A new ministry has been started by members of First Baptist Church, 408 College St., Clinton.After one member discovered that there are many people in the community that are in need of nourishment, the church voted to start a soup kitchen ministry. For the past several ,the church has been opening its fellowship hall doors from 5 to 7 p.m. for the Soup Kitchen.
A self-proclaimed “cheerleader” for the ministry, First Baptist pastor the Rev. Dr. Ron Cava explained that Vonnie Marshburn was helping in the church office, and during her time in that position, she discovered that there was a dire need to feed the hungry in the community.
“God laid it on her heart that there was a great need to do something about these hungry people so she approached me,” explained Cava. From this seed planted by Marshburn, the matter went before the church’s ministry council and deacons. Eventually the church voted to provide this ministry to the citizens of the area.
Marshburn shared that the first week of the Soup Kitchen only seven people showed up. The ladies prayed that the number would double for the next week , 13 showed up. The next week around 20 individuals were served by the soup kitchen ministry.
Cava shared that Tammy Weeks, the wife of Piney Grove Baptist Church’s minister, stopped by after the second week of the soup kitchen when she saw the soup kitchen sign outside the church, and told him she had been praying for three years that First Baptist would do this ministry. “Evidently God has been planning this a lot longer than we have,” expressed the pastor.
“I don’t have anything to do with this ministry other than stand by and be a cheerleader. These ladies have taken the opportunity to serve and they ran with it. It has been amazing to see the outpouring of love shone by our members and others who have volunteered their time, money and supplies for the soup kitchen,” asserted Cava.
The pastor explained that First Baptist at 408 College St. and First Baptist at 900 College St. have been working together for many years in supporting the Food Bank provided by the 900 College St. church. “Their food bank program is very successful but we felt that the need was there that we could provide the soup kitchen as another way to share God’s love and help those in need. We also assist the Methodist with their Back Pack Buddies program, but this is something we felt needed to be done in addition to all the other ministries. We want people to know what is available to them,” stressed Cava.
The Soup Kitchen is designed for anyone in need of a warm meal. Initially the church was planning on serving meals during the cold winter months, bu,t according to Cava, since there really wasn’t any winter here this year, the members decided to open the ministry anyway. Now they are assessing how long it will run into the summer months.
“We want anyone who needs to come to do so. We do not judge anyone nor do we bombard them with religious materials. The volunteers do sit down and talk with them, but that is just to help them feel comfortable and more at ease. Of course, we want them to know we are concerned for them, and if we can assist in a spiritual way, we let them know we are a available. We just don’t want anyone to feel that they have to quote scripture or sing a song or even attend a worship service in order to eat. That is not what we are attempting to accomplish. We are trying to meet their needs in any way we can but particularly by providing them a least one meal per week,” said the pastor.
Cava also shared that too often people got the impression that those at First Baptist are an unapproachable group. “We want to deflate that misconception. We are here to minister to all of God’s people. We feel very strongly that it is our place to do missions and there is no better place to begin than here at home,” asserted the minister.
A number of church members have volunteered their services to help with the Soup Kitchen. Some of the names provided by Marshburn included Carolyn Chestnutt, Sandra Stafford, Joanna Dunlap, Jerry Merritt, Jeffery Merritt, Katie Deans, Delores Bailey, Linda Warren, Jerry Hatch and Cristie Quakenbush. Marshburn shared that others have also helped.
“This ministry has truly ,and we all hope it will continue to provide for the needs of the people in our community. God has blessed us with so much. It is our responsibility to give back to him through serving others around us,” expressed Marshburn.
“We are not afraid to see this ministry grow. We do not have any idea how big it may get but the inspiration for this ministry came from God and he will see us through whatever arises,” stressed the pastor.
And Cava sees the potential for growth.
“Eventually I would like to see us provide a community garden. We have the land for the garden. I feel that there are many that would like to take a small portion of ground and grow their own food. Then any surplus could be used to feed those that were without. But we will have to wait to see what develops in that area,” stated Cava.
The Soup Kitchen is currently serving each Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., in First Baptist Church fellowship hall, 408 College St.
For more information or to offer support to the ministry call 910-592-8124.