Just as God multiplied loaves and fish to feed 5,000, He multiplied tractor trailers full of food to feed 1,500.
In early December, Rev. Jimmy Towson, Forest Hills United Methodist Church’s pastor, shared with his congregation his vision for the church’s annual Christmas project: to raise money to give away enough food to fill one tractor trailer. Church members responded and were generous in their giving, donating $24,000 in just two weeks.
In total, more than $28,000 was donated for the church’s “Fill It Up, Give It Away” event, and on Saturday, January 9, volunteers gathered at three Macon churches to give away almost 12 tons of food – enough to fill not just one, but three tractor trailers. 1,500 boxes of food, each containing about a week’s worth of groceries, were given away.
“The idea is to love people and to let them know that they’re loved and that they matter,” Rev. Towson said. “The main thing is that they know someone cares. We can wait on the government to fix these problems and it just isn’t going to get done. God’s equipped the churches to fulfill His love to others by helping them in their need, and I just pray that, through this, the people who are hungry will know that somebody – other than the government – cares.”
In order to reach more people, Forest Hills UMC collaborated with two other Macon churches – New Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in east Macon and Unionville Baptist Church in south Macon.
“It’s a great opportunity to mingle and worship together,” said Forest Hills UMC member Chris Cole. Cole, who helped plan and organize the event, said that more than 100 Forest Hills UMC volunteers helped make the day run smoothly.
“I think it’s important … that church members be involved in local mission work and acts of service,” he said. “We can give hungry people a box of food that will last them a week or so, but then they’ll be hungry again. But if we can teach church members and students that acts of service are important and fulfilling, we can develop a lifetime of that type of action and have something that keeps going.”
The event wasn’t just about giving away food. Each of the three locations had, for free, on-site haircuts, medical screenings, clothing, a hot dog lunch, children’s activities and prayer.
A church member who is also a hairstylist set up a makeshift salon in the church’s bride’s room. For Forest Hills UMC’s children’s director Kelly Johnson, seeing people get their hair cut was a moving experience.
“You could tell it was a luxury to them,” she said. “You could tell that they were grateful to get the food and clothing, but that (getting their hair cut) was probably one thing that made those ladies feel good again.”
The entire event was an impactful experience for Johnson.
“It was just a really cool thing to see,” she said. “I’m still kind of speechless when I think about it.”
When asked how church members were able to give so generously, Forest Hills UMC associate pastor Rev. Teresa Edwards said that they recognize the gift they have been given and were moved to respond.
“I believe that, more and more, the people of Forest Hills really get that the story of Christmas is such an incredible gift that we just have to share it with others,” she said. “The gift of Jesus has changed our lives so much that we really want to give it away - not just food, but most of all the love of Christ.”
The church’s generosity was also shown last Christmas when they raised $24,000, enough money to dig two water wells in Africa.
Rev. Towson said that church members are sensitive to the needs of those around them and that their generosity shows that God is a God of abundance, not a God of scarcity.
“I believe that this is a church that believes in doing,” he said. “The scripture that keeps coming to my mind is, ‘If someone has enough money to live well, and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion, how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.’
“I believe that Forest Hills is living into the vision that God calls us to make a difference in the world and in our community, and I think that’s why they respond. It really blew me away.”
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor
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