Extra Blessings Bridge Gap for Church’s Low-Income Neighbors
By Carl Stagner
Food banks and other food distribution ministries have captured much media attention since the dawn of the coronavirus crisis, and appropriately so. In the wake of historic job losses, knots in the supply chain, and empty shelves at the grocery store, the need for such ministries intensified rapidly. Long before the pandemic, however, a gap emerged between what many food banks offer, combined with what food stamps can buy, and the totality of what low- or no-income individuals and families need. A decade ago, First Church of God in Monroe, Michigan, saw the need to help bridge that gap with basic necessities, everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent. When COVID-19 complicated already tough circumstances, numerous neighbors in need knew they could count on First Church of God.
They come for dish soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, and other basic necessities. Especially when grocery stores were emptied of one particular commodity, they came for the toilet paper. But they also come for the warm greetings, the smiles, the love they experience, and the chance to share prayer requests and be prayed for. Normally they exchange a sheet of paper with volunteers who record prayer requests, registration information, and specific supplies needed. Orders are filled personally for any resident of the county—no proof of income is required. “That’s between you and God,” Pastor Kevin Spencer remarks. “We’re just here to serve.”
But with COVID-19 restrictions, the church had to determine the best way to proceed while limiting points of contact. By prepackaging a variety of items, First Church of God discovered they could continue their vital ministry without interruption. Partnership with area churches of other denominations, which have also come to recognize First Church’s efforts as essential to their communities, helps fuel the month-to-month operations. When Kevin Spencer came to the church five years ago, he immediately championed the church’s work, which First Church has aptly named “Extra Blessings.”
“Our motivation is to lead, love, and serve like Christ,” Kevin reflects. “This reflects our mission statement, which is to be a community of believers sharing the life and love of Jesus. When you walk into the church, you see it’s just a small country church with a gravel parking lot. But I’ve watched the gospel grow in the hearts of our people. Community is what we do!”
Pastor Kevin is grateful to God for the community he’s found in the family of faith. Before salvation and ministry preparation through the Anderson University School of Theology and Christian Ministry, his soul had been shackled to drugs and alcohol. Today he testifies to the freeing power of Jesus Christ, identifying with the down out and out, the addicted, the hurting, and any neighbor in need who might cross his path. Even as his management skills have refined the operation and saved on costs, Kevin remembers his testimony, leading by example, taking upon himself a posture of service in every interaction.
As of mid-April 2020, Extra Blessings had given away 235,821 basic necessities and served 21,000 families. On May 9, First Church of God celebrated its 120th distribution and ten years of bridging the gap in Jesus’ name.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
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.