JACKSON, Ga. (BP) -- For many public school children across the United States, summer means empty stomachs. With no government-provided breakfast or lunch to depend on, the 31 million children in the United States who access the program during the school year face an uncertain summer.
Last year, Macedonia Baptist Church in Jackson, Ga., decided to do something to help the hundreds of kids in their own community who may not get regular meals during the summer. Now the church takes a lead role in providing lunches for more than 280 local kids whose families have said they'd like to have the help.
"I hope sees the love of Christ coming through us," said Lane Sanders, Macedonia Baptist's pastor. "We don't look at ourselves as separated unto ourselves, but we have a mission and an investment in the community."
Jerry Daniel, the North American Mission Board's LoveLoud team leader, said Macedonia Baptist is one of a growing movement of Southern Baptist churches that are demonstrating God's love by meeting significant human needs while sharing Christ.
On this year's LoveLoud Sunday, July 21, NAMB hopes more churches will look for ways to meet significant human needs in their communities in a long-term manner.
"There's a movement happening among Southern Baptists," Daniel said. "God has created a groundswell of churches that are loving their communities like Jesus would. We want to highlight this and encourage other churches to get involved."
Sanders said several of the children they've fed this summer attended the church's Vacation Bible School. At least one committed her life to Christ.
The church looks for opportunities to tell families about Christ and invite them to church through the project. For example, they've distributed tracts and information about the church with the lunches. But Sanders said adding more people to the church is not why they're engaging in the ministry. They want to show their community how much God loves them.
"Acts 1:8 isn't an either/or proposition," Sanders said. "It's a both/and proposition. We have to reach nearby and far off. We don't have the option to choose. We have been told to do both. Our church isn't there yet, but we're trying."
Churches like Macedonia Baptist, Daniel said, demonstrate what it looks like when churches engage the significant human needs in their communities. NAMB's LoveLoud team has been focused on trying to bring attention to churches throughout the convention that are doing this kind of work.
They hope it will not only encourage churches already active in LoveLoud work but also will give other churches ideas of how they can move forward in reaching out to their communities' neglected neighbors.
Texan Mike Alexander volunteered in a neglected community near Denver during a mission trip last summer. Through Parkside Baptist Church in Denison, Texas, the retired schoolteacher helped organize a sports camp in a mobile home park in the suburb of Aurora.
The 3,000 people who call the neighborhood home clearly had big needs -- both physically and spiritually. By the time Alexander returned home, he sensed the Lord calling him and his wife back to the community to start a long-term ministry.
When Alexander moved to the area last fall, he started building relationships with local people. Right from the start he realized meeting human needs would be a crucial part of his outreach efforts.
Whenever he discovered a need, Alexander did what he could to help. He drove neighbors to grocery stores, helped them find jobs, fed them and did whatever else it took to demonstrate the love of God.
Soon he had started a church in his house. The church now meets in the mobile home park's clubhouse. In nine months, the church has baptized 30 people. They've also started ministries to children and local skateboarders.
"With all of my heart I believe to help people spiritually, you have to help them physically," Alexander said. "Jesus did that. He showed us the way. We have a lot of physical needs here in this community."
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about LoveLoud and how your church can identify and meet the needs of neglected neighbors, visit namb.net/loveloud. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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