Want to Feed the Hungry?

Date Posted: 2/14/2013

Grace UMC in Manvel, Texas is a small church with an active food ministry and an eagerness to help others get started.

 

Pay the light bill – or buy groceries? This is an ongoing dilemma for many families and single moms, particularly as the economic strain on budgets – regardless of the size or affluence of the community.

 

How does a church of 50 or less members manage to feed hundreds – or sometimes thousands – of people week after week? Grace UMC member Elaine Warner would say, “By the grace of God.” Elaine is Grace UMC’s resident expert when it comes to setting up and operating a food pantry, all because she said she would help get it started in 2008. “The first week we opened our food pantry, no one came,” says Elaine,” but in no time we had dozens coming and then hundreds, so we could quickly see we couldn’t do this alone.”

 

The road to vibrancy as a congregation requires taking leaps of faith, and joining forces with others along the way. Elaine will be the first to admit: this food pantry has been a true faith builder for all involved. “Just weeks after we launched our fledgling pantry, Hurricane Ike hit our part of Texas,” recalls Elaine. “Luckily we had already signed on as a partner with the Houston Food Bank so Grace UMC was able to serve 14,000 hurricane victims in a matter of five days. Our church parking lot was a hub for 18-wheelers and families needing everything, and there is nothing to prepare you for looking up to see vehicles lined up for three miles, trying to get to your church!”

 

“The Texas Annual Conference applauds this congregation and the many others who are addressing the needs of the hungry and aggressively making an impact,” says Rev. Diane McGehee, Center Director for TAC’s Missional Excellence. “This growing need is exactly what the Church & Society group within our conference is hoping to impact in a major way this year as more congregations realize there may be hungry people even on their own street.”

 

Not in it Alone

Clients that have received the blessing of groceries when they were going through a rough spot now readily volunteer to distribute food to others as an expression of their appreciation.  Additionally, adults and students assist in exchange for community service hours, and have even begun the preliminary steps to create a community garden to further supplement the demand. Adds Elaine, “About 60 volunteers from the Kairos prison ministry work out of our kitchen several times a year to prepare homemade cookies for inmates and employees of a nearby prison, and meals for their families.”

 

Most of the members of Grace UMC are active in some kind of hands-on mission work. The church is leading by example by launching the area’s first food pantry and getting a half-dozen other area churches and schools involved. “We work with area groups to have food drives and to staff the distribution process,” says Elaine, “and we share extra supplies with other food ministries that we have helped to coordinate.” The food pantry has been a visible way to make the community aware of Grace UMC’s passion for missions and a good tool for outreach. “The pastor prays each week with those in line before we open the pantry door,” Elaine says, “and we often invite visitors to come back for church or put an informational sticker on their grocery bags. We do see new folks visit from time to time, but we know that we are serving as the face of Christ to many that come to us for their basic life needs.”

 

Want Help Getting Started?

Pastor Jim Love says, “We get calls and questions on a regular basis and would be happy to help others in setting up a food pantry ministry – from logistics to paperwork to ordering and distributing.” For more information contact the pastor at jamesc.love4@gmail.com.