Parents and grandparents alike know that diapers are costly. Since April of 2016 First Baptist Church has given out 802 bags of diapers to 422 people at a total cost of $3,055.60. Scottsbluff in western Nebraska has about 15,000 residents. “We’ve been reaching out to a wide variety of organizations, other churches, and caseworkers for support for the growing ministry,” explains the congregation’s Chris Smith, who chairs the Deacon Board at the church. “They’ve begun to respond, and that has helped us get the diapers out to a wider area.”
Smith, who works as a plumber at a local hospital, says the initiative began after Glynis LaBarre with the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) visited the congregation and encouraged them to focus on special needs where the congregation is planted. First Church has about 100-150 worshipers each Sunday. The congregation is more than 100 years old.
“We prayed for guidance for about six months,” Smith says. Located in an agricultural area in the Nebraska panhandle about 30 miles from the Wyoming border, the congregation took note of the high rate of teenage pregnancies, the considerable number of single moms in the community, and the challenges attending high use of illegal drugs and methamphetamines.
“My wife, Carissa, was working at a pediatrics clinic at the time and noticed the problem of diaper rashes because moms didn’t have enough money for diapers,” Smith says. “And so we chose to start a ministry to provide diapers and food for families in need.”
Smith explains the Matthew 25 Grant is used exclusively for purchasing diapers. The congregation scoured options for buying diapers in bulk the most affordable way. “We discovered the cheapest alternative turned out to be a department store right across the street from the church,” he says. But expanding partnerships have enabled the provision of many other items besides diapers to families in need.
“Women in the church are making baby blankets and quilts for newborns,” he says. “At Christmas, folks make and donate hats, and they collect gloves and scarves to give out. We also offer donated baby formula and food and large amounts of donated foods for adults as well.” The congregation partners with a local initiative “Food of Love” to offer pre-packaged bags of food. A local family provides the church with hygiene items to distribute. “God has blessed us with a partnership involving the Gideons and so Bibles in English and Spanish and tracts are handed out to individuals and families each month,” Smith adds. “We also get huge amounts of children’s clothing, toys, books and other supplies donated to hand out.”
The Diaper Depot is held the fourth Sunday of each month from 9 to 11 a.m., a time when families receiving public assistance are most in need. But Smith notes that diapers are given out between regular distribution days when the congregation receives a referral from an agency, organization, church, caseworker or social worker.
First Church also sponsors a variety of other outreach efforts, Smith says. Fire Fighter Ministries responds to individuals and families afflicted by disasters, mostly residential fires. “We help people find housing and clothing and provide food vouchers and pastoral counseling to families in need,” Smith says. The congregation runs a “Career Closet” where disadvantaged job-seekers can find suitable clothing to wear to a job interview. A Wednesday evening food distribution initiative involves delivering food, including fresh items and dairy provisions to people in need.
“Thanks so much,” Smith says of the grant. “We are amazed every day how God is blessing this ministry and making an impact in the community for Jesus!”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.”
The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit: www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/