By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.—Near the end of the school year, two Baltimore churches served appreciation lunches at local schools and were amazed at the responses.
Tabernacle Church members provided a buffet lunch with salads, barbecue, parfaits and pies for 86 staff members at a local school.
“We told them there are no strings attached. We’re your neighbors and we want you to know you’re doing a great job and we appreciate it,” Tinney Parish, pastor of Tabernacle Church, said.
Prior to the lunch, the school sent the church a roster listing every teacher and staff person. Church members assembled small gift bags for everyone labeled individually with each recipient’s name. Each bag contained a piece of homemade chocolate in a mold that said “thank you.” On each bag was a label that said, “Thanks for making our neighborhood a better place by working with our children. We appreciate all you do. From your neighbors at Tabernacle Baptist Church.”
“They were blown away. You would think they wouldn’t be interested, but it’s not true. Teachers were hugging us and telling us that no one had ever done anything like this for them before! When it was all over, I told the principal that I’m hoping we can get together after school’s out so we can discuss ways our church can help.”
Parrish explained that he knows the county has been cutting costs and schools are struggling. The church has volunteers willing to help.
Three weeks later after the luncheon, the reading teacher invited church members to come for a student reading tea to listen to students read books they wrote and give them affirmation. Fourteen church members participated.
Parrish said the idea came after talking to Embrace Baltimore director of evangelism, Earl Gray.
“Earl said, ‘If your folks serve in a non-threatening way they’ll respond.’ I’m telling you, Earl was right on the money!”
The church did a similar outreach to the local police department just two miles from the church.
“We called them and said, ‘We appreciate all that you do and we’d like to make lunch and bring it to you and serve it to you.’ They said, ‘There are 186 of us.’ We said, ‘When can we come?’”
Parrish said the police department sent the church a list with all the names.
“When you ask to serve, they open up the door!” Parrish said. “They were so nice, they couldn’t believe we were there.”
The police officers didn’t have the time to sit and relax like the teachers did, they just stopped by to grab a bite to eat, but they were extremely thankful, Parrish said.
Church members provided meals for both the day and evening shift. They also gave away bags with bottled water, blueberry muffins, slim Jims and other goodies.
“We just told them we think they’re doing a great job and they serve us well and we wanted to serve them and share the love of Christ with them.”
Now the police wave and smile at the church members. The police wrote the church a note thanking them for their kindness.
“In my mind, I was in box. I thought the school or police will not let us do that. As soon as they say we’re the church they’ll tell us to get lost,” Parrish admitted.
“I would not have thought folks were interested,” he said.
Parrish is thankful to Gray and to Embrace, who helped share the cost of the lunches.
Gray also gave the idea to Bill Cochran, pastor of First Church, Lansdowne. In fact, Cochran and several of his church members partnered with Parrish to see how to work the luncheon. Later, several Tabernacle members joined with First Church, Lansdowne, to help.
Lansdowne members followed the same regimen, but they scheduled their lunch on the last day of school when the teachers got off early, so they could relax and not have to go back to class.
“We called the school and just said we want to come love on your school because you’re doing such a great job,” Cochran said.
Members served food to the staff, teachers and administrators. Rita’s Italian Ice in Linthicum agreed to partner with the church and provided about 20 gallons of Italian ice.
Teachers and staff thanked the church. Many said it was the first time anyone had loved and appreciated them so much. They even stood to give the church a standing ovation.
“There was no Bible give away, no Christian music, no crosses. No one mentioned the word Jesus, we just lived Christ out,” Cochran said.