Sometimes God answers prayers and opens doors for ministry and at other times He presents wide-open doors, seemingly “out of the blue!” That’s what happened for Pleasant View Baptist Church in Oakland, Maryland. Two surprise phone calls resulted in the church’s participation with a large feeding ministry and the chance to present their annual “Autumn Declares God’s Glory Program” for the popular Autumn Glory Festival when it seemed undoable due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Farmers to Families food distribution
In late September, a local Mennonite church contacted PVBC Pastor Wally Weeks about using the church parking lot as a food distribution site. The Mennonites heard about Ivanka Trump’s “Farmers to Families” food program — a three-billion-dollar initiative designed to give a helping hand to food suppliers whose businesses have been significantly impaired due to the pandemic and to assist low-income families in need of food.
The church, which has a good relationship with the Mennonite community, quickly agreed. Weeks explained that PVBC was an excellent distribution area because of its large parking lot and central location with easy access to Route 219 through Garrett County.
Working with “Farmers to Families, Blessings of Hope,” a Lancaster, Pennsylvania warehouse and distribution center, and the Garrett County Community Food Outreach, the churches made the arrangements. Early on the morning of Oct. 7, a refrigerated semi-trailer truck with six tons of food rolled onto PVBC’s parking lot. Cars lined up along the road, awaiting the 20-25-pound boxes of vegetables, dairy food, and meats.
A local community member donated a forklift, and PVBC members assisted several other church and community volunteers in transporting the boxes from the trucks to the awaiting trunks. Some folks received up to four containers for extended families and others in need.
Due to COVID-19, food recipients stayed in their cars while volunteers loaded the food Weeks said there were opportunities to talk to people, pray and share some words of encouragement, and plant spiritual seeds.
Puppets and Praise Team perform at abbreviated Autumn Glory Festival
PVBC had another unexpected ministry opportunity with their puppet team and praise band. Each year, the church participates in the local Autumn Glory Festival, a five-day celebration in Oakland which draws thousands to the area to enjoy fall fun activities and view the changing leaves.
Due to COVID-19, the town shortened the festival to just three days, with a fraction of the usual activities. They also canceled the premiere festival event – the Grand Feature parade which usually lasts up to three hours.
PVBC members were disappointed. Each year, the church has set up on the main street of downtown Oakland just before the parade and connected with people through their live praise band and puppet ministry. “It’s a great opportunity to present the Gospel,” said Weeks. People have responded and the program has drawn some to the church. Church members were thrilled when town officials called and asked the them to go forward with the show as a separate event, even without the parade.
“Our group did an hour-long presentation in the middle of the street as around two hundred people showed up. It was neat! It boosted hope – we can still get out there and share the Gospel and share the hope we have in Christ,” he said.
Weeks shared that he is amazed at the opportunities God has provided. “God just drops things in our lap to get us connecting with people,” he said.