In my years as a pastor, counselor and director of three home mission projects, I’ve been a part of many food pantries, clothing drives and grass roots projects to lift those up who fall through the cracks in our society. But I have never been a part of a ministry that has the opportunity to distribute pastries, breads and cookies to the hungry. Subsequently I discovered that I had to confront myself with some personal bias about this program. Let me explain…
As you well know, in Matthew 25: 35-36 we read, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” All of this means you and I need to get out of our comfort zones and “go” make a difference in a person’s life. As we do so, we are demonstrating God’s love and care, which just might result in the recipients asking the question “why” are you doing this and we will then have the opportunity to tell the good news of a risen Savior.
How It Started
When First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno had an opportunity to share donated pastries, bread and cookies, I have to admit that I just didn’t feel God would bless the ministry. (Boy was I wrong!!) Those cupcakes and breads just hit me in the moral, ethical and theological stomach. Sure we were following God’s direction and feeding the poor, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “But it needs to be beans, rice and other staples, right? I mean if they are going to eat shouldn’t it be on our terms and obviously we know what’s best for the poor, right?” (Did I honestly say that? Yep I think I really did).
Then I started talking to the people doing the work, those handing out the breads and the cups of cold water. They started telling me about the looks of pleasure, the smiles and how the pastries are helping to increase their numbers at Bible study and worship. The people are coming because not only is the Gospel eternally life changing but it can sweeten your life today as well.
Our Matthew 25 Project of picking up donated bakery items and then distributing the pastries and breads to various faith based organizations has become a phenomenal witness to our Savior and continues to grow explosively. We narrowed the recipients down to six specific ministries in order to have the maximum impact with our outreach:
• Bethany Inner City Church uses our donations for a community meal each week for the homeless.
• Butler Church uses our donations to feed Khmu refugees in their Sunday worship.
• Live Again Fresno uses our donations to feed children and minister to gangs out of the Parkland Motel which is donating space for the ministry because of the food.
• Hope Now for Youth uses the donations for inner city children and to reach out to gangs in the area.
• Mana Zoe Ministries is using our food donations to reach the inner city families. Because of our donation they have reported the children have been coming to worship and Bible study. The result has again been donated space from an apartment complex for worship because of the food.
• Kings View is an apartment complex that houses migrant worker families in the middle of fruit orchards.
• Of course our neighbors have been watching our loading and unloading of donations and so we have started helping a low income apartment complex in our own neighborhood.
Experiencing Continued Growth
As the outreach has grown we have become involved personally with each ministry resulting in outreach such as a school supply drive so each child from the various ministries could have backpack, crayons, pencils and pads of paper.
As we got to know the individuals at the Kings View apartments, where migrant families are housed, we thought it would be a great idea to have a birthday party each month for the children who have a birthday that month (we get a lot of cakes). None of them had ever experienced that before and the questions came, “Why are you doing this for us?” Answer, “We are Christians.” Response “Can we know more about this Jesus?”
As we got to know the community better we discovered the children were not eating, especially during the summer months. When going to school they receive a state subsidized breakfast and lunch but during the vacation months and holidays they were not eating. So we have started including bread, a dozen eggs, Top Ramen along with peanut butter. We then felt a barbeque would just be fun and so a member of our church donated all the fixings and we had a community summer barbeque for all the families.
Additional Opportunities for Outreach
Then we noticed that the mothers in the various locations do not have diapers and were reusing disposable diapers. It would be great if they had facilities or the money to use cloth diapers but it is not an option so we are now including boxes of diapers as well.
A Christian Camp in the Sierras, Camp Sugar Pine, learned what we have been doing and they had received a grant to bring 50 inner-city children to a week of camp free of charge. The grant paid for their fee, included transportation, and even gave them each $20 spending money for the camp store. One of the children said, “I have been learning God is good but no one told me how great He is!”
Of course during the holidays some local grocers are helping us out by providing turkeys and all the fixings so each family in all the ministries may have a holiday celebration.
God Is Working Through Us
As I write all of this I have to say I’m totally amazed at what God has done with some donuts, cakes and a few loaves of bread. Of course that shouldn’t surprise me because of what our Savior did with some fish and loaves. We are excited to continue feeding and distributing the sweetness of our Savior to hundreds.
One Really Humble Pastor,
Rev. Danny Jack
The Matthew 25 Grant, sponsored by ABCUSA, is funded by a generous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” Ministries must be in relationship with American Baptist Churches to be eligible to apply. Awards for the Matthew 25 grant are made twice a year, in April and October, with application deadlines of March 1 and September 1. To view the guidelines and download the application form, click here.