BENTON, Ark. (BP)–Although thieves cleaned out a church’s food pantry, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“God has a way sometimes of opening a window if a door is closed,” said Bob Ray, a member of Congo Road Church in Benton, Ark., who manages the pantry with his wife. “The Lord has blessed us.”
The Rays arrived at the pantry early Jan. 28 to find that thieves had emptied the shelves and freezers, taking more than $500 worth of canned and frozen foods.
Police found no sign of forced entry. They suspect the robbers found a door unlocked from a funeral the previous day.
The following evening, a Little Rock television station aired a report about the robbery, telling viewers of the church’s plight and need for donations.
In the report, Ray noted that the theft couldn’t have come at a worse time because donations are down at a time when the number of people needing assistance has doubled. The church’s food pantry helps primarily senior adults and single moms, Ray said.
Viewers were provided on-screen information for donating to the food pantry.
Early the next morning, Ray received a call from the locksmith the church hired to replace the locks.
“He said, ‘You better get down here to the church quick. People are leaving donations at the front gate,'” Ray recounted. “I was shocked. I told him, ‘Open that gate and let them in.'”
Arriving a few minutes later, Ray could not believe his eyes. “There were about 15 cars in the parking lot with people wanting to donate food. I was blown away.”
That was only the beginning of the influx of donations.
Within a week, Ray said food donations had arrived from a host of area residents, two area feeding ministries and a high school baseball team. Some donations came from out of state.
“Our shelves and freezers are running over … and we received monetary funds that can run the ministry for an entire year,” Ray said. “We are busting at the seams.
“It has been amazing,” he added. “I still have people calling me.”
Stella Prather is associate editor of the Arknasas News (www.arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. ABN staff member Lisa Watson contributed to this story.