The community around Gethsemane, N.C., Church and its members found themselves in unchartered territory as the states issued stay-at-home orders and businesses closed their doors in March 2020. During the challenging times, the call was heard and the members felt inspired to help the community as well as the church members in the course of the pandemic. The church and community are in an area where the spread of the virus is one of the highest in the state of North Carolina. People were out of work, not knowing where their next meal will come from, and were trying to do all they could to stay safe. Gethsemane held its first “Pop-Your-Trunk” Meal Distribution on April 25, 2020, in partnership with the Wake County Government, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the Hindu Society, and Jersey Mike’s. Ten volunteers served approximately 60 families with four per household.
Gethsemane has continued to serve the community every second and fourth Sabbath, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Outreach numbers have more than doubled since the initial food distribution. The van ministry delivers meals to homebound members, senior citizens, and individuals living in transitional housing.
Gethsemane volunteers follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations and state guidelines by conducting temperature checks upon arrival, and wearing face masks/covers and gloves. However, the members’ recipe for success is to start with prayer. The distribution begins at 12:30 p.m., but the actual work begins much earlier. Volunteers arrive on site at 10:30 a.m., to receive assignments and begin unloading donated food and supplies. Cones are placed throughout the parking lot to set up the multi-lane delivery system. Tents are erected and tarps are laid to store donated items. Other volunteers work to bag produce and any other bulk items received. Set-up takes the team an hour and a half or more, and usually volunteers get a breather before it is time to serve the long line of cars. Volunteers stay motivated, greet neighbors with a smile, and say, “Thank you for coming and next time bring a friend.” Some recipients of the meals have turned into volunteers.
The music ministry sets a harmonic atmosphere with the sounds of gospel music for all to hear. Returning community members and passersby see the road signs and begin to form a line as early as 11 a.m. Participants are offered information regarding voter’s registration, the Census, COVID-19 education, and other community resources. In addition, the Gethsemane members proudly support and partner with local Black-owned businesses for the community outreach event.
There is a statewide mandate requiring people to wear face coverings in public areas. The volunteers give out 3-ply face masks with the meals. Thanks to WakeMed Health and Hospitals, they have been able to give out more than 2,100 masks.
Larry Johnson, pastor, and the volunteers of Gethsemane Church are delighted to provide healthy food options consisting of fresh produce, canned and baked goods, frozen food items, hot meals, personal protective equipment, and, most importantly, evangelistic literature.
Rain or shine, whether 10 or 25 volunteers, they create an environment of love, unity, and fellowship while serving their neighbors and making a difference.
Gulf States | March 2021