The pastor had a challenge for his church. Ken Blundell met with the Clarksville Seventh-day Adventist Church board to discuss what they could do for their community in Western Arkansas. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Arkansas is the second highest state for “food insecurity” for children, seniors and people in general. Blundell proposed starting a church food pantry, providing both physical and spiritual food. Blundell is positive that when Jesus said to feed His lambs and feed His sheep, He also promised to help us do just that.
The Clarksville church started the food pantry in the church fellowship hall with just one freezer and a set of shelves. Hearing an ad on the radio about a nearby restaurant that had a walk-in cooler for salvage, Blundell headed over. He not only got the cooler, but helped with the demolition and received $750 for his help. It was the seed money the church needed to get started.
The Clarksville church joined the River Valley Food Bank in Fort Smith, Arkansas, checked out the Wal-Mart distribution center for their end-of-day products and opened for business. The food pantry is open on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon, and then again that evening, serving over 400 people each week. The church has joined with Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and also helps with a backpack program at a local public school.
Troy Webb wanted to be involved in helping the community, so he and his wife, Deborah, decided to volunteer at the Clarksville food pantry. They became acquainted with the church members, started attending weekly prayer meetings and eventually joined the Clarksville church. Both Troy and Deborah are now very involved members and rejoicing in the truth and helping to lead out in the food pantry.
Clarksville, however, is not the only church in Blundell’s pastoral district. About a year and a half ago the pastor challenged the Boonville Seventh-day Adventist Church to get involved in their own community.
Anton Lacky, a 92-year-old veteran and member of the Boonville church, was instrumental in the church beginning “Veterans Tuesday.” Each week the church dedicates a day for veterans to come get food supplies. Although the Boonville church doesn’t have a fellowship hall, they have been serving people from the two small pantries in their church foyer which hold chest freezers and shelves. People take a number and wait to be called from the sanctuary where inspirational videos play while required paperwork is processed.
The church food pantry is available to the whole community on Thursdays, and they serve a free meal before their prayer meeting each week. The Boonville church’s interest in serving their community has led them to begin a major project. With the help of a loan from the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference, they are building a 30 by 50 feet enclosed food pantry and center that they look forward to completing soon.
During one of Lacky’s visits to the Veteran Affairs administration offices, he met with VA representative Dellmar Cole in his office. Lacky mentioned that the Boonville church was helping veterans through their “Veterans Tuesday” food pantry initiative. Cole was interested and came to the church to see if he could help. He helped in many ways, learning more about the church and its members as he worked. Cole joined the Boonville church and now serves as a church leader. “I’m so excited about serving the Lord,” Cole says. “You’re a vessel—keep yourself empty so He can fill you again. You never know where He will send you next.”
By Sylvia Downs. Downs is the administrative assistant of the communication, youth and Adventist Community Services departments of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. She lives in Jefferson, Texas.