By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
Lindsey Shaffer, “Love Loud” missionary, with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, specializes in poverty issues and ministries. She stands ready to help churches develop or expand their ministries to aid those in poverty and others “hanging on by a thread.”
Shaffer stresses that the poverty ministry emphasis is much more than feeding empty bellies and helping folks find jobs. It’s forming relationships with them and telling them about the hope and the restoration that only Jesus can give.
Jesus met physical, emotional and spiritual needs – and often together, Shaffer stressed.
Never underestimate the power of a food pantry, Shaffer said.
The Hope and Life Outreach (HALO) ministry in Salisbury began as an outreach ministry of Oak Ridge Baptist Church, and seven years later became its own entity with 700 volunteers from ORBC and other churches throughout the community. Volunteers have served over 40,000 meals. They also have a thrift shop ministry and a family adoption program to provide gifts at Christmas.
Allen Memorial Baptist Church, Salisbury, working with HALO, did a block party and got to know some of the locals struggling with or getting close to living in poverty. That led to working with local schools to provide backpacks filled with food for needy children.
People line up outside of First Baptist Church of Essex every Wednesday to get food and clothing. John Smith, pastor of FBC, Essex, greets the guests and spends time talking with them and getting to know them. Several people started attending the church as a result of that ministry.
Gallery Church, Baltimore, uses HIV testing as an opportunity to serve their community. As a result, they have an opportunity to meet and minister to many people who are struggling with poverty. The church recently employed Joshua Smith as minister of intentional living. Smith lives in a refurbished drug house and ministers to drug addicts, prostitutes and homeless people who stop in for a drink of water, something to eat, a kind word and prayer.
At Lindsey Shaffer’s home church, First Baptist Church (FBC), Laurel, children discovered poverty in their own community after reaching out to help kids in the Middle East. Shaffer showed the video “58,” which spotlighted families who sold their children into forced labor in rock quarries. The FBC children were horrified and raised over $1,600 through bake sales, knitting scarves and hats and selling jewelry to free eight children. Shortly after that, the kids began noticing local needy families in the area.
“God opened their eyes to the needs around them,” Shaffer said.
The kids began collecting food and clothing to share with the needy families.
Among other ministries, New Hope Community Church in Curtis Bay, Md., holds biannual “Free Markets,” where members gather and share unneeded home goods, clothing and furniture to share in a flea market-type setting with residents who are in need.
In addition to partnering with churches to begin poverty ministries, Shaffer is beginning to hold poverty “roundtables.” At these roundtable discussions, church leaders gather to share what they’re doing to minster to those struggling with poverty and hopefully discovering ways to network and partner for more effective ministry.
For more information about poverty ministry, contact Lindsey Shaffer, (443) 745-1534.