Welcome to our blog series—At the Table: Baptist Fight Hunger!
By Melissa Fallen and Matthew Hensley
Huguenot Road Baptist Church has always had a problem with space. Over the years, Sunday school classes have met in hallways, stairwells and in church member’s homes.
When it came to feeding the hungry, space was not available for a food pantry. But lack of space has never stopped the creative thinking of church members. They simply think outside the church’s walls.
Huguenot Road is a member of the Richmond Baptist Association. One of the association’s hallmarks and its unifying feature is its three Baptist Centers located in different areas of the city. The primary focus of the centers is to be Christ’s presence in places that are often times overlooked. Many times, the people in the shadows of the centers lack the basic needs that church members who live on the edge of the city and in its suburbs take for granted.
Huguenot Road has been a faithful partner with the RBA’s centers since the church was founded in 1964. When the center’s directors asked for help, the church’s WMU, Sunday school classes, or deacons were always quick to respond.
But as the church began to consider more fully its role in bringing the Kingdom of God to its own community, many wanted to take a more active and consistent role in ministry to the least of these.
The congregation was very aware of the lack of nutritious food available to the homeless and the working poor in the Richmond area. However, the limited space inside the church quickly ruled out any feeding ministry being established in the church.
Aware of the needs within the reach of the Baptist centers, a small group committed to provide groceries to the Oregon Hill Baptist Center every fifth Sunday. At the time, the Oregon Hill area was a blighted section of town, full of crime.
The need was great.
The Dorcas Group, a mission-minded small group, began working with Jennifer Turner, the Oregon Hill Baptist Center director. She gave leaders a list of the most needed food items at the center. Response to the idea was strong and soon the class began inviting others to participate.
As the church’s response to local hunger was addressed in the worship service, God began moving church members to consider establishing food donations in a more consistent way. So the church set the first Sunday of each month as the time to bring a bag of groceries for Oregon Hill Baptist Center’s food pantry. The pantry that Huguenot Road had no space for was now being filled at the Oregon Hill Baptist Center.
Since then, a mission structure has been created based on Acts 1:8, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Thus, teams representing ministry to one another (Jerusalem), to those in the church’s closest communities (Judea), and to those far away (ends of the earth) were formed with a conscious effort to include those who may be considered “Samaritans,” or outsiders, in each of these areas.
These teams seek to educate and empower the congregation to be a powerful witness to God’s Kingdom through building relationships with ongoing partner ministries and missionaries. The hope is through relationships, the full witness of Christ can be made known to both the givers and receivers.
One could say that Jennifer Turner and Oregon Hill Baptist Center were the church’s first partner, even before the current mission structure was in place. Many individuals and groups in the church have had the opportunity to deliver the “first Sunday” food to the ministry center.
In addition, several older adult Sunday school classes have prepared Thursday dinners for the women of the community, teams have cooked breakfast for the community on Thursday mornings when the food pantry is open, and church mission groups have hosted special banquets at the center.
Even more exciting, Huguenot Road has been able to host the Oregon Hill community each year when the congregation opens its doors to the surrounding community through a ministry called the “Touched Twice Clinic.” Through this clinic, medical, dental, and vision services are made available free of charge to the community.
Hot meals, bags of food, clothes, furniture, haircuts and much more are also offered. Each year, Huguenot Road makes sure their bus makes a trip to Oregon Hill so that community is included.
Over the course of many years, the Holy Spirit nurtured a passion within a group of people at Huguenot Road to feed the hungry in Richmond. Responding with a missional mindset, the church has expanded the ministry, allowing many members to know and care for the people of Oregon Hill.
See additional information about the state of hunger in Chesterfield County, Va., courtesy of Map the Meal Gap, a project of Feeding America. Check out statistics for your area with this interactive online tool.
Previous posts in this series:
Part 7 — The Cleveland County Potato Project