By Kyle Caudle
“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15
In 2012, First Baptist Church began a congregational discernment process. Like many churches these days, we were asking the question: how do we minister faithfully and effectively in the 21st century?
Our missions discernment team heard God’s call for our church to do missions in a different way.
They offered a new way for our church to approach how we do missions and proposed that we focus our mission work and financial support on three or four ministries, creating opportunities for spiritual growth and service where every member of our congregation is involved and is building meaningful relationships in the name of Christ. The goal was to merge financial giving and hands-on involvement.
What emerged from the discernment process for missions was a clear focus on four areas: hunger, shelter, education and healing.
The Backpack Program, an initiative of the local food bank, has been a vital part of addressing hunger. It has really brought our congregation together in mission and has increased our connections with others who are needy our community.
Nancy Baxley, chair of the Missions Committee at First Baptist Church, explains how God worked through the entire process:
I honestly think the reason for our interest in helping the hungry has come straight from God. God sent Heather Leach (who now attends FBC) to our church to talk about the Backpack Program that she was trying to work with at Cook Elementary School, and our people responded so well to our efforts to help her that we were led to begin our own Backpack Program.
Each week during the school year, we deliver food to Forest Park Elementary School, which is in a low-income neighborhood less than two miles from our church. We provide funds and volunteers to feed 50 children there each weekend through the Backpack Program.
On Fridays the children in the program take home a backpack full of food for the weekend. The Backpack Program involves the entire congregation. Our children and youth have helped to bag up food and helped hand out food during the summer feedings.
Parents take the time to have a teaching moment with their kids. Many seniors help to pack, deliver and write notes and Bible verses to put in each food pack.
Anne Rais, one of the Backpack Program coordinators at FBC, speaks of how this program helped our church understand the effects of poverty in our community firsthand:
Our congregation became involved very quickly. They jumped at the chance to help children. Once they volunteered to help deliver food, they were hooked. Many had a similar experience as me…not realizing hunger does exist in Winston-Salem.
Seeing God work through our congregation to address hunger in our community is worth celebrating!
So, this past August our congregation threw a block party in the Forest Park neighborhood. Over 300 people were served. The children of our church and the children from the Forest Park neighborhood played games together. Families in the neighborhood and families in our church shared in conversation.
Addressing hunger not only fed bodies, it fed souls. We left feeling blessed for we had tasted a little bit of the Kingdom of God.
See additional information below about the state of hunger in Forsyth County, N.C., courtesy of Map the Meal Gap, a project of Feeding America. Check out statistics for your area with this interactive online tool.