CommonCall: Connecting with the community

Pastor Rob Johnson views the food-distribution program at Christian Family Baptist Church as a ministry to the community—both the clients and the volunteers. (Photo/Ken Camp)

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SAN ANTONIO—Pastor Rob Johnson sees the food-distribution program at Christian Family Baptist Church in San Antonio as a vital community ministry—not only to the 1,300 clients it serves, but also to the volunteers who make it possible.

Christian Family Baptist ChurchUSAF volunteer 350Military personnel from San Antonio-area installations volunteer at Christian Family Baptist Church’s food-distribution ministry. (Photos/Ken Camp) averages about 40 people in attendance each Sunday, but the multi-ethnic congregation’s food-distribution program involves about 120 volunteers each month, including many military personnel and others who are not church members. 

“We have about a 90 percent turnover in terms of our volunteers, and it’s quite a mixture of people,” Johnson said, noting many workers are personnel from nearby Lackland Air Force Base and other San Antonio-area military installations.

Opens doors to the community

Johnson and other workers from the church have the opportunity to interact both with the volunteers and with neighbors who receive groceries.

“It’s opening up doors for us, because we’re in constant contact with the community,” Johnson said.

He mentioned one man who started attending worship services and Bible study at the church, accompanied by his wife and daughter. Both husband and wife are in the military, and it marked the first time she attended church with him since they married.

“One young man I’ve been mentoring the last three months is getting ready to take classes at Baptist University of the Américas,” Johnson said.

Provides a place for meaningful service

The church’s involvement in the community also draws Christians who are eager to find a place where their service can make a difference.

David Young 400David Young, who worked more than 30 years in public safety before he retired on medical disability, oversees the volunteers who direct traffic on food-distribution days.David Young lives in the area of far-western San Antonio near Christian Family Baptist Church, but for years his membership was at a church about 20 miles away, on the city’s north side.

“I decided I needed to get more involved in the community here,” Young said. “I met Pastor Rob at a fund-raiser at a shooting range, and I told him I was ready to come serve.

“The name ‘Christian Family’ attracted me. It really is a good family atmosphere, with a real sense of community.”

Young, who worked more than 30 years in public safety before he retired on medical disability, oversees the volunteers who direct traffic on food-distribution days. On a typical distribution day, vehicles line the shoulder of the rural road that leads to the church property, and some clients arrive hours in advance.

Offer prayer for any who want it

Recipients of the food-distribution ministry are not required to attend a worship service or listen to an evangelistic presentation. But church members at the distribution site wear buttons that ask, “How can I pray for you?”

“When people come out to get food, they ask for prayer,” Johnson said. “We take down phone numbers and follow up with them.

“These are opportunities we look forward to. Christ-centered relationships are being built.”

Ministry to the whole person

Veronica Johnson, the pastor’s wife, appreciates the way the church ministers to the “whole person.”

Volunteers load food in cars 350Volunteers load food in cars during a food-distribution day at Christian Family Baptist Church in San Antonio.“It’s so good to be able to reach out to meet the needs of people in our community, both physically and spiritually,” she said. “It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. When you see how what we do is meeting the needs not just of individuals but of whole families, it’s a joy.”

The San Antonio Food Bank presented its Hunger Fighting Team of the Year award to Christian Family Baptist Church for its food-distribution ministry, which receives support from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering

Trusting God to provide

Rob Johnson expects the church to give away more than 400,000 pounds of food this year.

“We are committed to fighting hunger and malnutrition in this community,” he said.

With that goal in mind, the church eventually hopes to extend its food-distribution ministry beyond once a month.

“We are trusting God will provide the resources,” Johnson said.

Pearlie Johnson 350Most distribution days, Pearlie Johnson distributes water bottles to clients as they wait their turn for volunteers to load groceries into their vehicles.God already proved faithful, he added. The ministry developed after his mother, Pearlie Johnson, and one of her friends prayed about it for about six months.

“Our seniors started it all. They were 65 and older, and there was no covered pavilion out there then,” he said. “Those senior adults were picking up 40-pound turkeys and loading them.”

Since the church launched the food-distribution ministry, Pearlie said she has missed volunteering “maybe two times.” Most distribution days, she distributes water bottles to clients as they wait their turn for volunteers to load groceries into their vehicles.

“Jesus said whoever gives a cool drink of water in his name will not lose their reward,” she said. “It’s so nice to be able to meet the people. It’s surprising to see so many people come out. It’s amazing to find out there are so many hungry people.”

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