Churches mobilize to meet needs in COVID-19 crisis

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NASHVILLE (BP) — The needs of communities around the U.S. have been growing in midst of the COVID-19 global crisis.

With many families unable to maintain proper childcare with schools shutting down, college students without a place to live and insecure communities without essential household items, churches are stepping in to bring practical aid.

City Church in Tallahassee is meeting financial needs by directing members to give to the local Second Harvest Food Bank, which is putting together meals, rather than try to start their own meal providing efforts.

–Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., has jumped in to help bring food to those who normally rely on school meals for their children.

–Immanuel Nashville, also in middle Tennessee, has been trying to help find housing for college students displaced by the canceling of in-person classes and campuses closing.

Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church, encouraged churches to join existing local efforts to aid their communities.

“Don’t feel like you have to create a new ministry or a new program. That could be overwhelming, and a lot of times out of our expertise,” he said.

“We’re big on not reinventing the wheel or trying to do our own thing when there’s already stuff happening with people who do this kind of thing regularly,” Inserra said. “You’re going to see us join existing ministries and see how we can help them.”

The church placed a link on its website for giving to the food bank and promoted it through social media, noting that gifts will “help them to continue making bulk purchases to package take-home meals for families in need.”

City Church has also been in a longstanding partnership with a local high school and has made themselves available to whatever needs may continue to arise in the coming weeks.

“We are ready to mobilize and help that school in any way we can.” Inserra said.

Rickey Baxley, administrative pastor at Green Hill Church, said they are partnering with the local food pantry and elementary schools.

“Many students receive two meals a day from their school and with schools being out, there was an immediate need to make sure food was available to those students within the community,” he said.

Baxley said Green Hill will offer prepared food boxes to families in need in the mornings at the church. Each box will provide three-to-four meals for a family of four. Then each evening the church will offer full meals ready to be picked up.

“They won’t even have to get out of their car,” Baxley explained. “Just pull up and let us know how many meals are needed, and our volunteers will bring them to their vehicle.”

The church’s community was hit hard just two weeks ago, when a tornado tore through Mt. Juliet, destroying homes and taking lives.

“We are grateful for the privilege of continuing to meet the needs of our community as this season keeps rolling and look forward to using this as a platform to meet the immediate needs and to share the Gospel,” Baxley said.

Barnabas Piper, director for community at Immanuel, said when the church heard of local universities’ decision to move all residential students off campus they acted immediately.

“We realized that many of the students most likely to be stranded were international students who could not easily return home because of visa issues, cost and COVID-19 related restrictions.”

Piper sent out a request to small groups and discipleship groups to see if anyone had rooms or apartments available and within a few hours heard from more than 20 individuals offering housing accommodations.

“We were also put in touch with a number of campus ministries who had banded together to care for students,” Piper said. “This allowed us to connect with a number of international students and find them housing through the end of the school year.”

As communities continue to be heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunities for churches to come alongside those in need will increase.

by Tess Schoonhoven, Baptist Press

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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