The looting that followed the George Floyd protests devastated some Chicago, Illinois, neighborhoods, leaving residents even more desperate for basic services during the pandemic.
In early June, on Chicago’s Southside where Goshen Seventh-day Adventist Church is located, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, and several retail stores were wiped clean of merchandise. In some instances, the buildings sustained major damage.
The church is in one of the poorest areas in the city, which had already seen a surge in COVID-19 infections and an elevated rate of gun violence. When reports streamed in of residents pleading for help in the midst of the dueling crises, the church leadership knew they had to do something. But what could they do?
Then word soon came from members that they had no place to purchase food. That’s when plans to organize a food drive kicked into gear.
“In light of everything that was happening around us,” said Pastor Gordon Fraser, “we wanted to be a part of the solution, to show the love of Christ by extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need.”
Goshen church elder, Lorian Willis, along with her daughter, Stacey True, has spearheaded the effort to collect and distribute food and other essentials. They are grateful for the support of North Shore, Northbrook, Hinsdale Fil-Am, Beverly Hills, and Bolingbrook churches, as well as generous financial support from the Illinois Conference and Lake Union. They also partnered with other Chicago organizations to provide more than 100 hot meals each week.
The area churches began collecting items such as fresh produce, diapers, wipes, baby formula, baby food, and canned goods. True said that she is excited to receive the donations and is now also planning to extend the services through an upcoming community baby shower for single parents and families in need.
The community’s response has been extraordinary. Two young women, Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy, happened to find out about the church’s effort through social media and are now excited to help. Every week they collect donations from their friends and family and help with distribution. Another resident, Jessica, stopped by to receive a food basket and was “drawn in by the love and fellowship of the members who were serving that day.” She, too, has been volunteering every week since.
One community member sent a text after receiving the food basket with baby formula and diapers that said, “Because of YOU and what you are doing, my babies were able to eat. Thank you so much!” She had no idea how she was going to get food for her children that very day.
Although the church has not yet reopened since the governor ordered mandatory lockdowns in March, this hasn’t stopped ministry from going forward. People who are receiving the essential items are asking about the church’s reopening plans so they can visit. “We have had a couple of people ask for Bible studies, even while our church doors are still closed,” said Fraser. “We know that we are the church and not the building. We are seeing God move in the lives of the people in the community by drawing them in, and just [by us] showing them the love of Jesus.”
— Kristine Fraser is a Berrien Springs-based (Michigan) freelance writer and member of Goshen Seventh-Day Adventist Church. This article originally appeared on the Lake Union Herald website.