By Gabriel Stovall

Megan, a Highpoint Church volunteer, prepares to push out a cart full of fruit, vegetables and other food items to one of the church’s mobile care centers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Highpoint Church in Chicago was already placing high priority on serving people in the Chicagoland area.

A multisite church with four of its five locations in the western suburbs of Chicago, Highpoint had established a solid reputation for using compassion ministry to pave the way toward gospel sharing, even before recently joining the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It’s just the overall philosophy of our church,” said Eric Stone, campus pastor of the church’s Wheaton location.

It’s that philosophy that prompted the ministry to join Southern Baptist life.

“It’s just the whole idea of gospel advancement,” Stone said. “How can we see more gospel impact, and what’s the vehicle God’s using to make it happen? That’s really the summary of how we came into the Southern Baptist Convention. We’re constantly asking the question: Where’s God moving, and how can we team up to advance the kingdom? We felt like connecting with everything that’s happening now, especially through Send Relief, was a good answer to that question.”

Send Relief delivered pallets of 13,000 meals to Highpoint, so the church could distribute them to residents in the communities it serves last week. For Stone and the rest of the church’s pastoral staff, the food donation was more than just a necessity for the community. It was encouragement for the church as well.

Several mobile care center units prepare to distribute some of the 13,000 meals Highpoint Church received from Send Relief.

“What’s interesting is we were already working through distributors buying groceries to deliver food to our residents through our four care centers,” Stone said. “Well, when this pandemic hit, our source says, ‘We can’t fulfill your orders anymore.’ This is hard when you’re looking at serving thousands of families a month. So, when Send Relief was able to step in and say, ‘We can help you. We’ve got pallets of food to give you,’ that provisional relief boosted our faith and made us realize that God’s hand is truly on what we’re doing.”

Because of the food donations, Highpoint bumped up its distribution from about 60 families per week to over 600 families in the last week alone.

“That’s like a 1,000 percent increase in what we had been doing,” he said. “While other solid not-for-profit organizations were having to shut down, we prayed that God would continue allowing us to continue serving, and we knew that if God’s hand was in it, the provisions would come.”

It’s just another way that Stone and the Highpoint Church family have seen its ministry increase, despite the inability to worship together corporately. Stone says he’s actually seen the church become more like what he believes Jesus intended it to be.

“It’s been over seven weeks since we’ve met together, but we haven’t stopped being the church,” he said. “In fact, we’re doing more church than ever now. We’re reaching our community more than ever. And for us, that’s encouraging. For us, having some partnership and having bigger organizations like Send Relief connected to us is giving us strength and support through it all.”

Although there is still uncertainty throughout the world, Stone is confident in one thing.

“Second Corinthians 4:15 is a theme for us,” he said. “That grace extends to more and more people so that it causes an increase in thanksgiving to the glory of God. God’s allowing us to extend that grace. We look around our area and see that 1-in-6 people are now dealing with unemployment. But we also know that every catastrophe is an opportunity for God’s glory to shine. So, we’re simply asking the question, how is God going to use this as an opportunity to shine through us each day?”

Gabriel Stovall is a writer for Send Relief.