Our partners at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow (“FBCBA”) are guided by a mission “to reach Broken Arrow and beyond by multiplying disciples to follow Jesus.” By faithfully living out this mission for many years, FBCBA has developed Hunger Ministry that was not initially planned and that many did not even realize was needed.
How that Hunger Ministry was born and has grown over time makes for a powerful story. The Hunger Ministry is an excellent example of how God works to serve and care for those in need when His people faithfully and consistently step into those real needs right in front of them.
FBCBA’s commitment to serving the Broken Arrow community has always included intentionally building solid relationships within the community, especially in the local school system. Many local teachers attend the church, so FBCBA was aware of the needs in the local schools.
As one of its first school efforts 15 years ago, FBCBA started a Kids for Christ program. In this program, an FBCBA Children’s Pastor would dedicate a morning a week to a local elementary school, Oak Crest, to get to know kids, read them a Bible story, and play games. Through this involvement, FBCBA became aware of the growing problem of hunger and “food insecurity” throughout their community and surrounding public schools.
One FBCBA pastor shared that they were brokenhearted to learn that at least 400 of the 20,000 students in Broken Arrow classify as “detached” or “homeless.” School counselors explained that these children are either homeless, living in hotels, or “couch-surfing .” Many have one, or both parents incarcerated. To make matters worse, many of these kids are not promised meals outside regular school hours. Shocked by this situation in their community, pastors and volunteers began to narrow their focus and make efforts to feed these children physically and spiritually.
FBCBA continued visiting Oak Crest Elementary weekly to ensure that these students had food to eat over the weekend. While government food programs helped during school days, the children had no guarantee that they would have anything to eat over the weekend. So FBCB started its “backpack ministry.”
For years, volunteers have blessed and fed 60-80 Oak Crest kids per week, “one backpack at a time.” Ministry volunteers come together each week, filling backpacks with non-perishable food items and then hand delivering them to the school. The kids take the backpacks home over the weekend, and the staff knows that the children will have something to eat for those days. This backpack ministry enables FBCBA to meet a child’s real physical needs while creating the relational trust often necessary to speak to deeper spiritual needs.
As years have passed, FBCBA has seen the impact of its efforts at Oak Creek. Knowing that at least 30 other campuses in their city have similar needs, they have longed to have a more significant impact in solving the hunger problem. So, they prayed and asked God for more opportunities to serve.
“Can we please have more? Can we please do more? Will you please use us more?”
This past summer, God answered in a big way.
The Broken Arrow school system contacted FBCBA and let them know that the entity handling the district’s food program through a local food bank was no longer able to continue. They asked FBCBA to consider expanding its reach and stepping up to solve this problem. That is when the Hunger Ministry ramped up. After this phone call, FBCBA’s Hunger Ministry expanded from one elementary school to 25 additional campuses!
This past September, while continuing to serve the 80 kids at Oak Crest, FBCBA took on responsibility for feeding 350-plus more kids with food every week for the 33 weeks of the school year. This commitment set many things in motion at once.
The Hunger Ministry volunteer staff expanded quickly. Weekly filling up the backpacks with food, lining up the bags, and delivering these blessings to 350-plus children requires many volunteers. This ministry provided a meaningful opportunity for many FBCBA members hungry to serve their community tangibly as the church pursued its larger mission of making disciples in Broken Arrow and beyond.
The mindset of the church is to provide for basic needs in a “no-strings-attached” way. This selfless approach helps ensure that those in the community who feel lost or are searching will know to whom to turn. It also helps them feel that God and some local neighbors care deeply for them. FBCBA desires to minister to school administrators, teachers, and students alike and sees that this food ministry is feeding children and building important relational bridges.
(Eight weeks into this expanded endeavor, we followed up with FBCBA. We are encouraged by the results!)
FBCBA members responded enthusiastically to the challenge, and all the volunteers stepped up to provide food for the children. With 25 schools added to their list, FBCBA built ministry teams aggressively. People showed up to help quicker than expected. The volunteers (some of whom are new to this ministry while others are seasoned) have been shocked to find out this much hunger and “food insecurity” existed in their community.
On average, Broken Arrow was able to distribute 71 boxes weekly, which included 568 meals to those 568 kids in need. The community has filled an essential gap through the combined efforts of the hunger ministry, the school system, the local Food Bank, and other organizations. They feed some of the most vulnerable children who sometimes move from hotel to hotel, house to house, or couch to couch.
Over time, by simply committing to meet the needs set before them, FBCBA has begun to see other encouraging by-products of the Hunger Ministry efforts. Volunteers and school staff are building solid relationships as they recognize each other and interact with “their person” weekly. Despite the minor challenges that invariably accompany such a new and large undertaking, FBCBA is showing up and loving others well.
FBCBA inspires us as we witness how the church loves, supports, and cares for others daily! We admire how FBCBA has served its community intentionally and faithfully for many years. Studying how they have expanded their influence as God has provided opportunities furnishes a powerful example of how to build deep relationships, cultivate ways to share the Gospel, and meet the needs of neighbors who are right in front of us.
FBCBA demonstrates that any church can make an enormous impact in its community and the larger world by choosing to be faithful and consistent in meeting those simple needs right in front of them. May many be encouraged to follow their example!