At the beginning of 2020, America enjoyed one of the most robust economic environments in the last century. Unemployment was at all-time lows. The Stock Market was at an all-time high. And then we were hit with the earthquake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to USA Today, more than 33 million people have applied for benefits in seven weeks, mostly as a result of the Coronavirus. The month of March was an all-time high for people seeking unemployment, with 6.86 million applications. The number who sought assistance through March and April exceeds all the jobs created since the Great Recession.
Yet in the midst of this economic shockwave, different parts of the Body of Christ are joining together to help take care of those whose lives have been affected by this pandemic.
For more than a decade, Inspiration Ministries has supported the humanitarian outreach of Convoy of Hope, a hunger-relief ministry based in Springfield, Missouri. As an employee of Inspiration Ministries, I was informed by our leadership that they were looking to help increase local outreach to hurting people through this partnership. I knew that Pastor Marvin Tennant and his daughter, Co-Pastor Melissa Tisdale, of Christian Assembly Worship Center in Lancaster, South Carolina, had a vision to reach the poor and underserved community. I was able to connect these ministries and within a short time, Convoy of Hope delivered its first trailer full of food and healthcare products.
The Director of Convoy’s Southeast Program Center, Eric Gordon, packed the trailer with enough food to give a meal, treats, and household products to 80 families. I was blessed and honored to be there to help unload and distribute these items with other volunteers from Christian Assembly.
“Even before the pandemic there were families already struggling paycheck to paycheck to pay the bills,” says Gordon. “So there’s a need for food. At Convoy of Hope, we have a driving passion to work with local churches to feed the world and bring an end to the cycles of poverty. We saw this as an opportunity to partner with Pastor Marvin and Christian Assembly, a worship center who loves their community and are already out leading people to the Lord. It’s our job to come in with resources to give them the tools they need to go spread the Gospel.”
With a facility situated on a busy state highway, Christian Assembly is perfectly situated to be a distribution partner with Convoy of Hope. So only one week after the first delivery, Eric called Pastor Marvin to see if he wanted a delivery of fresh pineapples. Pastor Marvin called on his volunteers, set out workers of the road with a sign saying “FREE PINEAPPLES,” and put out a call to local community groups to come and get them. Within minutes a long line developed of people pulling into the church parking lot to receive their pineapples and prayer.
“When we first bought this building, I had a vision to have drive-through prayer,” Pastor Marvin remembers. “That’s how the outreach started. More than 5,000 people have come to Christ through these community outreaches because we’ve reached into the neighborhoods.”
“We’ve always felt that it was important to reach the community,” says Co-Pastor Melissa Tisdale. “We’re not a church that is just inside our four walls. We’ve always wanted to be inside the community through different things like back-to-school outreaches, or clothing drives. We’ve tried to partner with other local ministries and organizations to help out. So this partnership with Convoy of Hope is exciting because it gives us more resources to reach more people than what we previously were able to do. A lot of stuff that we’ve done has been in house, you know, like a back-to-school book drive, or a diaper drive, or a coat drive. Working with Convoy of Hope gives us new resources to reach more people. So we’re really excited.”
Convoy of Hope is also excited to build one more relationship to help eradicate hunger – especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Convoy of Hope launched an initiative to serve “10 Million Meals” across America – a goal they quickly surpassed. They are now working on feeding their next 10 million.
“Our goal is to lift up the name of Jesus, but also to elevate the local church,” says Convoy of Hope founder and president, Hal Donaldson. “We are doing that in 43 states across the US, and in more than 20 countries around the world.”
“Thanks to the generosity of corporations, individuals, and churches, many families are receiving much-needed help,” Donaldson said. “This is a united act of compassion. We’re seeing so many groups link arms to help people get through this crisis.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Convoy of Hope has received more than 1,000 emergency requests from churches and ministries in 44 states. They have delivered food and supplies to more than 400 communities across America. “Our goal has been to partner with local churches to reach high-need, underserved communities in this nation,” Eric Gordon explains.
With the same vision, Christian Assembly has built a partnership with a Hispanic sister church in the Lancaster area, Iglesia Centro Cristiano. “We are affiliated with the adult education doing ESL class,” explains Christian Assembly minister, Silberio Francis. “We also do immigration documentation for individuals that cannot do it for themselves. If you look around here, there is a special love for the Spanish community. We do a lot of counseling. We help with the court. When they need an interpreter, they call upon us.”
So when Convoy of Hope delivered food to Christian Assembly, part of that went to the people of their sister church, Iglesia Centro Cristiano.
“We’re going to focus the rest of this year on bringing resources in to Lancaster,” Eric Gordon explains, “then we will look at the spring of next year for doing a major community-wide event where we can provide food, meet needs, and pray for folks throughout the community at one time.”
“When you feed somebody physically, they are more receptive to the Gospel,” says Gordon. “In this pandemic, that’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing the Church become the Church!”
Read my interview with Convoy of Hope president, Hal Donaldson: Feeding 10 Million Americans During the Coronavirus Crisis
Learn more at ConvoyofHope.org
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Dr. Craig von Buseck is Editor of Inspiration.org.
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