Submitted by Samia Abdulmasih
We thank God every day for the opportunity we have to serve our neighbor through the Food Pantry ministry at Hope.
As we continued to explore ways to reach out to the surrounding communities of our Lake Weir campus, the need for what we often take for granted, food and basic necessities, was evident in our area. Over eighty percent of the students attending our nearby Lake Weir Middle School receive free or reduced lunches which speaks to the need in the Lake Weir area. Upon visiting community members and knocking on doors, it was evident that there was a need for a food pantry to serve the surrounding areas. But our passion was to do more than just provide food. We had the desire to share the gospel of our Lord Jesus by attending to the spiritual needs of anyone and everyone who walks through our doors as well. So, we launched our food pantry not in a traditional context but as a ministry that listens, cares, comforts, and shares the hope we have in Christ, as well as do what we can to offer food and other basic necessities to those who ask for it and need it.
It has been a little over nine months since we had launched this ministry. Today the number of families we serve has increased to over 160 households and 450 household members. Every week we receive new families who sign up with our food pantry. People continue to come back because they know they are treated with the human dignity they deserve. They are loved, cared for, and listened to from the moment they walk through our doors. A team of 20 volunteers from our church work diligently to ensure that our neighbor is loved and served. The commitment, dedication and compassion of our church volunteers are just amazing! Some of our food pantry clients have felt so welcomed that they have joined the church and attend on regular basis. One of our pantry clients asked to be baptized for the very first time in her life and became a member of the family of Christ.
Every week we hear so many stories of how God continues to touch the lives of those who visit the food pantry through the grace of our Lord Jesus. When a mother came in with her little girl, I gave the little girl a chocolate bar just to get a smile on her face. Suddenly I noticed how the girl began to break the chocolate bar into pieces before even eating any and placed them on the table. When I asked what is it that she was doing, she told me how she was trying to make it last for the whole week since they did not have enough food at home. We made sure to take care of her mom and send her with what she needed. They continue to come to the food pantry and feel loved and welcomed.
Another family told us about their teenage boy who sat home and would not go to school because he was embarrassed for not having a decent pair of pants to put on. The Food Pantry volunteers made sure to assist the mother with her needs and she came back the week after to thank us that now her kid is going to school because of a simple act of kindness.
The stories that we hear every day break our hearts for the need is great, but the joy of knowing that we can share the blessings with our neighbors lifts our spirit and fills it with the love of Christ.
We give thanks to our Lord Jesus for His love for us on the Cross and for calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves.