Meals and More: A Small Church with a BIG Impact
By Timothy Lloyd
Movies often idealize small town life and perhaps, in our own memories, we do as well. Small towns generally do have a good feel to them. There isn’t a lot of crime, pollution, or traffic, unless you count harvest time when tractors and combines monopolize the roads. Everyone is civil and never meets a stranger. Small towns are a throwback to yesteryear, with the down-home hospitality of speaking to your neighbors, where people still leave their front doors open and the screen doors unlatched. What most people don’t realize is that small towns are not all roses and ribbons. In spite of their Hollywood images, the smallest towns face the same problems and deal with the same issues as the biggest cities, but with fewer resources. There are fewer people who suffer from hardships, but there are also fewer services to provide help to those who do fall on “hard times.” That’s where the church comes in. It is amazing how a few good-hearted volunteers can impact a community so mightily. The New Hope Wesleyan Church in Corydon, IN is one example of how a small church can provide assistance to its community through self-sacrificing volunteers.
According to the Carsey Institute, the challenges confronting nonmetropolitan America are massive. The child poverty rates in rural areas are higher than those in urban areas for every racial and ethnic group. Access to health care facilities, providers, and to centers that provide government services are poor. And finally, the rapid influx of people and businesses creates challenges to education, housing affordability, water quality, transportation, energy, and Internet availability (Johnson). The church has had to shoulder the burden of caring for its community. It stands in the gap for the citizens of its community, as these issues are, and have been, inadequately addressed by our government.
The Corydon New Hope Wesleyan Church supports many areas. Last year alone, this church of forty members gave $2,000 in financial aid to Amber Livermore, who is ministering to the youth in New Zealand, sent 300 cards of encouragement to our troops oversea, sent shoeboxes filled with gifts to Samaritan’s Purse for the purpose of helping kids overseas (Smith). However, according to Pastor Chuck Morgan, “The greatest service we can provide is to our community here in Corydon. We have helped countless individuals with bills, rides to the doctor, cleaning homes and gasoline for their cars, among other things.” Ten of the members have also provided either “Sunshine Baskets” filled with toiletries, clothes, and snacks or hot meals delivered to fifteen shut-ins (individuals that are unable to leave their house) a week. These members buy the supplies themselves, cook the meals, and deliver the food to the physically handicapped and/or senior citizens who are unable to provide for themselves (Smith).
The church provides more than just baskets and meals to the shut-ins. According to Catherine Smith, who leads the outreach ministry, the members “…visit, have prayer, and in some cases sit and eat with them.” It is this “going the extra mile” that Smith says makes the difference. The visitation and prayer lift the spirits of the individuals who otherwise would have very limited human contact. It is easy to see that the passion for helping others has not diminished as she describes the joy she sees in others when she shows up. I would light up, too, if I saw her walking up the drive with one of her famous homemade meals. “On one trip” she recalls, “as Juanita and I were visiting Dorothy, we had just finished eating dinner and Dorothy pulls out a photo book and proceeds to show us her old boyfriends…it was hilarious! There sat three 68+ year old ladies looking through old pictures of days gone by.” It is these memorable moments that really make this service so special to every life the volunteers touch.
As a member of the New Hope Wesleyan Church, Smith has been a servant to the Corydon community for 68 years now. “My mother would take me with her when I was only ten. We would walk for miles to take a meal to someone,” she recalled. “It was her example of faithfulness and integrity that has guided me all of these years.” When it comes to serving others, few women would rival the energy, enthusiasm, and vigor this 78-year-old woman exudes. She may be small in stature, but she makes up for it in heart. It is her example and labor of love that now guides others.
Smith hasn’t always had a lot of help but she now has a team of ten volunteers with the same mindset and heart. A coy smile stretched across her lined face as she mentioned the new volunteers “getting into it.” It must bring her great pleasure knowing that another generation of self-sacrificing volunteers will be around to pick up the mantle and continue with her work. She teaches these new young helpers her secret to 68 years of being able to provide financially for others: “I learned a long time ago, you can’t out give God.”
It is fitting that the words “New Hope” are in the title of that little church; the members there bring just that. They bring new hope to individuals who have lost hope in themselves and in others. Those individuals are referred to as “down on their luck,” but the reality is that luck doesn’t have anything to do with it. Sometimes life just happens. At one point, I, too, needed help with groceries. Even with working two jobs, I was unable to make ends meet. I was too proud to ask for help, but a former pastor of mine noticed the need and showed up at my door with a truck load of groceries. He said that the Lord told him I needed help and to empty his kitchen. He brought everything from his house over, including ketchup and hot sauce. There was so much food that my kitchen couldn’t hold it! I begged him to take some back. He refused as he stood firm that God had told him to bring it all. I began to take food to my neighbors who I knew were in need as well. I was flat broke but there I was carrying food all over the neighborhood helping others. That day restored my faith in God, others, and in me.
There are simply not enough government resources available to Small Town, USA to address the hardships of some of its residents. Communities have to take responsibility for their own members. Residents have to rise up to help their fellow man. Churches have been the backbone of small towns for hundreds of years and have created outlets to provide help to struggling community members. It is not beyond the scope of possibilities to assume that they will continue to be just that, especially with kind-hearted members like the ones at the Corydon New Hope Wesleyan Church.