SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. (BP)–Tennessee farmer Dewey Gilliam never thought corn from his 800-acre farm would make its way across the Atlantic Ocean and onto the plates of hungry youngsters in a Romanian orphanage.
Gilliam and fellow farmer Ernie Harris, both members of Kimball Baptist Church in west of Chattanooga, recently donated more than 900 bushels of corn to Matthew’s House, an orphanage in Dersca, Romania.
“The idea is if you send food, it’s direct and you don’t have to worry about money not finding its way,” said Gilliam. “We have an abundance of food here and we should all try to give back what the Lord has blessed us with.”
After reading an article about crop donations, Gilliam and Harris contacted the Columbia, S.C., corn milling company featured in the publication.
Jack Edgerton, a Southern Baptist who is owner of the Allen Brothers Milling Co., agreed to process the corn at no charge and put the farmers in touch with a Johnson City man affiliated with the orphanage.
“I told Dewey, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s a volunteer agency who needs this meal and its base is right there in Tennessee,” Edgerton said.
The volunteer work was done by Shelton Lewis, another Southern Baptist of Johnson City, Tenn.
On April 8, less than six months after Gilliam read about farmers donating crops, the 50-pound bags of meal were loaded onto a truck bound for Charleston, S.C. and then Romania by Feed the Children, according to Lewis, who has done volunteer mission work in Johnson City for about five years.
Volunteers will use the corn meal, valued at $7,500, to supplement the orphanage’s food supply. It feeds 60 to 80 children daily, Lewis said. The orphanage encompasses a working farm, orchards, and a cannery, all of which try to promote the self-sufficiency of Matthew’s House. But sometimes their efforts fall short, Lewis said.
“This has worked out so well,” he said. “It’s amazing what people can do to better the lives of others.”
Gilliam said it took many “hard-working” people for the effort to come to fruition.
Now he hopes others will want to do the same.
He and Harris and their Sunday school class at Kimball Baptist Church donated money to ship the corn to South Carolina for processing. It cost $800, but the about 30 members of the Fellowship Class gave it with just one week’s notice, Gilliam noted.
David Moscher, pastor of the church, said he wasn’t surprised at the gift of the class or of Gilliam and Harris. He said the church’s members are “pretty generous here,” although he admitted the gifts were unusual for the church. Moscher said he didn’t know of just a group giving such a big gift.
Gilliam and Harris have given to the Marion County Food Bank for years, but they have sold the corn and given the money. And they have not given “on a scale this big,” Gilliam said. Members of Kimball Church, which draws about 120 to worship, continually assist the food bank, said Moscher, by serving as volunteers, giving food, and giving money.
Members also participate in Southern Baptist missions offerings and other community efforts. Gilliam said farming is not always profitable. Expenses keep rising, he said, while the prices of the corn, wheat, and soy beans he sells haven’t increased in 40 years.
Still, he said, “to be a farmer is like a calling to preach,” he said.
“I want more farmers to get involved and feed the hungry.”
He said for several years he had good harvests and “felt guilty sort of because I knew somebody was out there hungry that could use it.”
Gilliam even told his Sunday school class he was trying to give some of his harvest away and asked them to pray for an opportunity.
Now Gilliam has learned about needs in South Africa and Honduras so he plans to give away more food. And he’s glad to report he led a fellow farmer to give crops to an orphanage in Honduras.
“There’s a lot of need out there if you just get in contact with the right people. The Lord will put you in contact with those people if you really have it in your heart to do this,” said Gilliam.
Adapted from an article by Combs that appeared in the April 9 Chattanooga Times Free Press. It is used with permission.