SOUL FOOD MINISTRY: feeding the hungry
Looking over the harvest field of thousands of Spanish-speaking people in the vicinity of Woodstock, VA (12% of the town’s population), Pastor Banks Swanson’s heart became burdened. He wondered how his predominately Anglo congregation at Shenandoah Community Fellowship could reach them with the Gospel. Pastor Banks shares, “I would hate to stand before God knowing that our church did not do something to reach these people with the love of Jesus.”
In January of 2012, Shenandoah Community Fellowship began Soul Food Ministry. God gave church member Kara Miller a desire to help feed the hungry beyond the church’s annual Christmastime outreach. Kara explains,
Over the past four years, the Soul Food Ministry has grown from serving 35-50 meals once a month at the church to delivering 400 meals twice a month to folks in need! Through the gifts to the SBC of Virginia Vision Virginia Offering, God has multiplied our efforts to minister to our community. While we were on deliveries to these lower income neighborhoods, it became apparent that though there was a great need for physical food, there was an even greater need for spiritual food for one particular group in the community—the Hispanic population. The food that we delivered twice a month was simply a key to open a door to a greater purpose—being the hands and feet of Jesus and showing the world His love.
A burden for the Hispanic community drove not only Pastor Banks but other SBC of Virginia pastors in the Shenandoah area to join in prayer. They prayed for six months that the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2b) would send a Hispanic man of God to partner with them to reach Spanish-speaking people with the Gospel. God answered their prayer through a family from the Shenandoah area who had met a godly Cuban couple 13 years prior while on mission in that country.
Through a number of amazing circumstances, God brought Manuel and Yuneisy Ferradas to the United States and eventually to the Shenandoah area. Pastor Manuel recalls, “We started thinking about coming to the US in 2013, but the impossibility in human eyes was big, [but] God gave us the visas when human hands were short and the impossibility was huge.” The Lord led Manuel and Yuneisy to join Shenandoah Community Fellowship, where they immediately became involved in the Soul Food Ministry, helping deliver meals.
Pastor Banks and the church family embraced this precious couple as their own family and supported their call to plant a Hispanic church. After completing the immigration process, Manuel and Yuneisy launched Valle de Dios Iglesia Bautista Hispana (Valley of God Hispanic Baptist Church) on the afternoon of Sunday, April 12, 2015 at Shenandoah Community Fellowship.
By knocking on doors with Pastor Banks, Pastor Manuel was able to meet Spanish-speaking people, build relationships with them, and show them Christ’s love. Prior to the first service at Valle de Dios, he had more than 80 contacts with whom he was sharing the Gospel.
Although this infant church may only have 12–25 in attendance on a Sunday afternoon, the miracle of salvation has already come to this small congregation. In early 2016, all four members of the Rodríguez family confessed Jesus as Lord and were baptized by Pastor Manuel.
Miranda Rodríguez shares her family’s story:
We met this church through the granddaughter of Pastor Banks Swanson and began a friendship with them. After the arrival of Manuel and Yuneisy, we came and began to hear the teachings of the Gospel. Although we had heard it on other occasions, it was not until now that we took the step of commitment in our faith accepting Christ as our Lord.
We like to go to the church family on Sunday because we are filled with joy to hear the Word and share in giving thanks to God for all the things He has done for us. It is a great joy to go to [Valley de Dios] Hispanic Baptist Church. It doesn’t matter that we are just a few in number, we are still in the presence of God.
The Rodríguezes are growing and sharing their faith with others where they work, live, and play.
“Every Spanish speaker in Woodstock knows Manuel,” says Pastor Banks. Shenandoah Community Fellowship and Valle de Dios have gained the reputation in the area as “the ones who deliver food” and care for their community. God is glorifying Himself through this miracle in the harvest fields of the Hispanic population in Woodstock.
Please join Shenandoah Community Fellowship and Valle de Dios in praying that harvest will continue.
PRAY that the Lord will continue to expand the Soul Food Ministry.
PRAY that Valle de Dios Iglesia Bautista Hispana will continue to make disciples.
PRAY that the Lord will multiply the two churches’ efforts through new small groups being planted to reach the Hispanic population in the Shenandoah area.
If you are burdened over the ethnic population outside the doors of your church and desire a partnership to reach them with the Gospel, contact Larry Black, SBC of Virginia’s church planting people group strategist (email@example.com).
Conocimos de la Iglesia por medio de la nieta del pastor Banks Swanson y comenzamos cierta amistad con ellos. Luego de la llegada de Manuel y Yuneisy nos fueron presentados y comenzamos a escuchar las enseñanzas del evangelio. Aunque habíamos escuchado en otras ocasiones no fue hasta ahora que dimos un paso de compromiso en nuestra fe aceptando a Cristo como nuestro Señor.
Nos gusta ir a la Iglesia en familia los domingos porque nos sentimos llenos de alegría al escuchar la palabra y compartimos dándole gracias a Dios por todas las cosa que ha hecho por nosotros. Es una alegría tan grande ir a la Iglesia Bautista Hispana no importa los poquitos que somos porque a los ojos de Dios somos mucho y El está en medio de nosotros.