on curbsides. All the food is laid out on tables in our Fellowship Hall. Following CDC guidelines, with masks and social distancing, our volunteers put the shopper’s choices in bags, handing it to them one person at a time.

Not only do our volunteers pick up, set up, hand out, and clean up for our Food Ministry, but they also deliver to the homebound. At the request of our local social service agencies, we are delivering groceries to the low-income senior apartments, several refugee families, and the disabled. Our Food Ministry continues to expand as we listen to every segment of our community.

We also offer restaurant-cooked, take-out meals from World Central Kitchen. In addition, The Enrichment Alliance of Virginia supplies educational toys, which are particularly needed during this time of quarantine. Our ministry keeps growing.

The pandemic has forced our congregation to discontinue meeting in our building. (We have Zoom Bible studies and worship services on YouTube and on our public access television station.) But our church has stayed open and reaching out to people through our Food Ministry. Our worship of God is not just in words and music but also in caring for our hungry neighbors. We have become a beacon of love in Charlottesville during these dark days with a flood of new volunteers, “shoppers,” and donations from the community, including young people giving us their stimulus checks. We praise God for Maureen and Peggy who listened to God’s guidance to establish our Food Ministry. We pray we can continually be attentive to our members and visitors who are echoing Jesus’ prophetic call, “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

For Reflection and Discussion:

  1. What are the needs of your visitors and members? Are you willing to listen to those with new ideas to serve your community, regardless of what their social or economic status is?
  2. How do you preserve the dignity of the people you serve?
  3. The BWA affirms, “We are called to love one another. By this, we demonstrate that we are Christ’s disciples. We believe that true unity and fellowship can never be achieved until relationships move beyond acknowledgment of and respect for the other and toward care and concern.” How does your church show care and concern for your whole community, including people of different denominations and faiths? Do you welcome non-Christians to work with you, demonstrating to them the meaning of Christ’s love?
  4. What organizations in your community can you partner with in serving your neighbors in need?
  5. How has the pandemic affected your community? Has it caused you to begin new ministries or expand your present services to the needy?

Prayer

Holy One, 

In this age of pandemic, when a lie is told as the truth and the truth is suspected to be a lie, we know you have asked us to feed the hungry, to care for the poor, lonely, and afraid. You have sent us to be your representatives, your light in the world. Use our arms and feet and ears and eyes and intelligence and hearts to care for our brothers and sisters and the other creatures upon the earth – indeed the earth itself. Let us not fail to be faithful to you, to others, and to ourselves. You reward faithfulness, it is true. But truer still is your abundant love for us. Our grateful, feeble response is to attempt to love others as you love us.  Let us feed others and care for them and help when and where we can.  

We trust that when we need help, you will send brothers and sisters to help us as you send us when needs arise. Thank you for entrusting us with Kingdom work. We say Amen in the matchless name of Jesus, who is the Christ.

About the Author

Dr. Liz Emrey was ordained by American Baptist Churches USA (ABC) in 1978, receiving her Doctorate of Ministry from The School of Theology at Claremont in 1980 and also studying at Yale Divinity School, the University of Virginia, and Shalem Institute. She is the founder and Co-Pastor of New Beginnings Christian Community.

About the Author

Pastor Brenda G. Brown-Grooms graduated from the University of Virginia and Union Theological Seminary, having also studied at Vanderbilt Graduate School of Religion. She has pastored in New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. Her ordination in 1991 is recognized by both the General Baptists and American Baptist Churches (ABC). She now serves as Co-Pastor of New Beginnings Christian Community.
Needs of Baptists in Russia

Needs of Baptists in Russia

BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1933-11.1

The General Secretary during the luncheon hour gave information as to the serious need, even amounting to starvation, among certain sections of the Russian Baptists, and emphasised the duty of expressing sympathy in practical form. At a later stage of the meeting it was resolved:—

“That the Committee has heard with interest and sympathy of organisation “Russian Service” represented by the Rev. I. V. Neprash, and trusts that he and those co-operating with him may receive adequate support in their humanitarian undertaking.”

Keywords

BWA; Aid; Hunger; Russia; Russian Service.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of Executive Committee, Held in New York City, U.S.A. on Tuesday, November 14th, 1933. London: Baptist World Alliance, 1933.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of Executive Committee, Held in New York City, U.S.A. on Tuesday, November 14th, 1933 (London: Baptist World Alliance, 1933), p. 7.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1933-11.1 Needs of Baptists in Russia; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1933-11.1).
For more information about Baptist World Alliance resolutions, visit BaptistWorld.org/resolutions.

Since its formation in 1905, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the global Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.

Needs of Baptists in Russia

Message to Baptist Churches Throughout the World

BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1967-08.5

Clement presented the proposed message, commenting on the difficulty the committee had in drawing up a statement on which all members could agree. MOTION was made, seconded, and carried, that the following Message be adopted:

A Message to Baptist Churches Throughout the World From The Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance

The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of twenty-six million Baptists of many nations and widely differing cultures and ways of life and thought. It is neither within its power nor its function to direct, admonish, or rule on the internal affairs or the political or economic procedures of its constituent bodies or of their countries.

However, it is the duty as well as the privilege of its total membership to speak out on religious liberty and other matters of common spiritual and moral concern. Our primary purpose is to bring men everywhere into a redemptive and transforming relationship with Christ, but we believe also that we are to seek to involve all Christians, individually and collectively, in bringing the Christian gospel in all its fullness to bear on every aspect of human society. We are not only to give the Gospel to all the world, but we are to relate it to all of life.

We reaffirm that war is an unchristian way of seeking to settle international problems and disputes. The war in Vietnam causes us deep concern, as do the continuing tension in the Middle East and the internal strife in other lands. We grieve for all who suffer as a result.

We hold that prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination on the ground of race or color are inconsistent with the Gospel and wrong in the sight of God.

We deplore and condemn violence, looting, rioting and the unlawful use of force, and voice our sympathy with all victims of these disorders.

We believe that it is not God’s will that people should live in poverty and wretched conditions and die of hunger or neglect.

We are perturbed that in countries where Christian communities have been strong and influential there are signs of moral decay which erodes the foundations of our civilization.

But it is not sufficient for Christians to deplore and condemn.

In our churches we must give sound instruction in Christian faith and practice, encouraging self-discipline and responsible conduct. We must foster also the patient study of the complex causes of disorder in society and conflict between communities and nations.

By spiritual, dynamic, and earnest effort, we must strive for peace and the binding up and healing of wounds. We, therefore, urge all Baptists to work toward the elimination of sinful inequalities and injustices in society, seeking in their common service for Christ to secure for every person the opportunity to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and to enjoy the spiritual and material blessings our Heavenly Father has made possible.

To this end we would commend the various agencies and means of relief of hunger and want, especially those of our constituent bodies and of the Alliance.

We appeal to our people in every nation to seek through their own governments and through the United Nations to give effective expression to their concern, and to take through proper channels all possible steps for achieving just and lasting peace. We call upon them, and indeed upon all men of goodwill, to work and pray individually and collectively for justice, freedom, stability and peace, realizing that over us all hangs the awesome threat of nuclear war.

In that it is our firm conviction that in our Lord Jesus Christ alone is there hope of justice, reconciliation, and peace, we welcome and commend all efforts to make the Gospel known to all men.

Christians cannot and should not try to constitute themselves a power bloc, using the world’s methods of pressure and coercion. The Christian way may be slow, hard, and costly, but it is the way of the Cross and of Christian love. We urge our Baptist people to be on guard against cynical despair and to give themselves to earnest prayer, honest thought, and effective work and witness in the conviction that God can overrule the folly of men and reconcile them to each other as He has reconciled us to Himself in Christ. No man can set limits to what God may do through the sincere prayer, dedicated witness, and earnest work of millions of Baptists throughout the world.

The Resolutions Committee

J. T. Ayorinde, Mrs. Edgar Bates, H. H. Hobbs, Chester Jump, Gerhard Claas, A. S. Clement, Theodore F. Adams, Chairman

MOTION was made, seconded, and carried that the report of the Committee on Resolutions be adopted as a whole, with appreciation for the work and farsightedness of the committee.

Keywords

BWA; Freedom; Hunger; Justice; Middle East; Nuclear War; Peace; Poverty; Prejudice; Racism; Religious Liberty; United Nations; Vietnam.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Nordenhaug, Josef, editor. Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Nashville, Tennessee July 31-August 3, 1967. Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1967.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Josef Nordenhaug, ed., Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Nashville, Tennessee July 31-August 3, 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1967), pp. 57-58.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1967-08.5 Message to Baptist Churches Throughout the World; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1967-08.5).

Needs of Baptists in Russia

World Relief

BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1968-08.3

1. We the Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance in Monrovia, Liberia, July 30-August 1, 1968, are deeply concerned about the many people in the world who are presently suffering hunger and who are great need of other necessities of life. The alarming aspect of this situation is the fact that the number of those affected is growing constantly.

2. We recognize with appreciation the generosity of the developed countries that already are supplying large amounts of surplus foods to remove this need.

3. We are greatly disturbed, however, that there are still high supplies of surplus foods in storage going to waste or being destroyed. It is our fervent hope that the governments in the countries where this is occurring will do everything possible to make this food available to welfare organi-zations and that these states will provide shipping costs when necessary.

4. We urge all Baptists around the world to put forth every effort to meet the needs of hungry people. We recommend that each member of our Baptist churches be challenged to contribute at least one day’s earnings in 1968-1969 for this cause to the relief fund of the Baptist World Alliance or the national Baptist relief works. We also request the Administrative Committee to take whatever steps it deems necessary in promoting this worthy project.

Hobbs MOVED the adoption, and the motion was seconded.

A discussion followed: Williams stated that it would be tragic if we did nothing specific in regard to Nigeria. Hobbs replied that he understood a separate motion would deal with that. Claas underscored we ought to do something here now.

Routh called attention to the fact that some conventions have other pro-cedures for providing relief and wanted it to be clear that we are not giving a mandate for a special relief offering.

Hobbs referred to the General Secretary’s report in which he raised the question of what would happen if we all gave one day’s pay for relief. It was the desire of the Resolutions Committee to take note of this suggestion and put behind it the approval of this body, referring it to the Administrative Committee to work out the details.

Nordenhaug asked for guidance how the staff can bring to the hearts and and the attention of our people the crying need around the world. Our relief program is very small, and very unsystematic. We wait for

gifts to come in. We alert people to the needs, and we get some very generous gifts considering the capability of the conventions participating. We need to say something or do something that would stir the imagination of our people on a purely voluntary basis, on a purely individual basis, and that perhaps a spark may be kindled whereby we as Baptists can do something commensurate with our great numbers. We have a relief program of around $150,000 a year. We claim we have 26,000,000 members in the Baptist churches affiliated with the BWA. There are many other relief programs going on under the auspices of missionary societies. But is there not a way in which we can adequately come before our people with a presentation of the need and get the help to the point of the need?

MacRae urged that conventions respond immediately to the need in Nigeria. Russell said that many Baptists use other agencies such as the World Council of Churches. He suggested that we do not set an exact sum here, but instruct the Relief Committee to devise definite ways of relief.

Hobbs pointed out that this resolution deals generally with all countries. Another resolution will be presented in regard to Nigeria.

The resolution was adopted.

Keywords

BWA; Hunger; World Relief.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Nordenhaug, Josef, editor. Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Monrovia, Liberia July 30-August 1, 1968. Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1968.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Josef Nordenhaug, ed., Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Monrovia, Liberia July 30-August 1, 1968 (Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1968), pp. 44-45.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1968-08.3 World Relief; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1968-08.3).

Needs of Baptists in Russia

World Relief and Rehabilitation

BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1969-08.1

(Presented by Van der Laan)

1. We the Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance in Baden near Vienna, Austria, August 2-6, 1969, are deeply concerned about the continuing need of the many people in the world who are suffering hunger and who are in need of necessities of life.

2. We renew therefore the urgent call made by the Executive Committee meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, July 30-August 1, 1968.

We urge all Baptists around the world to put forth every effort to meet the needs of hungry people. We recommend that each member of our Baptist churches be challenged to contribute at least one day’s earnings in 1969-1970 for this cause to the relief and rehabilitation fund of the Baptist World Alliance or national Baptist relief appeals. We also request the Administrative Committee to take whatever steps it deems necessary in promoting this worthy project.

Keywords

BWA; Hunger; World Relief.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Nordenhaug, Josef, editor. Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Baden Bei Wien, Austria August 2-6, 1969. Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1969.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Josef Nordenhaug, ed., Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Baden Bei Wien, Austria August 2-6, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1969), p. 56.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1969-08.1 World Relief and Rehabilitation; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1969-08.1).