Baptist volunteers spend Thanksgiving "Serving Irving"

by Leann Callaway on December 1, 2023 in Local Church Stories

IRVING -- For the past 30 years, members of Oak View Baptist Church in Irving have spent Thanksgiving “Serving Irving.”

Nathan Roman, Oak View’s Español pastor and minister of missions, coordinated this year’s outreach.

“With this being my first year doing this outreach, I’ve learned so many things along the way,” Roman said. “I started in this position in May, and I definitely hit the ground running. Next year, I’ll have a lot more time to get things ready. So much preparation goes into this, and it was a lot more than I was anticipating. We’ve been really blessed and had a lot of support. It’s been a team effort for sure.”

On Thanksgiving Day, teams of volunteers distributed 400 gift baskets to apartment complexes throughout the city. The gift baskets were designed to feed a family of four and consisted of ham, boxed and canned goods, fruit, rolls and cookies.

Along with providing Thanksgiving meals, the ministry also provides food for the soul by having gospel-centered conversations with those receiving the gift baskets.

“With this ministry, we are also trying to reach the unchurched,” Roman explained. “Our focus has to be on our Jerusalem. We’re praying this is an opportunity to reach those in need and show the love of Jesus.

“We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is our opportunity to go out in the community and help those around us. It’s been great building relationships within the community. We’ve had people outside of Oak View helping with this outreach, and it’s encouraging to see everyone coming together.”

All ages volunteer to help with Serving Irving, and many make it a tradition. In addition to the gift baskets, food was also provided for the homeless.

Even though Bruce Goldberg isn’t a member of Oak View, he has spent 26 years helping with the outreach and distributing food to the homeless.

“I usually serve about 200 homeless people on Thanksgiving, just driving around the city,” Goldberg said. “I probably get more out of serving. It gives you another perspective of what Thanksgiving is about. When I drive around and look for people, I also stop and have conversations with them. I’ll never forget when one of the homeless people came up and shook my hand because he couldn’t believe that I would stop and fellowship with them.

“Before I left, the whole group he was with came over and shook my hand and thanked me for caring about them. I told them that God cares about them. I’m just a messenger delivering this food to them, and this is our way of showing Christ’s love. When you’re treating people with dignity and respect, you’re connecting them to the love of Christ.”

Oak View’s Pastor, Dr. Jim Gerlach, recognizes the tremendous opportunity this outreach provides to help meet spiritual and physical needs in the community in a very practical way.

“I think it shows care and love from believers to share their blessings with others,” Dr. Gerlach said. “I remember last year a guy pulled up at one of the sites and asked if we were doing this again. We told him that we were, and he said that he was just hoping to catch someone. He and his wife had just split up, and he was at a very low in point in his life. When we offered food to him, he said it came at just the right time. We’ve had numerous stories like that.

“Others can’t be with their family, so it’s really beneficial to have someone with them and makes Thanksgiving special for them. A lot of times, kids will come out because their parents are working. It’s a very simple act of kindness that hopefully the Lord gets credit for. It helps to encourage our church because it reminds people that this is a giving day as well and brings a lot of joy.”

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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