Seven Bags by Ken Glassmeyer

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‘Begin with what you have, from where you are.’ Doug Roe

It all started about twenty years ago when a handful of people with a heart for the city of Dayton, Ohio, led by Doug Roe and Scott Sliver, pulled their resources together and went to a local grocery store and purchased enough food to fill seven paper bags of groceries.  They set out to bring a little taste of the kingdom to a few hurting families that resided in the poorest communities of the Gem City.

Fast-forward two decades and you see the incredible ripple effect of that small-scale act of mercy has had on the region. That small group of caring people transformed into a “pretty good church” that is now one of the largest distributors of emergency food, supplies, and services in the Midwest.  Their food pantry alone hands out over 3,000 lbs of food per week touching over 1500 people per month. Doug Roe now pastors the Dayton Vineyard that numbers in the thousands, Scott Sliver is still the worship leader, but also heads the amazing Hope Foundation, an incredible organization that spreads mercy and compassion throughout the region with a focus on kindness and ridiculous generosity.

They have an awesome food pantry at their Beavercreek campus that feeds several hundred families per month.  It is not your normal food pantry.  The décor is more akin to the showroom of a private buyers club.  Guests are served as they wait for their turn to shop for free as well as get invaluable counseling, and prayer.  Everything done in this building is done with great love, and just walking through it you can feel the residue of kindness.  The smiles of the people being served is infectious.  Suddenly the Biblical phrase “bring the good news to the poor” has a new cognitive traction.  The mercy and compassion given to others in this place is tangible.

These folks have discovered a way to hand out “good news you can use” as one of the patrons I chatted with explained.  I walked from the comfortable welcome area I noticed a dedicated space that was use to store the supplies. A great deal of the floor space of their church is given to endeavors of mercy and compassion.  In fact, it would be hard for you to walk more than a few steps in any direction on their campus without bumping into resources designed to serve others.  These people get it.  Not only is an outward focus part of their DNA, it is the very lifeflow of their church.  I was not only impressed with the dedication of design and implementation, but also the collective creativity of this “pretty good church.”  

If you are a pastor, planter, or leader let me suggest that spending a few days in Dayton, Ohio hanging out with Doug Roe, Scott Sliver, Steve Bowen, and the incredible team these men have have surrounded themselves with might very well be the best investment you ever make with regards to training.  

Forget going to the next conference or workshop.  Instead, get your hands a little dirty and work shoulder to shoulder with these folks to get some real kingdom training.  Perhaps that is most interesting thing about this unique church:no matter what your role is, being a servant comes first. 

Even the worship leader is skilled at using a manual fork truck and is not immune to hefting heavy boxes of food and frozen meat.  Every member of the staff and core leadership gets involved in some shape of form with mercy and compassion.  During the visit, I met one of their missions leaders and he was prepping to take a team to Honduras later this year.  They had all shown up to help around the pantry and prep for the outreach.

What is interesting is that in order to participate in foreign ministries you do not simply send in a deposit and go to a workshop or a few meetings.  There is a required sweat equity deposit that goes along with the trip cost.  You have to serve locally before you ever begin to think about heading out of the country! 

While the pantry may be at the nexus of their operations, these folks are driven to continuously export the mercy and compassion that is in great supply here far beyond the four walls of their church—well actually they have more than four walls, as they grew exponentially in direct correlation to their generosity to the community to the point that they purchased a vacant Furrow’s Home Improvement store that was retrofitted both as a place to worship and serve as a depot of God’s grace. Now they are getting ready to move into there new modest Worship space designed to seat 1800 people.

They are always thinking about new ways to tweak outreach to better serve the people of the community.  The facility is the true essence of mutli-purpose.  This is one of the most flexible groups of people I have ever met. They have tapped into the secret nature of mercy.  See once you invest your organization into serving the community, more opportunites present themselves to increase and enhance your ability to serve.  What started as a group of friends with seven bags of groceries that they bought out of their own purses and wallets has become an adventure.  There are now partnering with the Dayton Food Bank and receive surprise supplies from various other sources within the community. When your only agenda is serving the community, people you don’t even know begin to trust you with their abundance because you develop a reputation for spreading mercy.

Most impressive is their mobile food pantry.  They rotate their visits to thepoorest of communities of the Dayton area, twice per month.  They load a truck (with a huge lift-gate!) with nearly three tons of food, including frozen meat, to take directly to the center of the poorest neighborhoods.  It starts with dedicated volunteeers showing up Wednesday nights to pack and sort the food and early Saturday morning to prep the truck and load.  

Especially impressive are the portable “coolers” these folks have fashioned out of those black tub inserts that people usually use for landscaping ponds.  This ingenious crew used two of them to fashion a sort of fish sandwich box with bolts and wing-nuts to make a top and bottom that fastens and holds the ice to keep pershibles chilled during transport, and their truck has a fork lift to unload this and other supplies right in the middle of whatever neighborhood they happen to be serving.  

It is really quite amazing to watch.  Folks receive enough groceries to help them make ends meet for a few days–often enough to help them make it to the end of the month.  This is especially true because not only are they getting the canned and dry goods, but each family walks away with more than five pounds of frozen meat!  You have to see the faces of the folks being served to understand how unusual this is.  When they are guided over to the makeshift butcher shop and told they can chose what they want, bacon, ground beef, sausage, sirloin patties, turkey, hot dogs, frozen chicken, and even beef brisket their eyes just shine. 

Thanks to a little bit of elbow grease and humble hearts, hundreds of people get a little taste of the Kingdom. The volunteers also assist the people who show up by taking their groceries to their cars, or homes. Here is the kicker, they always offer prayer as an option. Ninety-nine percent of the people in need say yes to receiving prayer. It was amazing to see small groups of people huddled holding hands praying.

Not only do they touch the lives of the people they serve, moving outside the four walls of their church transforms the lives of the people serving.  

I went on one of the Saturday morning runs and briefly paired up with two incredible women, Robin and Junatita.  This happened to be their first time out to serve.  It was amazing to see them at work.  They were born naturals dispensing kindness and mercy.  They confided in me that they had been nervous–especially about evangelism.  Once they saw that they were only responsible for showing up, helping people with their groceries and being quick with a friendly smile, their worries were over. Once they understood that they were just to be themselves and share the love that God so generously shared with them, they were able to serve with confidence. I stepped back and let them do all the talking and they did just fine.  They even led one man in a salvation prayer–with out even having to witness beyond the kindness they were giving, and simply answering the man’s childlike questions with simple honest, personal answers.  It was incredible–watching a new birth by new midwives of the kingdom always is a wonerful scene.

Ken Glassmeyer is the Editor of Serve! Magazine.  He has been doing SE outreach in the midwest for over twenty years.  Ken is the author of a number of PDF guides available at Kindness Resources including the latest:  “Tactical Kindness.” You can contact Kindness Resources LLC for more information on having him come to your church to coach, speak or consult. 

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