For volunteers and participants with ATRM, the fourth Monday of month has become a regular time of fellowship.
“What’s special about this event is it’s not just At The River, it’s the whole community,” said Jackie Lange, spokesperson for ATRM. “We want to invite all the churches and all those who are needy — everyone to come together and feast together. It’s not just us serving those who need to eat, we all want to come together and serve and eat and fellowship and enjoy our time together.”
ATRM held its first community meal in March. Over the last eight months, Dorothy Miller Park has been the site where some 100 people — as many as 95 to an average of 75, plus around 75 volunteers, including a core volunteer group of 40 — have come together to be fed physically and spiritually.
“This one’s a little bit different than our normal monthly gathering,” Lange said of the Nov. 25 event. “We’re expecting 400-plus where normally we feed up to 100 a month. We want to make the community aware so they can come and participate — whether it be to provide food, fix food, serve food.”
Donations are currently being taken. Turkeys and hams can be dropped off at Eastland or at the Union Baptist Association office, 716 E. 12th St., Metropolis. To schedule a drop off time at the UBA, contact Beverly Turner at 645-0692. Richard Corzine is providing his barbecue smoker to prepare the turkeys and hams.
Green beans and instant potatoes are also being accepted for the meal, which will be prepared at Eastland on Nov. 25. To help prepare the meal, contact Karen Bunch at 638-7786.
To make a monetary donation toward the event or ATRM, contact treasurer Steve Russell at 270-217-4846. For more information, contact Lange at 521-7880 or ATRM president Dan Haun at 638-6901 or visit www.attheriverministries.net or their Facebook page.
“This is a co-meeting,” Haun emphasized. “Eastland for the last four to five years has had an event where they fed the community. I went to them this year and said, ‘Let’s do this together.’ Theirs is normally on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We’re doing it together.”
Haun has no idea how many to expect at the event. They’re planning for 300 to 600.
“Some folks who come to Eastland’s community event are probably same who come to ours. We’re asking all the churches to come together — in town, in the county. Some know folks who are needy, shut-in — might bring them out who’d really enjoy the fellowship.”
And that, he noted, is why carryouts won’t be available. “We want to try to minister to folks as they come,” Haun said. “That’s the purpose of this, not just food drop. We try to meet their physical needs first. As physical needs are met and you bound with them, then you can meet their spiritual needs.”
Along with the meal, the evening will also include regular activities held at ATRM’s monthly meals — praise and worship, preaching, prayer time, sharing the gospel with kids and, at the end, giving away nonperishable items.
Lange noted that while those nonperishable items include personal hygiene products and socks for adults and children, household supplies, cleaning supplies, toys, gift cards to local restaurants, socks, flashlights, first aid supplies, Bibles and writing supplies, as cold weather comes into the area, gently used or new hats, mittens and coats are being sought to be given to those in need over the next couple of months. To donate any nonperishable item, contact Diane Hulsey at 921-1192.
While ATRM — a name based on Matthew 25:35-36, where Jesus tells his disciples to feed the hungry, visit the sick and visit the imprisoned — began in March, its concept has been on the heart of Haun since he moved to Metropolis six years ago. Then two 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. It was in January 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. The first meal was served in March.
Since that time, volunteers from various churches, organizations and even the Jefferson Elementary School Lady Bobcats have come to prepare or serve food at Dorothy Miller Park. With winter approaching, meals will be held at Eastland.
“It’s really a family atmosphere,” Lange said of the monthly meals. “We want it to be about the families coming and serving together and allowing other families to see the love of Christ through us. It’s definitely something where everybody can find something to do.”
Religious groups across the board — Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, interdenominational — have been participating with ATRM since its inception.
“You didn’t used to see the different denominations working together,” Haun said. “We hear so many say, ‘I that (ATRM) was a Baptist thing. We’re Catholic but had a great time.’ God has surpassed us in getting all the different denominations to participate. All the denominations coming together for the unity of Christ, helping the homeless and needy, impoverished.”
“We are one body,” Lange said. “The Lord calls us as one body of Christ to let our light shine. My heart is so excited to see when we all come together and show that there’s no division. When people can see that the body of Christ can come together, regardless of denomination, and show His love that truly, I believe, blesses the Lord. That’s when I think people are going to see it’s more about Jesus and not about a person or denomination. That’s what I’ve seen.”
Providing a free hot meal monthly to anyone who has need is just one part of ATRM. Lange and Haun referred to it as “the visible arm.” The ministry is also assisting the homeless, providing a jail ministry twice a week at Massac County Detention Center and helping the families of those who are incarcerated and providing a connection point between those who need help and the organizations that can help them. ATRM has developed partnerships with Weaver Creek Baptist Church, Hope Unlimited and Jobs for Life.
“We want to be known as a connection point,” Haun said. “We don’t have all the resources, but we know most of those that are available. It’s constant mentoring and following up with folks, trying to do what the gospel tells us to do. We want to do much more than just feed somebody — we want to meet the physical needs, the spiritual needs and try to tie them into professional help. What society looks at as the most unlovable folks are the ones that need the most love. Our goal is to meet them there, then disciple them into a church. To so many folks, we’re the only church or acts of kindness they’ve experienced in a long time. . . . We’re trying to follow the example of Christ. He was going after the same crowd that we’re going after now — the ones that weren’t accepted in some circles at that time. Everybody’s on level ground with us.”
“I think people are trusting us,” Lange observed. “They’re realizing our heart is to help and to equip. It’s been neat to see the same people coming. We take prayer requests and have a lady who prays over them the entire month. That really means a lot to people. Whenever I go around and ask people for their prayer requests, so many are so humbled to say, ‘You know what, I’m good. I’m here, I’ve got food.’ Many of them are just thankful. They recognize God is still providing for them. I think out of this ministry people are hearing the Word of God, they’re hearing Who God is and they’re realizing even in their difficulties and their struggles, He’s not forgotten them. That was exciting to me — to know we can give them encouragement, even in their times of difficulties.
“I think the biggest thing of our heart is just to show the love of Christ through the visible acts of kindness as Jesus did as he walked on earth,” Lange said.
And it’s those acts that reach people. “Some of these folks because they’ve had a bad experience in their church won’t go,” Haun said. “We’re trying to let the community see us as responsible and loving. It’s growing; God’s done it. This is God’s ministry, not ours. We’re very grateful that everyone’s come together and supported us so far. It’s so neat to see folks come together.”