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Okla. Baptists heat up DNC feeding effort

DENVER (BP)–Southern Baptist volunteers served tens of thousands of meals to law enforcement personnel at the Democratic National Convention this past week as part of a six-day “Love Denver” effort.

A team of about 20 disaster relief volunteers from Oklahoma produced between more than 5,000 meals each day from a 2,500-square-foot mobile kitchen set up on the parking lot of the Mile High Baptist Association in Denver. Those meals were delivered to Riverside Baptist Church, where volunteers were preparing more than 4,000 cold sandwiches each day. All the food was then loaded into cargo vans and delivered by volunteer drivers to 11 sites across the city.

Even though they are more at home in the aftermath of flooding, tornado or hurricane, the Oklahoma crew was happy to do its part to serve and support the feeding effort.

“We’re here to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ,” said Sam Porter who leads Disaster Relief operations for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “We want to tell people ‘God loves you and we love you regardless of your political affiliation and beliefs.”

The Oklahoma volunteers, who are used to producing up to 20,000 meals a day in disaster relief settings, said the pace for the Denver event was much easier. It was a good chance to give the brand new kitchen unit a trial run.

“We have found a few things we need to adjust, but it’s going pretty smoothly,” said Don McDown, a member of Country Estates Baptist Church in Midwest City, Okla.

McDown said he’s been volunteering with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for 25 years and called it “very rewarding.” He provides essential communications for disaster relief units when they are deployed in settings where communication has been disrupted.

Lucille Sewell, a member of First Baptist Church Mustang, Okla., cooks for the unit, using two 40-gallon electric skillets. She started volunteering in 2004 after her husband died. “I needed something to do,” said the retired pediatric nurse. “So I started serving on medical mission trips overseas and volunteering here.

Sewell was among the volunteers who responded to Hurricane Katrina and she trains new volunteers who want to be certified in cooking. “This is a way I can show others the love of Christ and serve with people I love,” she said.

In Denver, the volunteers never met the police officers who were enjoying their food, but they still found ways to minister directly.

“Yesterday, a Hispanic gentleman approached us,” Porter said. “He is recovering from a stroke and has young child who has a cleft pallet who has required several surgeries. He came and asked for some food for his family.”

The volunteers provided the man with several Styrofoam “clamshells” full of stir fry and cold drinks. Later, the man came back and offered to help with landscaping. An Oklahoma volunteer talked to him about Christ while they trimmed branches from a tree in front of the Mile High Association offices.

The group also met a nearby homeless man and let him bathe in the shower unit they had brought with them. They also washed his clothes and gave him a fresh set of clothing. He also listened as a team member shared the Gospel with him.

“We don’t have to go looking for people to witness too,” Porter said. “They come to us. They ask ‘Why do you do what you do?'”

The North American Mission Board provided $60,000 in funding for the Denver feeding ministry, and 600 Baptist volunteers worked eight-hour shifts to staff feeding stations 24 hours a day. More than $250,000 worth of food and drink — paid for by law enforcement agencies — was prepared and delivered during the Democrats’ four-day convention, which drew 4,440 delegates, 15,000 members of the media and thousands of others to the city.
Mike Ebert is coordinator of publications and media relations for the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net). For more information about the “Love Denver” outreach, visit www.lovedenver.org.

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  • Mike Ebert