Croutons and crackers isn’t much of a supper.
But near the end of last year’s fall festival at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, in Bibb Baptist Association, that’s all that was left. And it was what a man and his grandson ate instead of leaving hungry.
The incident pricked the hearts of church members who witnessed it, said church member Pat Shadrick, and soon she and others were formulating a plan to provide a free meal each week for community members who might not have much food at home.
“We had a new family life center, and it hit us that this building was not just for games,” Shadrick said. “We needed to be doing something in this family life center that was going to reach the lost.”
The ministry was named The Master’s Kitchen, and on the first day organizers asked for volunteers, 43 people signed up. The first meal was served in June, and since then an average of 100 or so folks come out each Monday to have a meal.
Each night features a message or music too — a way to share the gospel and a little encouragement with those who come, many of whom are not in church. A different team prepares and serves the meal each week, and volunteers spend time in conversation and prayer during each meal.
“People open up to us,” Shadrick said. “It means the world to them that someone will take the time right there to get on their knees and pray.”
The Master’s Kitchen is just one of several hunger ministries in Alabama Baptist churches. These ministries might be weekly meals or food pantries, but the goal of each one is the same — to meet the physical needs of community members and open the door to meeting spiritual needs as well.
Almost 800 million people around the world live with constant hunger, and 1 in 6 in North America are undernourished, according to Global Hunger Relief, an initiative of Southern Baptists that seeks to combat hunger in North America and around the world.
Global Hunger Sunday, observed the second Sunday of October each year, is a day many churches set aside to inform and equip church leaders about the global hunger crisis and to receive a special offering to help the cause. Seven Southern Baptist organizations partner together in Global Hunger Relief, and 100 percent of donations are directed toward hunger needs through partner ministries.
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) receives some of the funds to use in Alabama. Kristy Kennedy, SBOM associate who provides leadership of hunger ministries, says the need is significant in Alabama.
“The SBOM partners with 65 different ministries that are feeding people,” Kennedy said. “The Alabama Hunger Offering for Global Hunger Relief is a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who struggle in providing food for themselves and their families.”
Though the ministries use a variety of means to provide food using hunger funds, the goal is the same, Kennedy said — to share the love of Christ with those who may have never heard the gospel.
And decisions happen weekly around the state at ministries who receive hunger funds.
Since The Master’s Kitchen began in June, eight people have made decisions for Christ, Shadrick said. Two have been baptized. One who accepted Christ was a 70-year-old man.
Linda Sheppard, director of the ministry centers for Judson Baptist Association, said the food banks in Headland and Abbeville see decisions for Christ almost weekly. An 81-year-old man who has been coming to the Headland center for years was saved just a few weeks ago.
“He had been shared with before, but this time, when the interviewer asked him, ‘Do you know when you die that you’re going to heaven?’ he said he didn’t. That day he was ready,” Sheppard said.
A man in his late 50s and a 76-year-old woman are recent believers too, Sheppard said. She credits the open spiritual doors to the relationships built between clients and ministry volunteers.
“Our food banks have an impact because they are touching people who would never go to any of our churches,” Sheppard said. “But they’ll come here and talk and open up with our volunteers because they know them.”
Kennedy urges churches and individuals to pray about how they can give to help alleviate hunger in their communities, state and around the world. She noted that there will be another emphasis on Feb. 17, 2019. Churches also can give year-round through the SBOM at www.cooperativeprogramresources.org/hunger.
For more information or resources to promote Global Hunger Sunday, contact Jim Swedenburg at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The need is great but our God is greater,” Kennedy said.