Meal program fills a need in Lincoln community

March 16, 2004|EMILY BURTON

CRAB ORCHARD - When schools let out for the summer last June, Tonya Dyehouse saw gaps in her community. Children who were once eating breakfast and lunch at their schools found themselves a few meals shy during the extended holiday.

So Dyehouse started a meal program with the simple goal of feeding hungry children during the summer; but now, with the help of Crab Orchard Baptist Church, they feed the soul as well.

Those thirsting for both are coming out in droves. Tuesday nights, year round, in the church fellowship hall the events have become noisy affairs of cookies and conversation.

"We just thought we would serve a meal on Tuesday nights to kind of fill in the gaps for the kids here," said Dyehouse. "It has just grown past what we thought of in the beginning."


Volunteers of the church and community come together once a week with pots of soup, sandwiches, salad and comfort foods to offer up on long rows of white tablecloths. With little coaxing, the food is soon dispersed among groups of children singing "Jesus Loves Me," parents chatting and great-grandparents watching quietly.

"They have a need. It tends to be the same families that come. People are physically hungry and spiritually hungry," said Dyehouse. "Jesus said, 'If you are hungry, if you love me, feed my sheep,' and we take that literally."

Members of the flock arrive hours before dinner gets started

Members of the flock arrive at the church by 3 p.m., hours before dinner gets started.

"For them it's more than just food; it's company, someone to listen to them," said Dyehouse.

One hungry soul, with a pleasantly wrinkled complexion, softly cradled her listener's hand as they chatted. Winona Herrington has followed the same routine at each church dinner. "I go to church and come up here every Tuesday night. I love it. I love to get together here with everybody. I sing when I can, too," said Herrington. "I've sung here since I was five. It's something I'm just in a habit of doing. I love to sing for the Lord."

Danny Steffans, his brother Tommy and friend Stanley Pike attend when they can. Steffans and Pike greet new visitors to the table with enthusiasm and 20 questions.

"I come 'cause there's always friends, and they got a basketball court in the back. It's a time to get together," explained Steffans.

It is also a time to form awareness to the needs outside of the congregation, said Pastor David Peters."Sometimes we get into the trap of reaching into each other instead of reaching out," said Peters. "It's true when the Bible says it's more blessed to give than to receive."

The giving spirit has manifest itself in the multitude of volunteers that answered the calling to help the community. Impromptu chefs like Sheila Clausen feed the masses with cheerful determination.

"Anybody who comes in I serve, and ask them if they're Christians," laughed Clausen. "The Lord has put it on my heart to do it. It's one of God's Blessings."

Community blessings are not limited to dinners, said Dyehouse. She said feeding the hungry was just the first step in her mission to help the community. "I feel in my heart that God has a big job for us to do in this community, and we're just waiting and watching for what he has in store for us," said Dyehouse. "I think that this is a mission field, and God has this mission for me."

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