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Brooklyn grocery ministry meets needs of hurting, minority community

BROOKYLN, N.Y. (BP) — Mosaic Baptist Church is a six-year-old North American Mission Board-sponsored church plant that runs about 40 people. But though the church is small, the impact it has had in hard-hit Brooklyn during the COVID-19 pandemic has been big.

“Right now, we have an opportunity to highlight the Gospel and keep pointing people to Jesus,” Mosaic pastor Stephen Stallard said, noting the need for not just words of sympathy, but for actions that show love.

Stallard said when Brooklyn began shutting down in early March due to social distancing guidelines because of the pandemic, he began brainstorming with other believers about how to meet needs even when the church could not meet physically.

The result was a food ministry called “Boxes of Hope.” Members collect and package fresh grocery items like bread, fish, eggs and avocados in a box. Gospel-focused books and resources are also packed into each box.

This week, the church has delivered 38 boxes — almost one per member.

The first week of the ministry began informally with a partnership between Stallard and a friend’s food truck. That yielded nine boxes. Now with the ministry’s designation as a non-profit, Boxes of Hope volunteers can buy food at a discount from a grocery wholesaler.

Stallard said the ministry spends $600-$700 each week on the groceries, focusing on quality over quantity.

“We feel like that’s the best picture of the Gospel, the best picture of grace,” he said. “Jesus didn’t give us the leftovers, He gave us His all, He gave us His best, and so that’s what we’re trying to do for people.”

Stallard said Mosaic is intentionally a multi-ethnic church, whose members are acquainted with cultural, financial and racial tensions. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll.

“The city is broken down here with 20,000 dead here in the city alone,” he said. “Basic parts of society are not happening. The city is ground to a halt in many ways.”

The Gospel message is a holistic one, Stallard added. It applies to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as racial inequalities. In meeting a physical need through the food boxes, he hopes to show that Jesus is Lord and that the church is living out the love of Christ.

“As we are serving and sending these boxes of hope, a lot of the people here in our community are low income, minorities who, this is an opportunity for them to experience the love of Christ in a tangible way,” he said.

Stallard also noted the ministry is not an effort to appear heroic.

“They are helping rescue us as much as we are helping rescue them,” he said. “But we do find ourselves in the midst of a complicated racial situation. In the Gospel we are taught that a brown-skinned Aramaic-speaking carpenter died on the cross to reconcile all people to Himself, all people to each other and eventually to restore and renew the entire universe back to the way it’s supposed to be.”

Stallard said embracing that truth of the Gospel is as important now as ever.

“It’s a challenging time, but I can’t think of another time I’d rather be alive and following Jesus than right now,” he said. “Our priority is always going to be the verbal proclamation of the Gospel. But in that we also believe that the Gospel is not just something we proclaim with our lips, but we live out with our lives.

“Now is the time to live out the rhythms of the Gospel to a watching world, to seize the moment and say ‘Jesus is Lord and loves you, and here’s a box of hope to get you through the next week and a resource to turn your thoughts toward eternity.'”

As New York City enters the early stages of reopening, Stallard said Mosaic plans to continue delivering food boxes through June.