DeSOTO – Emmanuel Baptist Church here now knows the answer to the question.
About a year ago, the Rev. Marvin Nobles visited the congregation and asked if the community would miss the church if it were no longer there.
Challenged by the question, the church began to look at practical ways to meet the needs of people. Because the closing of the Chrysler assembly plant in Fenton caused many residents to lose their jobs, Emmanuel decided to open a food pantry.
The church now serves more than 400 families every month.
“I can say definitely now that our community would miss us,” noted Pastor Richard Grayson.
The fellowship hall is stacked with potatoes, cereal, Gatorade, canned goods and bread. Starting with a couple of commercial freezers a member picked up at a garage sale, the church now has 14 freezers.
“The Lord fills every one of them up,” Grayson said.
A small army of volunteers run the entire ministry – from picking up boxes of food in St. Louis, to unloading and stocking the products, to distributing to individuals and praying for their needs as they visit.
“It’s like a church in motion,” Grayson said. About 70 members, from senior citizens to children who carry food to visitors’ cars, minister each week. “Side by side, we’re working and praying for people.”
Besides meeting physical needs, the congregation takes care to meet the deeper needs of the heart. Visitors to the food pantry are given doughnuts, a cup of coffee or juice. Members ask about their needs and pray with them. Quite often, visitors leave in tears as they have been touched by the care and concern. And people are getting saved. Grayson said he has baptized several new believers in the past year.
“It’s growing our church,” he said. “Like the New Testament church, we’re giving to the poor and hungry and the church grows in number.”
Emmanuel has an average attendance of 125 in Sunday School. Wednesday night attendance now exceeds 100. The budget for the food pantry ministry this year is $134,000. Grayson measures the church’s reach in other ways, noting they help about 10 families every day and give out 2,000 loaves of bread each week.
“It is a genuine ministry and it is fun,” Grayson said. “It’s time consuming, but it is very rewarding.”