True to its name, members of F Street Neighborhood Church make it their goal to serve the neighborhood around them—a neighborhood where 88 percent of students at the nearest elementary school qualify for free or reduced lunch and 72 percent are minorities. These figures include Alexis and Taylor (names changed), two sisters who have been coming to the church for about two years.
Beth Heerspink (pictured below) has gotten to know Alexis and Taylor over the years, as well as their mother, Marsa. For these two sisters, getting a meal can be one of their biggest challenges, especially in the summer when school does not provide lunch and their mother is away at work.
“If they want something to eat, they usually have to find some peanut butter and put it on a piece of bread or cook up some ramen,” said Beth, explaining that the children lack skills to cook other meals on their own. “Or they buy chips and donuts with the food stamp card their mom gives them.”
It’s not that Alexis and Taylor are abandoned, but poverty and an unfair justice system have caused their family to slip through the cracks. Marsa is a refugee from Egypt who has had a hard time keeping a regular job because of unreliable childcare and transportation. She cannot afford a stable place to live for her family, much less the legal fees she needs to combat false child support claims. Even though these things are beyond her control, she is not eligible for childcare subsidies until she can pay the legal fees. This leaves the children on their own in the summer, including at meal times.
After meeting children like Alexis and Taylor, members of the church decided to try a new ministry. With a community engagement grant from Resonate Global Mission, the church began a cooking class that taught children like Alexis and Taylor how to saute vegetables and shred chicken as well as food safety and what it means to gather as a “family” around a table and pray before meals. After each class, the children get to eat the healthy meal they have prepared.
“Alexis and Taylor loved trying new foods they had never had before, from fettuccini Alfredo to Tater Tot casserole to homemade spaghetti sauce and pizzas,” added Beth.
As Alexis and Taylor continue to learn new cooking skills and stories from the Bible, the Heerspinks see this as one way the church can be the hands and feet of Christ and introduce others to the gospel.
"Meeting with the kids really gives you a glimpse of the neighborhood,” said Jeff. “As you work with them, you get to know the parents. As you work with the parents through other programs you get to know the kids.”
People like Alexis, Taylor, and Marsa exist in every community. If your church wants help in reaching out to them, consult the table for a list of resources to help get you started.
Read Part 1: What Does Church Planting Look Like Today?
Read Part 2: God Has Long-Term Plans for Short-Term Church Plants
A version of this story also appears in the Banner