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Church food ministries nourishing hungry souls

WASHINGTON (BP)–His bright smile and pleasant appearance leaves one thinking that Lewis does not have a care in the world. Dressed sharply in his Sunday best, this 70-something African American arrives at Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, his stately appearance giving the impression of a man who enjoys a life of leisure in his golden years.
Yet that first impression is shattered as Lewis steps forward to receive a free sack of groceries; it is distribution day at the church’s food pantry.
Lewis, whose only source of income is a meager Social Security check, depends on his weekly bag of staples to make it through the month. And Lewis’ situation is not unusual in his neighborhood or in neighborhoods across the United States in which the elderly, and numerous others, often find themselves trapped in the grip of poverty.
Gratefully many Southern Baptist churches are stepping forward aggressively with feeding ministries through both food closets and soup kitchens to stand in the gap for the less fortunate in their communities.
Sylvia, age 41, works part time for the District of Columbia metro transportation system. A troubled past relationship has left her with bills and a woefully insufficient income for herself and her four children. A proud woman, she is direct in describing her struggle: “I got stuck with a lot of bills. But I have A-1 credit. I can’t stand bad credit. But it takes everything I make to do it. And it is really hard being alone.”
Covenant food distribution director Beverly Martin and coordinator Gene Shamburger share food every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon from 1 to 4. The food casts a critical lifeline to many residents of this troubled community nearly in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building.
While some of the food is donated from local bakeries and food stores, Martin is quick to share her thankfulness for funds received from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. “We could not do what we do without hunger funds.” She explained most of the food is bought from the Capitol Area Food Bank where $1.05 will buy 15 pounds of food.
Though a daily struggle, success stories serve as encouragement to the staff and volunteers. One lady, age 36, was about to be evicted from her apartment, Martin recalled. Desperate for help with rent and food, Martin proudly said, “We helped her and now she serves here as a volunteer. On another occasion, someone sent us $60 worth of Food Stamps with a note saying, ‘Thank you for what was done for me. Perhaps this can help someone else.'”
These few images do little justice to the tireless efforts of this caring church in the heart of the nation’s capitol. As the members reach out in Jesus’ name, countless lives are touched with food for hungry bodies and the bread of life for hungry souls. Over a four month period in 1997, 678 families received food aid representing a total of 2,651 people, Martin said.
Of the people served, 30 signed up to attend biblically based support groups at the church dealing with various life issues. Martin said at least 10 individuals are known to have prayed to receive Christ as their Savior and, she added, the seed was sown for future harvest in the hearts of many more.

    About the Author

  • Steven S. Nelson