FROM THE STATES: Ga., Calif., Fla. evangelism/missions news; Focus on food ministry

Today's From the States features items from:

The Christian Index (Georgia)

California Southern Baptist

Florida Baptist Witness

Silvertown Church feeds the

hungry, spiritually and physically

By Joe Westbury

THOMASTON, Ga. (The Christian Index) -- For Peter Demery and his extended family, the kind folks at Silvertown Baptist Church do more than talk about God's goodness. They put it into action.

Tammy Shock, director of the Silvertown Baptist Church Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, talks with some guests. The kitchen operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
 
Every Tuesday and Thursday Demery arrives with his wife to partake of the kindness of the church through its soup kitchen ministry. The soft-spoken man speaks in tones of gratitude for the church's outreach to those who need a little extra help making ends meet.

"Because of this church there are eight meals a week I don't have to worry about. My wife and I have our son and daughter-in-law living with us on limited income and it's hard for us to eat and pay our bills," he explains.

Demery has been a regular at the feeding ministry for three years and doesn't know what he would do if it ceased to operate.

"People drive by here and see this large building and don't know anything about it by looking at what's on the outside. But it's what is happening on the inside that is making a difference.

"This feeding ministry is a great way of personalizing the ministry of the church and helping people who need just a little more help in life," he says.

"They make me feel like family when I walk in the door."

Those partaking of the free lunch at the Silvertown Baptist Church Soup Kitchen finish up listening to the devotion that follows each meal.
 
Hands and feet providing home-cooked meals

Based on that evaluation, Silvertown Baptist Church has reached its goal of communicating the love of Christ to those in the community. For the past five years it has sought to be the hands and feet of Christ as it provides hot, all-you-can-eat home cooked meals until the last pot is emptied.

In the spotless kitchen, volunteers like Robin Avery are busy at work making a salad. Margie Hayes stirs a large pot, placing potatoes, broccoli, sausage, cream style corn, buttermilk, and Bear Creek Soup Mix into her famous potato soup. Twelve-year-old Evan Baucom stands at the ready to help distribute plates and bowls of steaming hot entrees.

"We started off with just one pot at the beginning but now we cook three pots and every last drop is still eaten," Hayes says with a smile and a chuckle.

Some of the guests walk as far as four miles to enjoy the food, leaving with a box of canned goods that last about two weeks in some instances.

'Feed every part of them'

The church fellowship hall seats 64 guests twice a week with rarely an empty seat. As soon as some eat and leave, others slip in and enjoy the day's offerings.

"We turn tables just like a restaurant," says Tammy Shock who coordinates the ministry. "We tell our guests that we want to feed every part of them … spiritually as well as physically."

Shock says she senses that in the reasons guests attend the meals; some come simply out of hunger and others because they are lonely and just want to be around with others. It's sort of like being around family, many say – and all their needs are met during the 90-minute window of ministry.

The spiritual dimension occurs as the opening prayer of thanksgiving and a devotional is led by Talmadge Winkles, a volunteer from Valley Grove Baptist Church in Thomaston. A sense of gratitude comes over the crowd as Winkles reads Scripture and provides an upbeat atmosphere to the group.

Winkles is just one of many volunteers from area churches who provide their time and expertise to serve the twice-weekly feast.

"We have so much help from churches of all faiths around Thomaston; we could not do it without their help and their contributions of food and other items," Shock says.

"If we run out I just substitute something else. We stretch every meal as far as it will go and no one leaves hungry."

Paul Caspers, the new pastor of the church, began his ministry with the congregation in July.


This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.

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Feeding Those Who Feed Us builds

a missions force as it ministers

By Karen L. Willoughby

FRESNO, Calif. (California Southern Baptist) -- Thousands of migrant workers' families in 42 towns across California have been blessed by this summer's Feeding Those Who Feed Us ministry of churches affiliated with California Southern Baptist Convention.

Hundreds of church members and their families likewise were blessed by their participation, according to pastors and leaders across the state.

Thousands of migrant workers' families in 42 towns across California have been blessed by this summer's Feeding Those Who Feed Us ministry of churches affiliated with California Southern Baptist Convention.
 
"This really is the Body of Christ working together," said Rodney Cox, pastor for the last 21 years of First Baptist Church in Hilmar, who coordinated several churches' involvement in the migrant feeding ministry in Atwater. "It's amazing what together we can do for God when we join forces.

"It was a joint effort," Cox continued. "Everyone did what they could, and it all came together beautifully."

Oscar Sanchez, CSBC migrant ministries field specialist, reported 1,250 spiritual decisions during this year's outreach, which took place in July and August at 22 migrant centers and 20 other areas near Highway 99 with high concentrations of migrant workers.

"This year there were about 1,200 volunteers, and 150 churches involved," Sanchez said. "I want to give the volunteers all the credit.

"I do the logistical part but I give thanks to the Lord for the volunteers willing to do the Vacation Bible Schools and the evangelistic rallies," Sanchez continued. "That makes this ministry happen."

Feeding Those Who Feed Us is now in its 12th year, having started when Tom Stringfellow, then pastor of First Baptist Church in Beverly Hills, noticed how the hope-stealing poverty of migrant workers contrasted with the decadence often obvious in enclaves near the world-famous Hollywood sign.

Now director of missions for Sierra Butte Baptist Association, Stringfellow in 2002 led his Southern California church to extend a summertime Christian witness, plus food, clothing, shoes and school supplies, at the state migrant center in Dixon.

Stringfellow's initial motive was as much to create a missions opportunity for his upscale congregation as it was to minister to the families of migrant workers, he said at the time. As a result, 37 people made professions of faith in Christ, and the Beverly Hills pastor thought about adding a second site the following year, if he could get more people - more churches - to help.

Word spread of the feeding ministry's success, to the point that the next summer similar ministry took place in not just two, but in 21 of the state-owned migrant centers scattered for the most part along the San Joaquin Valley.

Twelve years later, the feeding ministry has grown to include medical/dental care, food, clothing, shoes, VBS-type activities and fun times as well as spiritual instruction, New Testaments and God's love expressed by Southern Baptist volunteers.

Local churches near the migrant centers take responsibility for a four- or five-day ministry at apartment complexes surrounded by chainlink fencing, and elsewhere at locations selected by the churches that minister throughout the growing season to migrant workers.

Local churches also raise as much as possible of the $3,500 cost per location, which pays for the items purchased in bulk by the state convention and then distributed by the local churches.

"One of the things I liked about this ministry was that it could involve everyone in the church," Cox said. "We had women at the church every night who chose as their contribution to stay at the church, filling backpacks and grocery sacks."

The backpacks were stuffed with school supplies; each child in the complex got one. The grocery sacks came from a bank where a church member was manager; they were a leftover promotion that included calculators, which were added to the backpacks.

"I must have thanked her a dozen times," Cox said. "She just said she was glad they had found good use."

Cox said his missions director (and daughter-in-law) Lisa Cox first learned about the Feeding Those ministry last year, when she was looking for a Southern Baptist ministry that would make good use of their VBS offering.

"When I first sat down with Oscar (Sanchez), I really had no idea what they did," Cox said. "I was just going to come alongside someone else to help."

But an organizer was needed.

"Yes, we took the reins, but it was totally a joint effort that involved Delhi First Southern, Hilmar First Baptist, Atwater First Baptist, Newman First Baptist and Winton First Baptist," Cox said. "Winton had their Spanish people come and do the music, and a couple of Winton people who were nurses worked in the (Convention's) Mobile Medical Unit Monday night."

The Hilmar, Atwater and Newman congregations all gave their VBS offerings to help cover the cost of providing food, clothing, shoes and school supplies to the families who live in the Atwater Migrant Housing Center. With other donations, the final amount given by the churches was $2,800.

"Literally my greatest role was organizing meetings and making phone calls," Cox continued. "I was Lisa's helper. We were very much under pressure to get it done quickly - we had only a few weeks - and in the middle of this (preparation) time I went to El Salvador on a mission trip."

Lisa Cox handled all the logistics, the pastor said. Upon his return, all that was left to do was find someone to man the grill for the Thursday night evangelistic rally.

"There were some salvations and several prayer requests," Cox said. "Andrew Cantrell (of First Baptist in Atwater) gave the gospel presentation while his wife Gabby interpreted into Spanish. We had probably eight or nine kids who gave their life to Christ. Both Atwater and Winton will do follow-up."

This was the first year for Hilmar, Atwater and several other churches across California to be involved in Feeding Those.

Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon was among a similar-sized group of churches that have participated in the ministry for many years.

"This was our ninth year," said Jim Shankula, responsible for Shadow Mount-ain's border ministries. "Feeding Those Who Feed Us is a very worthwhile ministry, valuable in many ways.

"In the first place, to serve and show love to these Spanish-speaking people who need to hear the gospel, and to be an encouragement to the Spanish-speaking churches working with them," Shankula continued. "It also is a great opportunity for our churches to be involved in international missions where they don't have to go overseas.

"We have whole families involved," he said. "It's a great way for them to experience missions. They come back just really thrilled about being able to serve, and excited about what God has done in the lives of people."

First Baptist Church in Lemon Grove has partnered for several years with Shadow Mountain, which this year swelled the group's number to 55 volunteers. They spread out to four locations, hosted four five-day Vacation Bible Schools, and worked with churches in door-to-door outreach.

Shadow Mountain's children's ministry packed what they called "Love in a Box" similar to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry, and adult small groups put together hygiene bags. These were given out to those who participated in VBS. The food, clothing, shoes and school supplies were left with the churches, to distribute after church the following Sunday, as a way of encouraging people to attend the service.

California Southern Baptists have ministered to migrant workers for 46 years, Oscar Sanchez noted.

"We have close to a million migrant workers," he said. "There are 2.5 million in the entire US. The ones we work with come in May or June and leave in November. They work in the sweet melons, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce - we just have a variety of so many fruits and vegetables - grapes and raisins, too. Citrus."

Sanchez credited the ongoing ministry of Stringfellow, who is the non-paid president of Feeding Those.

"He purchases all the clothes, materials, got us the Medical and Dental Units and does so much more," Sanchez said. "He has done a wonderful job of helping the migrant ministry; we owe him so much."

For food, the individual locations receive vouchers from CSBC, which they spend at local grocers, to help boost the local economy and spread the word of what God is doing through Southern Baptists.

"We must first and foremost learn to be servants of God," Cox said in explaining why he involved his Hilmar congregation in Feeding Those Who Feed Us. "We are not only to be servants to each other in the church, but outside the church to reach others, to serve them by ministering to them."


This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention (csbc.com). Karen L. Willoughby is a freelance writer.

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West Pensacola Baptist crosses

the 'moat' to feed neighbors

By Carolyn Nichols

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) -- When members of West Pensacola Baptist Church decided to begin feeding the hungry and homeless, they looked first to the neighborhoods around their church. The ministry that grew out of their concern is the Westside Community Partnership that throws block parties for its neighbors.

Church members Tom and Sheila Edwards began the ministry after hearing of other churches feeding the homeless.

"We asked ourselves, 'Why go somewhere else when there are homeless people two blocks away?' There are hungry people right here," Tom Edwards said.

The 'Grill Guys' from West Pensacola Baptist Church often serve 100 Bubba Burgers to neighborhood residents. Two teams from the church lead block parties in multiple locations.
 
In February 2013, the Edwards and a handful of volunteers loaded a grill and food into a pickup truck and set up the first Sunday afternoon block party in a cul-de-sac in the church's racially mixed neighborhood. They served 100 hamburgers and then asked the recipients if they could pray with them.

"At first they were leery of us. They asked, 'What do you want?' Our neighborhood is transient, and they didn't trust us. Now they look for us," Sheila Edwards said.

The small group of volunteers alternated Sundays between the cul-de-sac location and a spot near a local Title I elementary school that provides two meals a day for most of its students. Volunteers found families and children were hungry on the weekends.

Janey Frost, West Pensacola's minister of music and church administrator, was one of the first volunteers to participate in the Sunday afternoon parties.

"We really had to ask, 'What does our neighborhood need from us?' Food and prayer—such a simple thing that goes a long way," she said.

Tom Edwards said the requests for prayer at the block parties revealed the needs of the community. A 15 year old asked the volunteers to pray for his safety, and an unemployed father asked for prayer for a job to support his family. Each request is entered into a logbook, and then the answered prayers are added.

Sheila and Tom Edwards began the cookout ministry that monthly feeds about 200 people around West Pensacola Baptist Church. The church joined the effort in June.
 
About four months ago during a "family meeting" at West Pensacola Baptist, Pastor Jeff Walker encouraged the church of about 175 mostly Anglo members to reach out to its neighborhood. He compared the church to a castle with a moat that its neighbors would not cross. When church members were reminded of the small group that cooked hamburgers monthly for hungry people, other church members responded with ideas for expansion and offers of help. One offered to build games for children, and another offered miniature basketball goals for teams to play. Church members bought diapers, hygiene items and Bibles to give away.

Individual gifts finance the ministry since the church "is in a financial bind," Frost said. Even so, the ministry has expanded. Volunteers meet on Saturday to prepare lettuce and tomatoes for the Bubba Burgers. "We wanted to do this as to the Lord—not just with ketchup and mustard," Tom Edwards said.

At 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon once a month, 40 volunteers make up two teams who load grills, basketball goals, crafts and food on two trucks to go to two locations for simultaneous events. The teams play basketball with teens and direct craft activities with children while their parents pray and visit with volunteers.

On Sept. 7, five boys played basketball with Tom Edwards, who said he taunted them with, "Do you want to get beat by these old men?" During a water break, the boys heard a short talk on sacrifice based onJohn 3:16.

"They listened to every word and they were engaged," Tom Edwards said. "We know fruit from that will come sometime down the road."

Sheila Edwards, at the same location, talked with a "standoffish" young woman who brought young children to the event. Even with the temperature in the 90s, she was covered in a hoodie, Sheila Edwards said.

"My heart went out to her. I gave her a tract and talked about the Gospel. I told her that we would be back in two weeks and I would be looking for her," she said.

Even though the block parties are popular events in the church's neighborhoods, neighbors rarely visit the church. Church members consider it more important that their neighbors come to Christ. They are praying that God "will raise up a pastor to start a house church," Frost said.

"We didn't go expecting them to come here to church. We just want to make Jesus famous in our neighborhood," she said.

Since venturing "across the moat," West Pensacola Baptist Church is now "flourishing," Frost said.

"Our people have invested in this. For so long, we were blind to the needs around us. It is so amazing to see God's people working in the areas where they are gifted, to see people come to life doing what God has gifted them to do," she said.


This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness (gofbw.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Carolyn Nichols is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.

Compiled by Laura Erlanson, Baptist Press operations coordinator.
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