One thousand poor families in Charlotte came for a box of food and hundreds found new life in Christ during a “Feeding 5,000” outreach by First Baptist Church Nov. 25.
Church families on separate weeks brought beans, rice and yams enough in portions to feed five people. The church collected about 1,000 such portions of each, and then used gifts to buy 1,000 canned hams.
First Baptist Pastor Mark Harris wanted members of Charlotte’s downtown Baptist church, which already is actively engaged with a local school and apartment complexes, to participate directly in an outreach to provide a Thanksgiving meal for 5,000 people, and not just write a check.
The church advertised its giveaway with “no idea” what the response would be, Harris said. They notified the schools and apartment complexes where they minister and word of mouth quickly informed others. Jessica Barnwell said a friend told her. She was sitting next to her nephew, whom she called about the food.
Because no one had a clue about turnout, a group of businessmen with whom Harris has a Bible study committed to buy up to 500 family meal packs at a local restaurant if the church ran out of food boxes.
On distribution day the first guests arrived at 6:30 a.m. and eventually the ground floor of First Baptist’s 1,600 seat sanctuary was packed and humming with anticipation. Local police monitored traffic.
A worship service preceded the food distribution and Betty Cherry, a woman who works with the poor in Chicago, shared her dramatic testimony of how the persistence of a “hillbilly from Kentucky” who kept knocking on her door softened her resistance to church and led eventually to her coming to Christ.
Then Harris preached from John 3:16 on the “incredible, indisputable and indispensible love of God.” He offered an invitation at the end to which probably 200 responded. They were ushered to another room for counseling
During distribution of the food boxes in the foyer and outside young people served together with their parents to put food directly into the hands of appreciative citizens.
Janet Porter who brought her elementary school aged daughter Jenna with her to serve, choked up when explaining that she and Jenna had discussed all week about coming to help other people, “who might need encouragement.”
Encouragement is just what brought Keith Murray and his son, Christian, to church that morning. Living on the street the past three weeks, Murray finally had landed a sleeping place on the floor of a friend. He was encouraged by the message of God’s love, he said. He was more encouraged when Christian went forward to receive Christ.
Bordering businesses loaned parking spaces and Travel Lynx loaned a luxury bus and driver to pick up people at the apartments so they could come get their food and encouragement.
Harris said the church “didn’t know what to expect,” but the results were “what we hoped for.”
Almost 200 church members volunteered in the middle of the work week to put food into the hands of the hungry.
Bob Lowman, director of missions for Metrolina Baptist Association and a member at First Baptist, said other churches had called First Baptist offering their help. That level of interest, Lowman said, indicates that a citywide event next year involving all the churches and as many as 100,000 food boxes merits consideration.