BIG STONE GAP, Va. (Dec. 12, 2016) -- The goal of the "Serving Our Neighbors" mission is as simple and direct as the Bible passage that inspired it:
“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.”
The Big Stone Gap District, Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, puts the words of Matthew 25:35 into action with Serving Our Neighbors, or SON, a program that delivers food and other aid to people in need.
The mission started in May and was augmented about a month ago when the district purchased a 24-foot trailer with the help of a grant from the Holston Conference Foundation.
There’s a possibility church members will take the trailer to Pigeon Forge to assist with the recovery from the recent wildfires. The disaster area has been deluged with assistance so far, and people are urged to donate through agencies such as the Red Cross. The Holston Conference also has a fund set up.
“Right now they’re inundated with water and all the supplies they asked for. They’re trying to find places to store it,” said the Rev. Jeff Wright, superintendent of the Big Stone Gap District. “But as needs develop we can respond with more ... specific items people need.”
“We’ve heard that they need blankets, stuff like that,” said Trinity United Methodist Church member Dennis Ashley. “We’re just waiting to actually get in there. I think they’re kind of overwhelmed.”
But responding to emergencies is a natural for Serving Our Neighbors and its trailer. “We got it as a ministry to do a lot of things,” Wright said. That includes providing food, “but we’re also able to respond in the event of emergencies in our area or any area. For instance, if we had tornadoes come through here, we could haul supplies back and forth. We might could collect clothing and take it down.”
“Even building materials, tools — just whatever we need,” Ashley added. “And we’re looking for more ideas to use. It’s for the whole community, the whole area — not just this community, as far as we can reach out.”
Plans include converting the trailer so that food can be served out of it as well as hauling items.
Wright noted that the district includes Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties as well as part of Russell County. The SON trailer “is something we can take to any of those locations when there are needs,” Wright said, whether it be in response to flood, fire or other disasters.
Wright said the idea for the trailer “came out of Dennis’ heart.” Ashley deferred credit to a higher level.
“God gave me the idea,” Ashley said, adding that, after some two years of turning the thought over, he acted on it after Wright’s wife Sandy pointed out that money could be available. The district applied for the grant and was successful, in part because the trailer is a district asset, Wright said.
“Trinity has done a great job with feeding, and continues to be an anchor with that,” he said.
For more information on the Serving Our Neighbors mission contact the district office at (276) 523-3025.
Glenn Gannaway is news editor of The Post in Big Stone Gap, Va. This story originally appeared in The Post and is reprinted with permission.