Salem UMC, Pine Mountain
POCKET CHANGE MINISTRY: HOW ONE WOMAN’S VISION HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE IN HUNDREDS OF LIVES
Two years ago in March of 2013, God spoke to Regina Miller, one of our members at Salem UMC in Pine Mountain, about starting a food pantry ministry. When she shared the vision with me we began to pray and seek God’s will as to how this would all come about. We began to ask ourselves questions like: How could we fund it? Who could we get to help? How often will the food pantry be open? How would people know where to find us way out in the “sticks” so to speak? Would we even be able to make it happen, and if we do, what if no one comes? All of these questions were running through our minds a mile a minute.
But God had a plan already in place. We just needed to follow his lead, and that is exactly what we did. The first thing we discovered was that we could purchase staples, canned goods, frozen meats and many other things, from our local bank for just pennies on the dollar which meant that for under $5 we could feed a family for two-three days, and if the whole church chipped in and brought their loose change every Sunday, we could fund it.
We staged a big “horn of plenty” style display in the front of the church using laundry baskets filled with food purchased from the food bank. Everything you could imagine spilling out all over the table and all for less than $20. The folks in the congregation were amazed when they saw the display and delighted that so much could be done for so little. They could not wait to begin bringing their loose change. We thought and thought about what to call our food pantry ministry when Regina spoke up and said, “Why not call it pocket change ministry, since that’s how we will fund it?” Duh! The rest is pretty much, as they say, history. Flyers passed around to local area businesses, letters to area churches and DFACs, and word of mouth and within three months we were off and running.
Soon the local animal shelters called us and asked if we could use pet food. We said “sure.” And now they donate cat and dog food at no cost to us and we are able to help our families feed their animals. You should see how our customer’s eyes light up when we ask them if they need food for their cats and dogs. We are also blessed to have sister churches and neighbors who donate time and money to help support our ministry. And we never have to worry about having enough help; God always makes sure we do.
Our first month we fed one family, now here we are two years down the road and we are averaging 30-35 families each month totaling 85 people per month. Not bad for being open one Saturday a month! We estimate that in the last two years we have provided food for close to 2,000 people maybe more. In the beginning we were seeing mostly families with children, now we are seeing mostly senior adults who are caring for their grandchildren.
Jesus said in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NIV) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me.” John Wesley is credited for having told us to: Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can," and God willing, by his grace that is exactly what we intend to do.
Pastor Debbie Linnell, Salem UMC, Pine Mountain, GA
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All clergy and lay delegates to Annual Conference are encouraged to attend the LaGrange District Pre-Conference Briefing on Sunday, June 7 at 3:00pm at the Peachtree City UMC. At this meeting, delegates will receive their handbooks and some very important information will be shared regarding the conference.
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