Manna Ministries: Feeding the body and the soul
Published 9:14 pm Saturday, February 14, 2015
Volunteers with Washington’s First Church of Christ spent Valentines Day morning sharing Christian love and helping local residents hit by hard economic times.
As it does the second Saturday of every month, the congregation’s food distribution, part of the church’s Manna Ministries, shared items with folks who struggle to feed their families. The program has been in place for over four years.
The project assists an average of 185 families each month, according to Jimmy Harris, one of the coordinators. Between 9,000 and 10,000 pounds of food are distributed during that time, with church members and other volunteers pitching in to sort and package the breads, canned vegetables, snacks, meats, desserts and fresh produce. The items are purchased by the church from the Food Bank of the Albemarle, which sends a delivery truck to the church the mornings the food distribution is held. The project is primarily supported financially by church members who pledge above and beyond their usual tithing, together with donations from outside sources.
“The Bible tells us that God is love, and what we’re doing here is the command of our King,” Harris said. “This is one time during the month that someone has hope; they know they’re going to get some food.”
Volunteers range in age from 5 years old to church members well into their eighties, according to Mark Lilley, First Church’s student and involvement minister.
“Our church, and our children particularly, see the other side of the coin when we do this, and that makes them aware of the need that’s out there,” Lilley said. “We’re training the next generation.”
The food distribution is just one part of Manna Ministries. The church also sponsors the Backpack Pals food program at Eastern Elementary School, which sends home packages with children from low-income families. And for decades the church has maintained a food pantry, which was the inspiration for the food distribution, which has become one of the largest in eastern North Carolina. As a result, First Church has assisted other area churches in organizing and facilitating their own food ministries.
And those helped by the project remember the Christian love shared by the church. Lilley noted that one local woman facing difficult times was struggling to put food on her table. The church stepped in and helped her get back on her feet.
A footnote to that story: Once the woman’s financial circumstances improved, she delivered a $5,000 check to the church. It was earmarked for Manna Ministries, so the cycle of giving could continue.