ST. LOUIS – In times of crisis, hope is a rare commodity. While much of the country is struggling in fear and uncertainty, local churches are coming together meeting the needs of their communities. This effort was recently seen on a bright, sunny day in one of the state’s hardest-hit areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, North St. Louis County.
On May 1, two Missouri Baptist Churches – First Baptist Church of St. John and Garden Baptist Church – partnered with the St. Louis Area Foodbank to host a mobile food distribution event. Local residents came to the parking lot of FBC St. John where over 16,000 pounds of donated food dispersed across 325 boxes was distributed. As residents remained in their vehicles, volunteers placed food boxes in trunks. When asked about the motivation to serve in this way, Pastor Rob Eaton of Garden Baptist Church said, “We are commanded to love our neighbors in both good and bad times. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and hopefully build a relationship with them.”
Even with the great amount of food available, everything was given away in just over an hour. Event organizer Donita Forsythe expressed appreciation for God’s providence throughout the distribution. “God just took it all over and made it work perfectly. Everyone who came left with food.” Remarkably, the donated food was the perfect amount for the number of needy residents who came to the event. In addition to giving away food, volunteers also dispersed flyers with information about the gospel and the local churches.
One of the most touching moments for many of the volunteers was serving a grandmother of seven who came when the food was nearly gone. The grandmother tearfully thanked the volunteers as she received seven 10-pound bags of potatoes. For the volunteers, moments like these are reminders of both the great need in our communities and the great joy in serving others. With COVID-19 bringing out fear and panic all around, Christians have been given the unique opportunity to reflect Christ’s love to their local communities. Meeting the physical needs of a hurting community often provides opportunities for gospel conversations.
In addition to the local churches partnering together, the local St. John Police Department also partnered in the event. Not only did officers assist with traffic control but the Police Chief Robert Connell was on hand to offer support. “I look at churches as cornerstones of the community that bring neighbors together for a common cause and goal,” Connell said. Affirming the importance of local partnerships, he added, “Working together, police and church congregations bring stability to communities.” As a Christian, Connell noted that COVID-19 has caused people to evaluate what matters most in life and ultimately “are sharpening their focus on Christ again.”
Realizing the continued need in the community, the two partnering churches are excitedly planning a second food distribution on May 22. “Even before we were finished, volunteers were talking about when to do it again,” noted Donita, the event organizer.
In these strange days of health crisis and economic uncertainty, God has graciously provided churches unique opportunities to reflect Christ to the world. Though no one would have chosen COVID-19 as the means to partner together for the Gospel, local churches are spreading hope one box of groceries at a time. When life eventually returns to normal, our communities won’t soon forget the hope and kindness extended during these difficult days by local churches.