When the Vision for Ministry Team of Trinity Lutheran Church was listening for God’s guidance last year, both hunger and the lack of nutritional food kept rising as a need in the Rocky Mount area.
In gathering information about existing local programs serving hungry people in the Twin Counties, the Vision Team discovered that the United Ministries Soup Kitchen had been provided a large amount of fresh produce from community gardens last year. But, because the facility has no freezer capacity and the fresh products arrived in such abundance during the summer months, much of the produce spoiled before it could be used.
Last winter the Trinity Lutheran congregation committed itself to support a new ministry for its church called WITH GOD WE CAN. This ministry was launched a few months ago when the NC Extension Services trained 27 members of the congregation on the procedures to follow to safely and properly can produce.
This past August the church began canning produce provided by a local community garden along with surplus produce from the Farmers Market during its first week of operation. In the following weeks, only produce from the Farmers Market was received. Many of the growers there noted that instead of hauling unsold produce home, they preferred putting it to good use by feeding hungry people in the community.
Representatives of Trinity Lutheran arrive at the Nash County Farmers Market around noon each Saturday with empty white plastic buckets. As various produce growers close up their stalls, they provide the church with any excess products that will not keep for sale the following week. This produce is then returned to Trinity Lutheran where a team of the trained canners prepares the food and cans the produce for use by the United Ministries Soup Kitchen.
“How blessed we are to be partners in ministry! Jesus said ‘…when I was hungry, you fed Me, each time you shared food with those who might be forgotten, who are considered the least, you shared with Me!’ It is easy to become swallowed in a sense of defeat when faced with the many struggles facing our community. Yet, God has chosen to claim us into an amazing ministry that witnesses the truth of all things. With God We Can,” exclaimed Pastor Alice Johnson-Curl about the program.
Through the first nine weeks of the program, the growers from the Nash County Farmers Market have provided Trinity Lutheran with all types of fresh produce for the Soup Kitchen including squash, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, green beans, beets, pears, okra, watermelon, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers and peanuts. Based on the generosity of the growers and the hard work of the canners at Trinity Lutheran, 360 quarts of preserved food has been delivered to feed the hungry people who depend on the United Community Ministries Soup Kitchen for their next meal. This is approximately 540 pounds of vegetables and fruits provided for people who seldom have the opportunity to eat nutritional meals on a regular basis that can now be easily stored for use during the cold weather months.
Chris Battle, Executive Director, United Ministries noted, “The Nash County Farmers Market and Trinity Lutheran have provided us such quantities of squash and tomatoes in recent weeks that we were able to share these nutritious canned goods with the families and children we serve at the Bassett Center. WITH GOD WE CAN is awesome and I want everyone to know what a wonderful ministry this has been for our community.”
Jimmy G. Winters, Manager of the Nash County Farmers Market, commenting on why the program has been supported by the vendors said, “The Rocky Mount area has supported the Farmers Market to the point that our success has exceeded the expectations of our backers and planners. The donation of fresh, seasonal produce for the soup kitchen by our vendors is their way of giving back to the community. Our vendors are a great group of people and they are almost like a big extended family. I am proud and grateful for their participation in the With God We Can project. To our customers, I encourage you to express your appreciation to the vendors for their kindness and generosity when you visit them at the market.”