// SUBMITTED BY TOM AND LINDA MATHRE
In 2008, the economy in our area was struggling greatly. Many in our own church and surrounding communities were finding themselves without a job. As a church we needed to find a way to help. As James 2:15-16 states, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” As a Bible believing church, we needed to open our doors to be a place of refuge at this time.
We are a church in the middle of cornfields in northern Illinois. We originally thought to empty some dishes out of the church kitchen cabinets and have some staple foods on hand to help people. We quickly found out that the need was bigger than we thought. So, with more research, we applied for a license with Northern IL Food Bank so we would be able to purchase food at much less cost–one dollar spent at a food bank is equal to six dollars at a grocery store. (If you consider a similar project for your community, align yourself with a food bank in your area.)
The pantry began to grow quite quickly. We set up a seven-member board within our church family—each person having a real heart for this ministry. A few on our board were even able to pray and minister to the families in their time of struggle and much good ministry happened through this time of trial. People really opened up as we were able to help with physical and spiritual needs. By 2010, we had grown to helping 187 families a month. We used 50 volunteers, including youth and 4-H groups, for a twice-a-month pantry ministry and approximately 200 man-hours a month were invested.
Throughout this endeavor, the question of “How does all this food get paid for?” has been raise. The answer: God provides. We have been blessed with a great community of people who support this ministry and donations come from church families, area schools, organizations, and other churches in the area. We also host fundraiser dinners at our church, which are well attended and supported. Our last dinner brought out 560 people and we raised over $10,000. We also apply for government grants that are available for food pantries.
In our present days, the economy is better but there is still a need. Another area church is providing a satellite location to meet the needs of families in another town in our county. The COVID climate has caused some changes to our distribution–we now provide a drive-thru for the food and it is harder to have direct prayer time and ministry with families and individuals, but God still ministers.
From the small idea of some food in the cabinet, to what God has actually accomplished through our congregation, pursuing a food pantry has been a great outreach and ministry to our community.