GONZALES - Baptist churches across South Central Texas joined together this holiday season to prepare 128,000 meals to feed needy children in Haiti. The area-wide packing event began as an idea more than a year ago through the Gonzales and Gambrell Baptist Associations' annual meeting.
Several churches had prior involvement in clean up efforts and disaster recovery trips to the impoverished nation, still rebuilding from the earthquake that devastated the country three years ago. Associational leaders agreed to have special offerings in their churches throughout 2013 with the intention of coming together in November to prepare meals to feed Haitian children. A total of $34,000 was raised to fund the project including buying the supplies needed to assemble and ship meal packets.
From Nov. 14-17, more than 200 volunteers from 18 of the area churches gathered together to prepare the meals at two locations - First Baptist Church Stockdale and Flatonia Baptist Church.
"I have never experienced the dynamics of what happened in Stockdale and Flatonia, when churches from each association came together for a common cause," said Tommy Wilson, director of missions for South Central Texas Baptist area.
With churches across the associations working together for the event, the amount of money raised, number of volunteers that participated, and overall success far exceeded Wilson's expectations.
"What happened at both churches during those few days could only be described as a 'well-oiled machine' with everybody working together, everybody helping each other, everybody focused on a common goal. What a beautiful picture of what the church ought to be," he said.
Through partnership with Lifeline Christian Mission's ABC food event, the nutritious food bags prepared by volunteers contained rice, dehydrated soy flour, dried vegetables, and 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Volunteers packaged, weighed, sealed, and boxed the finished product to prepare for shipment to Haiti. The food packets will then be distributed by We Care Haiti, an organization that Texas Baptists have partnered with for several years through disaster recovery efforts.
Ernie and Sharon Rice, members of FBC Stockdale, are serving as missionaries with We Care Haiti, which provided a direct connection to the project in the area. Ernie Rice became connected with the ministry through Texas Baptist Men projects in Haiti. Each time they would return to Stockdale, they shared about the great needs, particularly for children.
"We have heard stories from Ernie and Sharon about the malnutrition among children and we wanted to do something," said JoDea Lambeck, ministry assistant for FBC Stockdale. "It was such an easy way to help. For $75 you can feed a child in Haiti for a year. To see all the people who came together from the Association, doing it all for the Lord, it was just wonderful."
The yearlong project allowed church members of all ages to participate in raising funds, according to Tim Rowell, pastor of Flatonia Baptist Church. From children collecting money during VBS to Sunday School classes taking offerings, members across multiple congregations took part in the project. Then, ultimately coming together during the holiday season to assemble the packets helped provide a good perspective to all those involved.
"In the world we live in today, so much of our focus is on what we are going to get at Christmas - we find ourselves becoming very 'me-centered,'" said Rowell. "This was an opportunity to give back. The theme through this project has been 'God has blessed us, so we can bless others.' It really was a joy to do it."
To learn more about how your church or association could participate in a food packing event, contact Marla Bearden, Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery specialist, at 214-828-5382.