PANHANDLE Teaching about the sheep and the goats, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 37:40)
Today the “least of these” may mean single parents, seniors on fixed incomes, the unemployed, the disabled—the “widows and orphans” of the 21st century.
For the past 30 years, First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas, has been addressing the needs of the underserved in its community with its Love in Action ministry.
Love in Action started as a meal for senior adults served during the 1986 Lottie Moon week of prayer, said Josh Light, FBC Panhandle pastor. The elderly guests took home a sack of groceries.
Over three decades, the ministry has grown and is overseen by an FBC Panhandle members Neil and Susan James. Some 20 volunteers pack donated groceries, distribute boxes and bags of food, and prepare a meal for clients and workers on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
“Currently, we provide food for 67 individuals and 28 households,” Neil James said. “Clients fill out applications. We partner with High Point Food Bank of Amarillo and get most of the food from them.”
“Non-perishable foods—cereal, fruit juice, pasta—come to us sealed from the food bank,” Susan James added. “We pack other items such as eggs, meat, produce, dried beans, peanut butter, jelly … like you went to the grocery store.”
A canned food drive held in December at local schools provides supplies for the year.
The monthly food giveaway comes with a meal prepared by volunteers. “We cook the meal with the same food we give out to the people,” Susan James said.
“The pastor gives a devotional, too,” Neil James noted.
For those physically unable to pick up their food, members of the ministry deliver to their homes. Even the choice of the last Tuesday of each month is deliberate. “At the end of the month people’s money is about to run out, [especially] the older people,” Susan James explained. “But our clientele has changed, evolved over the years. Now we serve every group of people.”
About half of the clients are seniors, Neil James said.
Involvement in Love in Action spans generations. Susan James’s mother, now 96, worked in the ministry in its earlier days.
“Love in Action has been blessed with good volunteers, organizers, people qualified to work with our clients,” Susan James said. “If we didn’t have lots of helpers, there’s no way to do what we do. It is a valuable thing for Panhandle. People are hungry.”