What started as a simple fundraising effort in New Holland turned into a ministry God uses to change lives. Grace Family Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in New Holland, Pa. (Tim Hodge, senior pastor), has a food stand at the town’s annual farmers fair. Those who tend the stand wear t-shirts that sport the phrase “For Our Neighbors,” which could not better describe the reason behind what the team does.
The church started the food stand at the New Holland Farmer’s Fair over a decade ago to offset the costs of trips, retreats, conferences, and other activities for teens in the student ministry. Today, it is an effort to reach out to and bless the community.
“While still providing funding for our student ministries, we have intentionally priced the food in such a way to be a true blessing to our neighbors and those who work the other fair attractions,” says Brad Gromis, executive pastor.
The stand provides a full meal including soup, a sandwich, and a drink for five dollars. The congregation has also printed cards that offer free meal vouchers to carnival workers, first responders, and others throughout the community who they seek to encourage. The community has also come together to allow Grace Family Church to operate as effectively as they have been.
“The food stand is in a prime location on the midway of the fair, because a local dentist allows us to utilize the driveway at his office and runs power for us from his basement. The neighboring laundromat also allows us to draw power to run our various cookers and supplies. In fact, the previous owner of that facility installed an exterior power outlet for the sole purpose of helping us out,” Gromis shares.
Brent and Karen Riehl, longtime, faithful members of the Grace Family Church, have spearheaded the planning and preparation of virtually every aspect of the event.
“They recruit volunteers from across our church family to assist in all the varied components such as setup and tear down, donations, and much more. Those who call GFC home contribute to this effort in spades, with many volunteers outside of youth staff and teens. Brent and Karen routinely take a week of their vacation from work to execute this event, and their example of selfless service is a great testimony to Christ’s sacrifice and an encouragement to our broader church family to engage in similar acts of love,” says Gromis.
The congregation hopes to continue using this food stand to fund the student ministry. However, they desire greatly to bless their community, to engage with them in conversations, and to pray for and with them.
“I have had countless conversations with those in our community who thank us for what we are doing, but who then also ask why we would do what we do the way we do. Another individual began attending our church after a very difficult marital breakup. Because we were known through these interactions, when he was invited along during this difficult time, we had created the context of relationship to lead to healing in Jesus’ name,” shares Gromis.
Not only does the event bring the congregation opportunities to connect with the community, but it allows teens to interact intergenerationally with others that they normally would not connect with during the regular flow of student ministries.
“It is a lot of work, especially for Brent and Karen,” Gromis says, “but the payoff is extraordinary.”
[Connect:] To send a note of encouragement to Grace Family Church, click here.