MOODY – For 30-plus years, Larry and Debbie Hopkins have ministered to the small community through Center Grove Baptist Church. The ministry now includes a food distribution program started in the pandemic and growing since then.
“I don’t know how many pounds of food we’ve given out,” Hopkins, the pastor said.
Suffice it to say it has been a lot of food. So much so, Hopkins and deacon Jason Cullum built a structure to house the food for the program that began in August, and since December has been at the church building.
“We started in the fire house, then moved to a store building then to the church. We’ve now purchased a shipping container to line with freezers for meat and milk,” Hopkins said.
Tonie Lott coordinates the food ministry programs – one for seniors on the first Tuesday of every month for commodities supplemental food program which regularly sees 130 boxes distributed. One program is for general distribution.
Center Grove is working with Ozark Food Harvest – and registering with the state to partner with them – for a sporadic monthly food program open for all which has served over 400 families in a drive-through giveaway.
“We know on the first of the month when the regular food program will be held and we tell the seniors. Most of it (advertising) is word of mouth, but we put an announcement on our board in front of or church,” Lott said.
While the regular food pantry is open to all people, most who use it are elderly.
“They are scared by the pandemic, they are the downtrodden and forgotten,” Lott said.
For those who may be embarrassed to partake, when Lott knows of a potential need, she calls them.
“I tell them there is a box with their name on it, and if they don’t pick it up, the food will be wasted,” she said.
Lott is now contacting resources to add hygiene kit items, as some people are still scared to get basic hygiene supplies.
For Hopkins, the food distribution is another aspect of local ministry, which has included through motorcycles he built and serviced.
“We got to minister to a lot of people (through motorcycles) that we wouldn’t otherwise minister to. We also have a YouTube and Facebook ministry that’s been going for two or three years. We live-broadcast from the church to those in the community every Sunday. We have Sunday morning and evening services and Bible study on Wednesday nights.
We only shut-down 14 days in the pandemic. Otherwise, we have stayed open and ministered.”
As for 30 years – plus one by summer – in one church, Hopkins said it is where God wants him.
“I believe the Lord called me there and hasn’t told me to leave. We enjoy the ministry and seeing the people come to the Lord. The Lord has blessed us with a lot of good people with a heart for those who are hurting and for those that are lost.”