CORSICANA — Shepherd’s pie, chili dogs, chef salads and an array of desserts provide a tangible — and tasty — invitation to hungry people in Corsicana, Texas.
Good News Café is a ministry of First Baptist Church that offers a warm, weekly meal for anyone in the community. The church saw organizations offering take-home food for individuals in need, but people wanted to sit down and eat, said Chris Marchbanks, the church’s minister of recreation and community outreach. The church wanted to meet people’s needs in a practical way, he added.
Volunteers set up tables in First Baptist’s Family Life Center and decorate them with tablecloths and vases filled with flowers. Food is served on real — not paper — plates.
“We want people to feel special,” Marchbanks said. “We didn’t want it to feel like it was a soup kitchen.”
Good News Café is part of the congregation’s involvement in Texas Hope 2010, a Baptist General Convention of Texas initiative encouraging Christians to pray for people around them, care for those in need and share the gospel with every person in Texas by Easter 2010.
About 17 volunteers from the church and community cook, serve, refill drinks and clean tables for an average of 55 people a week. Since the ministry began less than three months ago, Good News Café has attracted as many as 70 people on one day.
The ministry is open to anyone, and the church hopes to offer food more days a week and possibly provide showers and a laundry service, Marchbanks said.
First Baptist Church is trying to build trust and relationships with people so they will be able to share the love of Christ with them, he explained.
“There’s a sense of community that’s developing from this,” Marchbanks said.
Bob O’Toole has become a significant contributor to this growing sense of community. O’Toole had a bed-and-breakfast in town, and he later helped cook the Wednesday night meals at church. After visiting the Gospel Café in Waco, O’Toole thought a similar ministry would be good for his town.
“This is where we decided to start,” O’Toole said.
Meals run about $2 each, and the church provides all the funds. The church gives the leftover food to other ministries, like the women’s shelter.
“Our desire right now is to love people where they are and in the situation in which they’re in and to try to lead them to Christ through our example and through our work here,” O’Toole said.
There has been a response to this love. People have opened up to the volunteers, and some have asked when the church service takes place.
Mary Anne Unger has enjoyed eating at the café nearly every week. She appreciates the way volunteers live their faith and are not content to just be “talking up a lot.”
David Edwards, pastor of First Baptist Church, said he is excited about the café and about being a part of Texas Hope 2010. He believes the café is a starting place to make an impact in lives throughout Corsicana.
“They’re not just hungry one day a week,” Edwards said. “They’re hungry every day.”
First Baptist and other churches want to build a centralized meeting place that would be serve free, warm meals five days a week. Edwards would like the community to provide the volunteers, finances and human resources so people can have a place to get a meal and know they are loved.
There are churches that “want them to meet the Jesus who will take care not only of their needs now, but also of their eternal needs,” Edwards said.
For more information about Texas Hope 2010, visit www.texashope2010.com.
Lauren Heartsill is a communications intern for Texas Baptists.