Small North Carolina Church Makes Big Difference amid COVID-19
By Mike Claypool
As the pandemic began, Pastor J. R. Atkinson felt impressed by the Lord to “feed the people.” The pastor of First Church of God in Marshville, North Carolina, was planning to preach, teach, and spiritually feed those in need in her community. But the Lord had something else in mind. It wasn’t just spiritual food that was needed. People were hungry physically. But, meeting that need has also led to providing spiritual food.
Pastor Atkinson has done a remarkable job helping her congregation of about thirty people to make an impact significantly larger than their size. When schools in North Carolina closed due to the pandemic in early March, the school district was struggling to get meals to the children of their community.
Pastor Atkinson contacted the school system to see how her church could help. The schools had food but no way to distribute them to the children. Pastor Atkinson and her husband Deacon Atkinson began organizing partnerships, recruiting volunteers, and collecting donations.
This small church in a small town of North Carolina began delivering meals to needy children. They would drive to the school and pick up the food and take it to the church. Volunteers, wearing masks and gloves from their church and neighborhood churches, would divide the food and pack it to be delivered to individual homes in order to provide lunch for the financially challenged families. They also collected donations, so in addition to the school lunch, a bag of groceries, filled with nutritious foods for dinner each day, was delivered at the same time. Corporate donations from Walmart, Food Lion, and Dollar General were added to the donations from individuals and other churches.
The pastor and her volunteers knocked on doors in these neighborhoods to find other families who needed help. Each day about twelve volunteers from the Church of God in Marshville, along with volunteers from local Baptist and Methodist churches, packed and delivered the food. From March 9 to May 20, over 7,165 lunches and 756 bags of groceries have been delivered. Over 150 children were not able to pick up their school packets for learning while schools were closed. Those were also delivered by the church.
Feeding hungry bodies and souls has opened up numerous doors of ministry beyond feeding the hungry. Some people have been asking for prayer and others have made their way to the outdoor church service held each Sunday. So far two people have accepted Christ through these efforts. About 60 percent of the apartment residents are of Hispanic background, so the church is working to launch a Hispanic ministry in the near future.
There are times small churches may feel they can’t do much. In reality, they can make a huge difference!
Mike Claypool is the regional coordinator for Carolina Ministries of the Church of God.
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.