Alaska Church, Pantry Vital to Community as Crisis Empties Shelves
By Michelle Williams
“Every week we are wiped out. We leave wondering how we are going to feed people the next week”, says Pastor JR Stepp of Palmer Church of God in Palmer, Alaska. Pastor Stepp is speaking of the food pantry that the church oversees. The food bank is open once a week from noon until 4 PM. The empty shelves are courtesy of COVID-19.
According to the Pastor, the demand has increased exponentially. Before the virus, the food bank distributed 1600–2000 lbs. of food each week. On Wednesday, April 22, they hit record distribution numbers, with an all-time high of 7,080 lbs. of food distributed.
The unprecedented volume of people in need is staggering. But, as the demand for food increases, so does the outpouring of help. The food pantry is a part of the Alaska Food Coalition, and they have increased contributions during the pandemic. Also, local farmers and the school district have donated generously. “Each week the shelves are replenished, and we have something for the people,” Pastor Stepp exclaims, as he marvels at the way God is working through this ministry.
Connie Sager, director of the food pantry, is on the frontlines of the ministry. They have implemented safety measures to prevent the spread of germs and continue to serve with love. “Our regular clients were surprised that we were still open. It is so rewarding to see their faces light up and to hear the appreciation from the clients for what we are doing,” Sager says.
The staff at the Palmer food pantry believe that their service is not just about food. They see God working in the hearts of people. There is a prayer wall in the pantry where clients can submit requests. Yes, people rely on the pantry to provide food, but when they come, they receive encouragement. They receive a smile, a kind word, and prayer if desired.
God continues to provide exactly what we need, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. As the people of Palmer, Alaska, are discovering, God gives us our daily bread, even during a pandemic.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Rev. Michelle D. Williams is the former dean of students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a graduate of the Anderson University School of Theology and Christian Ministry. She is a writer, speaker, and blogger at www.inpursuitofshalom.com.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.
Feature (top) image by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash.