CALLAHAN– As the coronavirus spreads throughout the state, as businesses close, jobs are lost, and lives are impacted, Florida Baptist churches are looking for ways to share the gospel and minister to those affected by the pandemic.
First Baptist Church in Callahan in metro Jacksonville identified ways they could be the hands and feet of Christ to the least of these in its community during these turbulent times.
After learning that the Nassau County School District would not provide for free lunches for children at Title 1 schools during the March spring break week, the concerned church took steps to ensure these kids of low-income families won’t go hungry.
Led by Pastor Lynn Hyatt, the church partnered with a Jacksonville-based organization, Hunger Fight to provide easy-to-prepare, shelf-stable meals.
The 501(C)3 nonprofit agency was started by Sherri and Dean Porter, members of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, in 2012 to develop meals to meet the weekly needs of children that qualified for free school lunches and seniors on a need basis.
Through Hunger Fight, First Callahan was able to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for a family of four, packaged in vacuum sealed pouches. Directions in English and Spanish told the families how to prepare the meals in boiling water.
The Callahan church distributed the meals to about 325 families during spring break week. If the family could not pick up the food at the church, the church delivered it to their house.
The meals were well received with the flow of “lots of tears,” said Hyatt. Each family was prayed with, and a brief witness or gospel tract was shared.
“I’m burdened that the church is turning inward, focusing so much on surviving and ignoring a God-given opportunity for sharing the gospel in our communities,” said Hyatt.
Another group they found to help were employees of strip clubs. Church members took groceries and gas gift cards to Hadassah’s Hope for distribution.
Hadassah’s Hope, based in Jacksonville, is a gospel-centered outreach to women working in strip clubs in and around Jacksonville.
“Folks who received the groceries were overwhelmed saying ‘we can’t believe that people who have never met us would love us,’” said Hyatt. The gospel was also shared with the employees.
As a result of this outreach, Callahan First recently hired a one of the club’s bouncer as a part-time employee to help with a remodeling project at their church. “He’s going to be hearing a lot about Jesus!” promised Hyatt.
The Callahan congregation is also offering to make grocery and pharmacy runs for seniors or others who may need assistance. And a group of 10 women are sewing medical masks to be used at UF Health Hospital in Jacksonville.
Pastor Hyatt encouraged pastors to brainstorm with their staff and leaders about how they can help meet community needs and verbally share the gospel with others during the pandemic.
“This is an opportunity to be Jesus’ voice, hands, and feet in our communities.”