The organization will mark its one year anniversary on Monday.
“We’re happy with what God’s done, and we’re expecting greater things to come,” said president Dan Haun.
The fourth Monday of the month meal will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. at Eastland Life Church, 716 E. Third St. in Metropolis. Along with a meal prepared by the evening’s host church, there will also be a time of praise and worship led by Toby Glass, a speaker, a special prayer time and a children’s time. Along with the regular giveaways, there will also be special drawings for items — from jewelry to gas cards to oil changes — donated by local merchants.
“Since it’s been a year, we wanted to take the time to thank our past supporters,” said ATR secretary Jackie Lange. “I think every month but one in the last year, we’ve had different churches hosting these meals.”
The first community meal hosted by ATR was held March 25, 2013. Over the last 11 months, two locations — Dorothy Miller Park and Eastland — have seen monthly some 40 volunteers from various denominations come together to serve 50 to 100 people by feeding them physically and spiritually.
While that first meal was the start of ATR — a name based on Matthew 25:35-36, where Jesus tells his disciples to feed the hungry, visit the sick and visit the imprisoned — its concept was on the heart of Haun since he moved to Metropolis over six years ago as the pastoral care pastor of Eastland. Then three years ago, he learned of The Bridge Ministry begun by Kent and Candy Christmas in Nashville, Tenn. where churches weekly provide meals and other physical and spiritual needs for the community. Several from Metropolis have gone to Nashville to assist with the program. In January 2013 that Haun began throwing out the idea of starting something similar in Metropolis. A few weeks later, the idea was taken to other churches and organizations in the community.
“God has surpassed all of our initial thoughts as to churches and folks coming together in unity,” Haun said. “I think that’s the most amazing thing to me is how this ministry has brought all the major denominations, plus interfaith and nondenominational together. God’s exceeded my expectations of bringing unity and breaking down the walls of segregation and denominations, abundantly. The community’s really come together to help when they realize there’s a legitimate need.”
Host churches for the meals have been Waldo Baptist Church, Metropolis First Baptist Church, Mt. Horeb Free Will Baptist Church, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Metropolis First United Methodist Church, St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Faith Lutheran Church, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Weaver Creek Baptist Church and First Christian Church.
“It’s been so neat to see the body of Christ come and work together to show the community the love of Christ,” Lange said. “That’s what’s been so exciting for me is to see how we’ve worked together.”
As weather allows, meals are held at Dorothy Miller Park. In November, Eastland “opened their home and allowed us to have it at their facility over these brutally cold months. That has been so gracious and such a blessing,” Lange said, noting meals will resume at Dorothy Miller Park in April.
While the concept of the meals has remained constant, two changes have taken place this year. Glass is now the regular worship leader. “Before, we had different ones leading worship. We felt like we wanted to get someone to oversee that. Toby came to mind, and he accepted that call. He brings a great time of worship through song,” Lange said.
And starting last month, ATR began providing transportation to the meal. Pickup is from 4:30-5 p.m. at Guardian Family Services, Haven House, Spence Apartments and Humma Apartments. “First Baptist has allowed us the use of their bus. A lot of people don’t have transportation so this has been an added bonus,” she said.
Lange noted that as Over the Bridge ministry in Brookport is taking a hiatus due to the November tornado, “we want to invite those people to be able to come to ATR meals,” she said.
A source of hope
For many participants, ATR “has become identified as a source of hope,” Haun said. “So many of our folks are out of money toward the end of the month. It means a lot to them to have a good meal, fellowship.”
Haun noted that while many think ATR’s meals are for the financially needy, “poverty crosses a large line” to also include other physical needs and spiritual needs. “There’s a lot of folks who are spiritually in poverty. They know religion, but they don’t know a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My hope is that At The River reaches into the future to change the lives of spiritually unborn generations, one life at a time. . . . I’m talking about somebody that hasn’t experienced God.”
And that, Lange said, what makes ATR different from other local humanitarian efforts.
“Since its inception, I think the difference is our desire is to show the love of Christ through deed and to make disciples,” she said. “I thought about that scripture where Jesus said to let your light shine before men so they may see your good deeds and give the Lord the glory. Our hope and desire is when they see us showing love through the giving of food, clothes, helping with physical needs, lights, transportation issues — through all of that, we want them to see that it’s because of what the Lord has done for us, we want to be able to do the same thing for others.”
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