About thirty miles from the border between IN and KY are two rural congregations, Zoar UMC and Holland UMC, which regularly collaborate to serve their community.
For years, the two churches participated in an ecumenical Thanksgiving worship service. Pastor Keith Chanley, who is in his 8th year in this two-point charge, shared that about five years ago the leadership team felt led to move from a worship service to table service, offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The Holland and Zoar congregations work with other local churches, rotating who covers the turkey and sides. Guests hear about the meal primarily through word of mouth and community flyers. Each year the meal serves over 100 people who otherwise may not be able to afford a Thanksgiving dinner.
Feeding the hungry continued as the two churches joined in the county-wide community efforts to address hunger concerns early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Family Matters and Purdue Extension, the churches joined alongside others like Prairie Farms Dairy to distribute food to families in need. In a drive-through, families received a produce box and a dairy box. Over 600 boxes of food were donated to families in need.
Being part of these community-wide efforts grows out of a long-standing commitment to missions, both locally and overseas. Pastor Keith also points to the close-knit, small town feel where people are aware of the local needs. “We have people who are hurting here. How do we minister to them?”
This key question has led the congregations to creative service. In the neighboring downtown, the Zoar congregation passed out chocolate milk and donuts as a way to meet and connect with those in their community. Through these outreach efforts, a few families joined the church. The Holland congregation adopted a local low-income apartment complex and does a monthly grocery giveaway.
When asked about how the congregations are planning to continue to serve and love those in need, Pastor Keith shared that the churches, like many, are entering a season of discernment and prayer. “The time we live in is not the same as it was two years ago, so who do we want to be going forward?”
“We look at Jesus, how he met people, and how the church goes out from Antioch—it’s a consistent witness that calls us to encounter people where they are and not wait for them to come to us. Sometimes we think that in order for us to do meaningful outreach, it has to be some big elaborate plan. And it doesn’t have to be. You can begin to make a difference in people’s lives with something on a smaller scale,” he said.
These words from Jesus in Matthew 25:35-26, 40 remind us that it is the faithfulness, not the flashiness that counts. “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, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”