Posted: 6/11/15 at 12:33pm. Article by Linda Peay.
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me….” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Members of Lyndale Baptist Church in North Chesterfield are living out the truth of this Gospel passage as they seek to meet the needs in their surrounding community. Lyndale, which celebrates 50 years of ministry this Sunday, sits on the outskirts of the city of Richmond in a transitional area with median household incomes lower than the rest of Chesterfield County.
Missions Committee Chairman Jo Ball is a caterer by trade and has a passion for feeding the multitudes. Taking a leap of faith, the missions committee decided to offer a safe place and open the church’s doors every second Friday and serve whomever desires a nice meal.
“We started the dinners four years ago for one simple reason: we wanted to be the hands of Christ in our community in a real tangible, relational way,” Ball said. “We wanted to offer a good meal and fellowship. These are two things we found that hurting people desire and appreciate.”
The first dinner only attracted 11 people, including the workers. Undeterred, the committee kept offering the dinners and now average about 125 people each month. Each meal includes a meat, two vegetables, salad bar and dessert. Guests are seated and served just as they would be in a home or restaurant.
“We have an eclectic mix of folks who come,” said Caroline Davidson, wife of Pastor Erik Davidson. “Our guests are of different ages, socioeconomic paths, or religious beliefs or people who simply don’t want to cook.” Additionally, a local adult day care center has made the dinner a regular outing.
To fund the dinners, Lyndale hosts fundraisers and an annual “Trees for Mission” Christmas tree sale to offset the costs. “Jo is very good at obtaining quality food at a good price,” said Davidson.
The church does not offer any Bible study or devotion during the dinner. The promotional banner outside says “Free Community Dinner 4 – 7 p.m. No Strings Attached.” Davidson said, “We designed it be a safe place and time to break bread together and be served.”
Ball added, “We try to serve more than food.”
Through offering these dinners, members realized that building church relationships is all about God’s timing, not theirs. “We need to have a relationship with the community, and this is one way for them to come inside the doors without the pressure of giving something in return,” Davidson said.
She relayed a story of a church member who invited a work colleague to one of the dinners. The colleague had previously insisted that he would never step inside of a church; however, he did come to dinner.
Another church member is a patient at a medical practice whose staff includes a Muslim believer. After inviting him, he now brings his two daughters each month where they fellowship together.
“The ‘no-strings attached’ approach gives us a chance to engage with others who may not have the same faith,” said Davidson.
New Shoes for Back to School
Lyndale also helps to host an annual “New Shoes for Back to School” ministry event on Labor Day with the Richmond Partnership of Churches, where children in need receive free shoes. A family connection led Lyndale to join the Partnership, a group of 13 urban churches in and around the city.
The shoe ministry began in 2005 at Third Street Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, grew each year, and eventually moved to Second Baptist Church of South Richmond on Broad Rock Boulevard. Second is right across the street from Branch’s Baptist Church, where Davidson’s mother, Rev. Dorryce Ann Rudd, serves as associate pastor.
By having her mother involved, Davidson had already experienced this ministry before she and her husband arrived Lyndale in 2013. After getting settled, she told her husband that they absolutely had to be part of this ministry. “The experience is amazing!” she said.
This Labor Day will be Lyndale’s second time and Branch’s fourth year to help. Lyndale set a goal last year to collect and donate 300 pairs of shoes. Davidson said that, despite some rumbling of doubt within the congregation, church members stepped up and donated 372 pairs. All combined, the partnership was able to distribute 4,000 new pairs of shoes for children who would otherwise not have the opportunity to have appropriate footwear. Based on last year’s great experience, Lyndale’s goal this year is 500 shoes.
During the event, several dozen church members from Branch’s and Lyndale volunteered to be greeters, translators, and escorts. Due to the proximity to Second, Branch’s opens its parking lot for use by attendees. They also keep medical professionals on hand in case of emergency, such as with heat issues. Each child receives one pair of shoes and is required to have a parent or guardian present.
“We just trust God’s bringing the children who need them,” Davidson said.
Sisters Across the World
Lyndale also partners with Branch’s in supporting the Sisters Across the World event. This event is held twice a year, and it promotes Emmanuel Crafts, which is a woman-owned business in Nepal. Before this business was started, single women in India had limited opportunities to support themselves.
Oftentimes, women are widowed, abandoned, handicapped or find themselves in extreme poverty. They receive no support from the government or charities. Today, Emmanuel Crafts employs women who make jewelry and textiles.
Aside from the shipping and overhead costs, 100 percent of the profit is returned to the employees to help cover their families’ needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care.
Davidson reported that all of the Emmanuel Crafts employees survived the recent earthquakes in Nepal. Some lost their homes, but the company building is still standing. Because of the local devastation overall, the products may be affected for the fall show. “We are thankful to God that the ladies of Emmanuel Crafts survived the earthquakes,” she added.
Congratulations to the members of Lyndale on their first 50 years. We pray that the church may continue serving the Lord for many more years!