As the Rev. Terry Goodman, pastor of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Big Stone Gap, Va., sat at Ministers Convocation listening to Kim Goddard tell the story of a young boy in her church that was helping to alleviate hunger one bag of food at a time, the Lord spoke to Terry and put a vision on his heart.
At the Powell Valley Primary School in Big Stone Gap, there was an existing backpack food ministry. Goodman learned that four years ago, the teachers noticed that children were coming in on Monday morning hungry. Working with the PTA, the school established a self-funded program and began sending home food on the weekends in backpacks for those families in need.
Upon learning of this program, Goodman challenged the church to start collecting food. From September 2012 until Feb 2013, the church had collected just over 1,000 individual serve food items. That day at Convocation, the Lord said, "This is not enough. You need to do more." So inspired Rev. Goodman went back to church with a vision and shared it the following Sunday. He challenged people to get involved and come to the altar and pray for this vision. That day about 80 people came forward and said they would get involved.
Jump forward to the Saturday before Palm Sunday. The church had identified about 250 homes in its immediate neighborhood. Teams went out delivering packets of information asking people to set bags of food on their doorsteps on the Saturday before Easter. Someone would be by to pick up the bags.
The following Saturday, teams started the retrieval process. Bags were brought in. Food was counted by categories and sorted so that the school could more easily process the items that were given.
Originally, Goodman challenged the church to help double their 1,000 items. So, 2,000 was our initial goal. Somewhere along the way, corporate sponsors got involved. We were soon at 4,000 items and collection hadn't begun. So, we hoped for 6,000 items. As the bags started coming in from the neighborhood and we started adding together the corporate gifts, the pre-collection drop-off items, and finally the bags collected on March 30, we realized that this was a God moment. In all, 11,066 items were collected and over $1,700 was donated to alleviate hunger.
Needless to say, we gave God the glory and celebrated. We know that children are about to be fed and that we have seen, as one member put it, "a multiplication of the fish."
The Rev. Terry Goodman is [Holston] Conference Secretary and Director of Clergy Concerns. His office is in Alcoa, Tennessee.