ASHLAND—”Don’t forget your hair net,” one volunteer calls out to another. With 29,000 meals being packed by the hour, it is important to make sure the small details still matter.
Over 421 people showed up to serve at Send Relief’s meal packing event held inside their newest Ministry Center located in Ashland, Kentucky on April 28. The goal was to pack 100,000 meals, but the last shift of volunteers stayed an extra 15 minutes to pack every meal the center had available—totaling 172,384 meals.
A single package feeds a family of six. And with a population of 21,000, the meals just packed will impact hundreds of Ashland families in need. Also going to Puerto Rico.
“By packing about 172 thousand meals in just six hours, we’ve now created food kits that churches can use to meet needs, build relationships and share the Gospel,” said David Melber, Send Relief president. “All who were involved not only had a great time, but they were inspired to be a part of something huge. This recent event where meals were packed is a prime example of how so much can be accomplished by many churches coming together.”
Meals of Hope, a charitable organization giving communities resources and opportunities to pack meals, provided the dried goods of pasta, soy and packaged tomato paste at Send Relief’s meal-packing event in Ashland at the Appalachian Ministry Center. Meals are enriched with vitamins someone who might be malnourished needs.
According to Melber, Ministry Centers are all about engaging the community and equipping the church. So why Appalachia?
“In Appalachia, the community has overwhelming needs in the area of poverty,” Melber said. “Providing meals is one simple step to address this need. Ministry centers help leverage partnerships and resources to meet these needs and ultimately see churches equipped to be on mission. The Appalachian Ministry Center will address other needs such as literacy and education, medical and dental care, job training, opioid addiction and others. In each area, our desire is to help equip the church to be the source of hope in any given community.”
Send Relief’s director of field operations, Tim Cotler, stood beside hundreds of people as they cheered for each meal packed and high-fived eachother amidst the buzz of a volunteer DJ’s beats.
“There was tremendous energy and excitement from all who attended the event—young and old alike,” said Cotler. “I had several people offer words of encouragement and thanks and, in many cases, ask when the next packing event was planned.”
Each volunteer worked in shifts as meal-packing means standing for long periods of time. Most volunteers told Cotler “the prayer time at the end was especially meaningful” as each shift circled up, held hands and joined in a prayer for those who would deliver the food, those who would receive the food and for all lives to be transformed by the Gospel.
“It was a wonderful day,” said Sabrina Riley, an Ashland native. “I can’t wait to see God work through this to bless our neighbors.”
Gospel conversations were also going on while the pasta was being poured into baggies and the meals were being packed, according to Appalachian Ministry Center director Rob Allen.
“There were some of the tables who had volunteers working that were non-believers,” Allen said. “So we were having those conversations. To see walls broken down is a big win.”
Allen said there will be more meal-packing events in the future. “I am looking forward to getting the folks involved in using this food as a tool to forge relationship that lead to close relationship resulting in opportunities to proclaim Jesus.”
Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published May 11, 2018