It is early Saturday morning in the parking lot of Coastal Community Church in Yorktown, and there is already a long line of people waiting to get into the building. Some have slept all night in their cars so they can be near the front of the line when the doors open. They are there for the monthly food giveaway by the Coastal Community Food Ministry.
This outreach began as a small group’s service project in 2011. They were challenged by a message from lead pastor Shaun Brown to get out of their comfort zone and serve. The result was sharing the love of Jesus by meeting the hunger needs of the community. In the first month, they fed 111 people. The ministry now serves between 500 and 700 a month. In December 2016, they fed 1,038 people—the highest to date.
On the third Saturday of the month from 9:00–11:00 AM, they give a week’s worth of groceries to those needing assistance. According to director and co-director Paul and Courtney Schaefer, choosing the third week of the month was strategic. The people who live on assistance say the last two weeks of the month are the hardest to make ends meet. In order to staff this ministry, the church mobilizes somewhere between 30 and 60 volunteers.
They organize and set up for distribution, pick up and deliver food, help with the screening process, and disburse the food. A volunteer even pushes the cart while the recipient shops then helps him/her take the food to the car. The impact of this ministry has been not only in meeting people’s physical needs but in meeting their spiritual needs. Coastal Community Church has seen people come to know Christ and join the church. The ministry is not just about food but about relationships.
The Schaefers shared two examples of individuals whose lives have been touched:
First, there is Linda, whose husband, Jim, has many medical problems and is constantly in and out of the hospital. Linda took in her sister, Irma, who is undergoing treatment for cancer and has seven children. Linda is the only one working and is trying to keep her head above water every month so she can keep her family going. The Coastal Community Food Ministry has provided food for her monthly and has opened a door for a greater ministry in her life.
Then there are folks in their 70s and 80s, like Sybil. We feed them on the Friday night so they do not have to come in on Saturday and wait all morning. They are alone, older, infirm, and struggling physically as well as financially. They tell us they depend on us to supplement their food so they can afford to pay for their medicines.
The Schaefers know that, of the hundreds who come each month, there may be some who don’t truly need the food, but that is not for the church to judge. Their intention is to feed them physically so they can feed them spiritually and lead them to Christ. These volunteers are the hands and feet of Jesus to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, HCSB).
by David Bounds
Resource: website: gocoastal.org
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