Rev. Oscar D. Epps, senior pastor of Community Missionary Baptist Church (CMBC) of Desoto, has always been passionate about meeting the needs of the community. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic saw many families hurting for food and basic needs, Epps asked the church to come together and give generously to provide supplies for these families. The church responded and in March, began a food drive at their two campuses in Cedar Hill and Desoto.
“It’s our pastor’s vision that our church should work outside of the four walls. And during the pandemic, we saw people facing real needs. There were folks that were struggling, and our church’s mission is to take care of those that are less fortunate than us,” Deacon Stephen Jackson, director of Ministries at CMBC, explained.
The food distribution is headed by Dr. Sherwyn Ramey, director of Christian Education at CMBC, who coordinates a team of volunteers to give out food boxes and present Jesus to those in need. The food drive, which takes place at the church’s two campuses every Saturday, distributes up to 1,200 boxes of food weekly. Each grocery box contains a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods, dairy products and other basic necessities. The box is designed to carry the family through the week until they can receive their next one.
In June, the church partnered with the Mint Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide even more food to those in need. Since this partnership began, the church estimates that over 26,000 boxes of food have been distributed.
In addition to the boxes, CMBC also periodically distributes heaping plates of barbeque to the families that come. This allows the church extra time to bond with the families and share Christ’s love with them. To Ramey, this embodies the mission of Christ in Matthew 25 when He said, “I was hungry and you fed me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Seeing the success of the food drive, local law enforcement asked CMBC to deliver grocery boxes to some of the highest crime-concerned apartment complexes. The church leaders agreed, and in July they began distributing between 300-500 boxes each Wednesday. As they saw the needs in the apartment complexes, Epps furthered the program to also distribute laundry vouchers that could be redeemed at local laundromats. Epps and his congregation hope that this ministry will bring light and hope into an area that is often filled with darkness.
Jackson noted that the success of CMBC’s food drive is largely due to their congregation’s willingness to step up and serve. From assembling the boxes to obtaining laundry vouchers to serving the food, church members have mobilized to help their hurting community.
“They are living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission,” Roy Cotton, director of Texas Baptists African American Ministries, said. “People cannot hear the Gospel message when they are hungry. The ministry of Community Missionary takes on an even greater significance when so many people are adversely affected by the pandemic. This ministry is serving "the least of these" in their communities. They are making a difference, and people are coming to Christ because of it.”