By Katerina Hinkle
By 12:00 midnight, a line of cars is forming in the parking lot of Crossroads Church of God in Lima, Ohio. By 6:00 AM, people stretch far from the front door, despite the blistering cold. Inside, volunteers prepare to receive the crowd outside. They are busily transforming the sanctuary into a different kind of worship space—one that feeds the body as well as the soul.
An astounding 33 percent of Lima residents live below the poverty line, and as Christ-followers, Crossroads members cannot ignore such immense need. Indeed, the apostle James clearly teaches how believers are to respond: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:15–17 NASB)
Three years ago, Crossroads initiated Spread the Bread, Spread the Thread, avery tangible and practical response to God’s command to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Four times a year, the church purchases approximately ten thousand pounds of food—one dollar for every ten pounds—from the West Ohio Food Bank. The church then distributes the food free of charge to about 175 households. In the weeks that follow, these groceries feed up to eight hundred individuals living in those households.
As guests enter the church building, they are paired with a personal shopper who walks with them through the aisles and introduces them to the friendly faces manning each table. Personal shoppers also guide guests through rows upon rows of clothing items set up in the other half of the sanctuary. The goal and prayer is that each guest will experience the tremendous value and love God has for them.
Not surprisingly, God reveals himself at each and every event, to both the guestsand the volunteers. A lone birthday cake arrives with the shipment of food, a seemingly odd item until a guest reveals it is her birthday! A man comes looking for a suit for his own funeral. He had cancer and hoped to spare his family the expense (today he’s living for God and is cancer-free!). His personal shopper finds him a suit, a shirt, and a tie, all in his size. A young lady arrives late in the morning and the grocery tables are empty. She has taken in three siblings abandoned by their parents, and she does not know how she and her husband will feed them in addition to their own four children. Once word spreads, volunteers dig into their pockets and a $220 grocery card is delivered to their door by the end of the day. One man is so grateful for the care he receives that after loading his groceries into his car, he turns around and volunteers for the rest of the morning. He is now a Crossroads member.
In addition to caring for their guests’ physical needs, Crossroads volunteers are also available to offer a listening ear and prayer support. Guests are invited to submit requests at a prayer station, although few are brave enough to approach the table. Noticing people’s hesitation, a couple of volunteers recently walked the long line outside and offered to pray for people one-on-one. Thanks to the volunteers’ boldness and sensitive hearts, many guests shared their stories and received both prayer and encouragement for their life situations.
Spread the Bread, Spread the Thread is faith in action. It is God’s word to a hurting community. Through the loving hands, feet, and voices of Crossroads Church, he cries out, “I see you. I hear you. I know you. I am with you.”
Katerina Hinkle is a freelance writer and member of Crossroads Church of God. To see Spread the Bread, Spread the Thread in operation, go to www.limacrossroads.org and click on “Our Community” under the “Serve” tab. To learn more about the Church of God, visit www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.