Alabama’s Hunger Sunday emphasis is Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.
Jon Costa said in food pantry ministry, times are worse than ever.
But the miracles are even greater.
“The miracle is that God sends us the food to give out,” said Costa, who along with his wife, Mary, coordinates the food pantry ministry at The Church at Wills Creek in Gadsden. “The story of the loaves and fishes, it’s happening even now at our church.”
Since 2020, Wills Creek Food Pantry has doubled the amount of food it gives out to members of the community.
‘Do the math’
“Right now, we’re giving out 250 to 300 boxes a week,” Costa said. “Last year we gave out 10,800 boxes.
“There’s a limited amount of money to buy food. You can do the math — 10,800 boxes of food, no one could purchase that. It’s God’s provision.”
Part of that comes through funds given to the Alabama Hunger Offering, which will be highlighted statewide Feb. 20, though it’s collected all year.
Kristy Kennedy, an associate in the office of associational missions and church planting of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said the offering also helps support 43 other ministry centers around the state.
Each year, 25% of the offering stays in Alabama to help people who are food insecure, and the other 75% is sent to Southern Baptists’ International and North American Mission Boards to help feed the hungry across North America and around the world.
A variety of ministries
In Alabama the hands-on ministry, which is funded in part by hunger offering funds, is done by churches, associations, food pantries and after-school ministries for children who don’t have enough food to get through the weekend, Kennedy said.
While Wills Creek Food Pantry uses some of those funds, it also runs on donations, Costa noted.
“Community partners, other church volunteers and Christian ministries provide us with additional food and resources to support us in meeting our guests’ needs,” he explained.
One of those is Dan Fastuca and his V & Me ministry, which also stretches its reach in the state with the help of Alabama Hunger Offering funds. (See story: thealabamabaptist.org/rescued-lion-opens-doors-for-unlikely-alabama-hunger-ministry.)
With all that coming together, Costa — retired director of the Etowah County Department of Human Resources — said Wills Creek Food Pantry is able to provide food on a weekly basis, as well as social services information and free Christian counseling.
Volunteers are a critical help for the food pantry, Costa said.
“A core group of 30 dedicated volunteers has been a tremendous blessing and the reason for the ministry’s impact on our community.”
Those volunteers provide a strong prayer effort as well and try to build relationships and share the gospel with guests. Last year, eight made professions of faith in Christ, and one was baptized.
With the struggles people are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the food pantry is “able to minister to folks more than ever before, and we hear of answered prayers as people come back to tell us what God has done through their visits with us,” Costa said.
Making an impact
He recently got a thank-you note from a family who regularly receives food from the ministry.
“The note talks about how difficult their times were — it was an older lady recently widowed whose son has had heart attacks,” Costa said. “They were so grateful for the help we were able to provide.”
He noted it’s been wonderful to see how God has brought everyone together to make the ministry happen, from volunteers who helped out last year to Jason Ellen, founding pastor of Wills Creek who also serves as director of the pantry.
“It’s been wonderful to see people rally around this cause, to have the pastor and the leadership of the church support our efforts,” Costa said. “We couldn’t do it without God working through everyone to meet the needs.”
For more information about the Alabama Hunger Offering, visit alsbom.org/hungersunday.
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