Food Pantry Update

Celebrating the one year anniversary of our new client choice pantry called Harvest: A Galley of Grace

Moving Forward in Ministry in 2011

"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).

Friday, November 29, 2013

        It's the day after Thanksgiving, and yesterday was the first time that I have had the honor of hosting my husband's family in our home for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was a joy, and I am reminded of the blessings that we have been given - faith, family, and friends - and of God's grace that amazes me daily.
        As we closed the ministry center on Wednesday, I spent some time reviewing the month and compiling statistics for the necessary monthly reporting.  Over 230 families sought assistance - that translates to well over 550 people when you count the children and other dependents in each household.  Nearly 7,000 pounds of food distributed - and thanks to donors and prayer partners, that included meat and fixings to help with each household's Thanksgiving dinner.  We pray that each family will experience God's presence and grace as they have gathered together for their holiday meal.
        But the needs are so much deeper than food.  A  plaque on my office wall states, "The hunger for food is less difficult to fill than the hunger for love."  That is so true.  The women that I meet through our counseling and mentoring ministry often have one thread of commonality running through their lives:  they are seeking to fill a God shaped hole in their hearts with love from the wrong sources.  Grandmothers raising grandchildren because daughters are running the streets tell me that their daughters are just not settled down yet, that its what they themselves did at that age.  Oh, to stop the cycle!  Please pray that the truth of God's word and His blueprint for a fulfilled life will be imprinted on the hearts and minds of these young parents.
        And while you are praying, please remember to lift the parents and the volunteers alike who will be participating in the 5th Annual Christmas Toy Sale for Families in Need on Saturday, December 7.  This day is another way that we reach out to parents, providing them the fun and dignity of shopping for their children's Christmas gifts, gift-wrapping the presents, and treating the parents to complimentary cocoa and cookies.  Many times, there are instances of burdens being shared and prayed over between cafe hosts and hostesses and shoppers or even between shopping buddies and shoppers.  It is a day where we desire for God's grace to envelope every person there and the event  itself.
        Excited to see where God is leading us as we end 2013 and begin a new year of ministry!
Joyfully serving,

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Tonight, I am thankful for:
My God Who already knows the plans He has for me - for a future and a hope, so when I tend to fret or worry, I can remember that He has my back - I just need to lean into Him.
My husband who supports every aspect of who I am and this ministry center that I am so passionate about.
My family who gives me joy being wife, mom, grandmother, daughter, sister, and aunt.  I am blessed with a large family, and look forward to spending time with them at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
A ministry that has been an integral outreach of the Montgomery Baptist Association for decades and is still viable and relevant as we reach our community for Christ.
New opportunities through the ministry center and through my church to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
New believers who prayed to receive Christ, both at the recent Matthew party and at the center this week.
Pastors and laypeople who are passionate about helping to follow up and disciple new believers.
Fellow Christians who catch the vision of helping others and willingly give to those in need.
The excitement building among directors, volunteers, and guests alike about the upcoming Ministry Center Toy Sale for Families in Need.
The example of believers all over the world who do not have the liberties to worship freely as I do, yet choose to remain faithful and fruitful in their Christian walk despite persecution.
You, the readers of this blog and the donors who generously contribute to keep the work alive.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Addressing Hunger

Recently, I have been researching and studying the link between poverty and other factors in a person’s daily living, such as literacy and food insecurity.  We are always prayerfully considering what is the most effective way to address these issues through the ministry center, and as we approach a month of emphasis on World Hunger, it seems appropriate to share my thoughts with you.
            Food insecurity is that element of daily existence that evokes worry about the source of one’s next meal.  According to “Feeding America”, the organization under whose umbrella our Montgomery Area Food Bank exists, 49 million people in the United States experience food insecurity on a daily basis, and 15 million of those people are children.  These numbers reflect a 20% increase since the year 2000. [1]
            The church has sought to reach out to those in need through various ministries, including food pantries, but government has also attempted to address the hunger issue.  In the 1960’s, President Lyndon Johnson proposed “The Great Society”, a program to eradicate poverty.  This was meant to be a boost, or a temporary program to assist those needing to emerge out of impoverished lifestyles.  By the 1990’s, a level of dependency on these governmental programs had become apparent, and President Bill Clinton and in Alabama, Governor Fob James introduced Welfare Reform.  Again, this was not intended to be long term.  However, today, poverty levels are on the increase and food insecurity, as stated earlier, worse than ever.[2]   And food pantries like Forest Park Ministry Center are continually seeking donations to keep the shelves stocked.
            At Forest Park Ministry Center, we see several circumstances that feed this trend.  Yes, there are those who have learned a life of dependency.  We see guests who are living in the 4th and 5th generation of poverty.  Their lack of resources goes far beyond the financial means needed for food.  There is a lack of emotional resources that encourage us to persevere and pull ourselves out of tight circumstances.  At the center, we encourage guests to consider alternative ideas like the purchase of meats on sale, small gardens, food box orders like One Harvest Ministries, or using other protein source foods instead of meat, in addition to visiting the food pantry. 
            Another trend is not just unemployment – but underemployment.  More often, employers are cutting workers’ hours in order to save money and to keep their businesses afloat.  Employees are hesitant to quit such jobs because unemployment is still so rampant.  Now we have guests who have to make choices between medicine and food, or rent and food.  EBT (food stamps) do not always adequately provide an entire month’s food, and never cover other household needs such as hygiene and cleaning purchases.  I cannot adequately describe to you the sorrow and fear in a mother’s eyes when she visits the center for food assistance, stating that she just cannot bear to face her children when they arrive home after school hungry, but there is no food in the house for them.
            This summer, the food pantry at Forest Park Ministry Center became woefully scant, yet each month as the year progressed, more and more families visited the center in search of food.  Several guests commented that this food pantry was the only place where they were able to receive fresh produce and frozen meats.  This has been a blessing to provide, helped by the gardens of donors, a local church, and a garden on the ministry center property, supplementing the produce obtained at the food bank.  We continue to need all kinds of food donated!
            Often, donors ask about the food that we obtain from the Montgomery Area Food Bank.  There is a maintenance fee of $.18 per pound assessed on most of the food procured there.  This is a phenomenally good “buy”, and many may wonder why we depend on church donations in addition to the food bank.  The answer is threefold: 1. )  The variety of food available through the food bank is wholly dependent on the donations made to them.  For example, there might be shelves and shelves of snack cakes, but no cans of green vegetables; 2.) Although the funds budgeted for the food bank cover some canned goods, much of the funds are used to obtain fresh and frozen foods; and 3.) There is a powerful blessing for the donor who gives time and energy to select food for those in need.
            So, if you are gardening this fall, consider donating excess produce to the center.  When you shop for groceries, consider purchasing some extra cans, some peanut butter, or some produce for the center.  When your church holds a food drive, give generously.  Together, we can meet the needs of the hungry in our community, and we pledge to continue to encourage and educate our guests, the grateful recipients of your generosity.

[1] ABC News
[2] “Circles” presentation, UMC, August 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thank You, Mike Satterfield

        I have been thirsty.  Like I have been totally drained, and needing refreshment.  A hectic and wonderful summer of ministry, followed by a week of missions in the southern region of Mexico.  That week was spiritually high, seeing lives changed, people loved and cared for, seeing our old friends from the Forest Park neighborhood - and it was gut-wrenching to leave them, to see and hear the pain in the lives of those we met, to share in their sorrow as I had the opportunity to hear their stories and to rejoice with them when they saw renewed hope.
        Return home, and we don't skip a beat.  Ministry needs of center guests, health needs of family members, and on and on.  So, honestly, I was asking God for some infusion of vision, enthusiasm, energy.  Enter Mike Satterfield.
        This gifted teaching pastor and evangelist was the guest speaker tonight at Heritage's Seek God Revival.  And here's his word from THE WORD:
*Follow Completely
*Faith Completely
*Finish Completely
*Let God Do the Rest
        My thoughts go to the vision that has been laid on my heart for ministry through Forest Park Ministry Center.  Recently, I completed graduate studies and received licensure as a counselor in the State of Alabama.  As long and arduous as that process was, it is only the beginning of the vision, because while life changing ministry does involve adequate preparation and training, organizing, planning, seeking wise counsel, and waiting on God's timing for the growth of services and ministries is just as vital.  With each step that we take to grow the ministry, to reach more people, to instill compassionate dignity in the guests who we meet, I am reminded that what I learned tonight is exactly what I needed to hear and remember:
1. Follow completely in the direction that God is leading.
2. Faith completely that He will bring to fruition what He has laid on our hearts.
3. Finish completely, don't give up, because His timing is not necessarily my timing.
4. Let go and let God complete His work in His way.
         So, thank you, Mike Satterfield, for being God's instrument tonight by giving me a refreshed vision of His plan for His work in Montgomery, Alabama.  To God be the glory.
Joyfully serving,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What Is God Doing?

        Do you ever have that question?  I can remember times in my life - quite often, in fact, when I would make the statement to God, "I trust you, I know that you have the best in mind for me, but would you give me a peek?"  He shows me time and again that faith is about not peeking, but wholly leaning on His will and His understanding, not my own.
         During the spring, as we planned for summer outreach, the issue of who would be leading these activities loomed large.  Time after time, a candidate for summer missionary intern would appear only to realize that their schedule did not permit the commitment or another ministry opportunity was available for them, and although I can honestly say God helped me to not panic, I did begin to wonder whether the plans made for this summer were in fact what He wanted or not!
        Add to that the waiting, waiting, waiting, as graduate work was completed but the licensure exam had to be taken, and then I waited months more for the results of the certification exam.  God, what were You doing?  Showing me dependence on You, and how waiting produces perseverance and faithfulness.  As it turned out, not only did God allow passage of the exam, but the licensure procedure has gone more smoothly than I had anticipated.  Within a few weeks, you will see A.L.C., N.C.C. beside my name on ministry center business cards, meaning that the counseling services offered through  the center are by a state-licensed, nationally certified counselor.  To God be the glory!
        The population that we serve through Forest Park Ministry Center represents life issues compounded by years of scraping by through whatever survival means necessary.  These precious souls often have not had the opportunity to seek professional counseling, partly because of limited financial resources, but largely because of a "what's the use" mindset of hopelessness.  As we seek to build relationship and trust, would you covenant to pray with me that people in need of godly counseling will be open to it, and that long term life change will result?
        And back to the issue of summer missionary interns.......  well, look to the picture to the right.  God has provided in both Angelique and Clint just the right people.  Angelique is reaching young women both by talking and praying with them at the center and as she teaches everything from etiquette to cooking at different sites throughout the city.  Likewise, Clint is an effective leader who exudes passion for the lost, and it shows as he talks and prays with guests, and as he leads boys during Flag Football "Half-Time Devotions".   I thank God that He provided so bountifully with these two precious young adults who love Him so faithfully.
        Speaking of provisions, your faithful donations of food, clothing, and finances continue to be a blessing.  Right now, the food and clothing needs are tremendous, so keep them coming!!  You will see a brand new donation bin that has been constructed for after hours donations, thanks to Tommy McGough, Doyle Blackwell, and Forest Park trustees.  Thanks from the bottom of our hearts!
        Hoping you enjoy a happy and safe 4th of July!
Blessings along the Way,

Sunday, May 5, 2013

God is at Work

           At a time when immigration reform is again at the top of the national consciousness, the relationships which are being formed through ministry at Forest Park Ministry Center pose an important question for us: could we somehow assist those who are undocumented but in our community and desiring to contribute, to achieve the status of legal residency and productive citizenship?  Many of our Montgomery residents are Mixtec, and although they desire to work and be productive, the language barrier is a hurdle difficult to overcome.
            Anna (not her real name) was brought to the U.S. many years ago as a young teen and left in the U.S.  Anna is bright and intelligent, has a young family, and has managed well in spite of not completing school.  Over a year ago, Anna began coming to the ministry center to improve her conversational English.  She persevered all year and did so well that in the fall of 2012, she moved to the classes at First Baptist.
            Recently, a teacher at one of the local elementary schools was attempting to contact and communicate with the parents of a Mixtec student in her class.  The aforementioned language barrier was making even the simplest task so frustrating!  Anna willingly stepped in and assisted to translate from Mixtec to Spanish, and a resource teacher translated from Spanish to English.  Communication from the English speaking teacher was then relayed to Spanish and then to Mixtec via Anna.  In many cases, Anna can translate directly from Mixtec to English!
            She has made a powerful impact on these teachers and professionals.  Anna is an example of one of our residents who will make valuable contributions.  We are praying for her as she desires to complete her education and to attain citizenship.
            As believers we have received the gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  This gift is the basis for our hope at life's end; it is our comfort when loved ones who know the Lord decease.  Our hope of life eternal in Christ's presence is also a comfort when experiencing our human trials and life's hardships.  Many a time, there are those who visit Forest Park Ministry whose circumstances can only be described as "hell on earth" and yet as believers in eternity with Christ, our hope of heaven - no more tears, no more night - is a promise that keeps us looking to God for comfort while here on earth.
          We are also recipients of another incredible gift, one that enhances our walk here on earth.  As Jesus's words in Acts 1:8 promise, power from the Holy Spirit is available to us.  That power is what enables our lives here on earth to be impactful for Christ's kingdom.  It is what enables us to do what we fear we cannot do.  It empowers us to go places that we have never gone.  It gives us strength when weariness threatens to overtake us.  And the Holy Spirit gives us words to speak when, on our own, words won't come.
          It is then that we trust Him to give us words to say and and to know when to speak.  A member of one of our MBA churches, "Mary", knows that well.  She has found a calling to a new type of ministry.  Already an active worker in many ministries through her church, the association and the Montgomery community, Mary has wanted to plug into the ministries through Forest Park, and has helped with many special events.  But Mary sought more, an ongoing ministry that she personally could plug into; yet, her already heavy schedule did not permit another day or even half day to work at the center.
            Several months ago, there was a young woman who visited the center and had questions about her faith.  Not having a home church, she was open to having a pastor contact her.  However, because of the nature of her questions and her timidity, I asked her if a mature Christian woman could call her, and she said yes.   Mary seemed thrilled with the opportunity, and she was able to talk with the young woman, to pray with her, and invite her to church.  Since then, at Mary's request, we have referred others to her, and she recently told me, "This is the ministry that I feel called to, both for the center and for my church.  I can do follow-up"; sometimes it is a one time visit or phone call.  Others that she contacts are grateful to connect with someone who cares, will listen, and are encouraged it.
            And that is what life change is all about.  As we deepen our walk with Christ, He will lead us to paths we may not have considered before.  He opens our eyes to see needs and hurts that we may not have considered before.  He equips us with courage and strength to step out of our comfort zone into a backyard that is different from our own.  He sustains us so that our fears are overshadowed by His goodness and grace.
          This summer, volunteer missionaries working through Forest Park Ministry Center will once again have opportunities to invest in the lives of childen and their families through multiple outreach efforts.  Please pray that as relationships are formed, the hope and love of Jesus will be conveyed, and that those lost will come into a saving relationship with Christ.  THAT will be the ultimate life change.

Joyfully serving,


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Can the Violence in Our Community Be Stopped?

There have been several significant events in the last few weeks that humbled me personally and challenge us at the ministry center.  One of our core values is to affect change in public systems, to seek to improve community conditions by helping guests know how Christ will enable them to make needed life changes and decisions that will glorify Him. 
During a recent meeting of M&M’s (Moms and Mentors), we had a productive discussion about “triangulation” in relationships.  Triangulation is when one person basically pits two others against each other using ploys such as jealousy and envy.  Often, these “games” are just that – meant for joking or pestering, not taking into account that such words and actions can be so harmful.  Once a person is affronted, emotions flare, anger ignites and escalates, and often violence results.
Such has been the circumstance of so much of our city’s violence.  This week, the city of Montgomery had its 17th homicide of 2013.  One of the guests who visited the center this week was “Francine”.  When we began discussing prayer, Francine’s most pressing concern was not her own need, but that young adults in the Montgomery community would cease using violence as a means of revenge or conflict resolution.  Something beautiful happened.  Francine led out in prayer, and she and I both prayed for our community, for the youth, and for us to be able to mentor and disciple others.
On April 1, Jeff King, a retired MPD officer and active member of Heritage, begins a group for men meeting at the center.  “The Man I Want to Be” will guide men to learn God’s plan for manhood and for their lives in particular.  Will you commit to pray for Jeff, for those helping him, and for the men who have committed to join him in this study?  This may be the first step in a revolution to change the mindset of those mired in a hopeless spiral of unhealthy life patterns.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Leaning (on Jesus) and Learning!

It has been several weeks since I last posted; a lot has happened in the last four weeks.  And as I ponder the events of February, I am both challenged and encouraged even as I grieve the sudden death of a friend and faithful worker at Forest Park Ministry Center.  Mr. Fred had a massive heart attack while working at the center the first week of February, and went to be with Jesus within 24 hours.  His last act on earth was serving in Christ’s name those who are oppressed and impoverished, just as we are commanded to do in God’s Word.  Even in his death, there have been opportunities to share Christ, since he was well known by other volunteers and guests of the center alike.  Many guests have asked about him and have needed to process his death – and it has led to several conversations about God’s timing for each of our lives.  Now is the time to insure that we have a relationship with Christ – we do not need to procrastinate!
Which brings me to this week.  I am currently at a retreat and conference with many others who are in community ministry in communities all over Alabama.  Our topic of study this week is “When Helping Hurts”, and we are evaluating and praying about how to most effectively assist others in the way that Christ would – especially in light of the fact that we are to be His hands and feet to others in this world where we reside!
We have learned that three types of assistance are generally given to those identified as “poor”, living in poverty.  These are relief – meaning emergency assistance; rehabilitation – meaning a restoration of the positive aspects of life that existed before a person found themselves in poverty; and development – which requires relationship and mentoring, walking alongside someone as they seek to make life change.
Seems a no brainer – even though we seek to help people in crisis by giving emergency assistance (and those who are in situational poverty because of job loss, grave illness, natural disaster, or some other temporary state may even be able to rehabilitate after needed emergency assistance) – a large number of those who visit our center need life change.  A relationship with Christ, first and foremost, and an understanding of what it means to be responsible and honor Him through wise decisions and good stewardship – and that takes development.
I pray that through the Layette Ministry, through M&M’s Bible study, through individual and group counseling that we plan to offer, that we will be more diligent and faithful to be relational as we seek to reach out to people who are ready to make life changing decisions to follow Christ and his precepts for life.  And I pray for eyes to see the small steps taken as celebration and the missteps with mercy.  I pray that because I know that Jesus looks at my own missteps with mercy, and I must do no less for those to whom I minister.
I am only halfway through the study, and look forward to learning action steps to take for more effective ministry.  There has been so much food for thought and conviction that I need to take it all in, process it, and pray a lot over it!  I will post later as I learn more.

Leaning and learning,
Donna McCullough, Director
Forest Park Ministry Center

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Poverty.... Distrust.... Honesty.

        Ruth Givens, children's director at Taylor Road Baptist and active mentor for the M&M's Bible Study at Forest Park Ministry Center, spoke to a group of pastors and church leaders last week about her experience with the girls in M&M's.  The three words that she used: poverty, distrust, and honesty - encapsulated the experience.  Ruth related how deeply mired in the cycle of poverty are the girls who frequent this Bible Study.  She also related the distrust so imbedded in their mindsets because of life experiences, abuse, and neglect. - And the honesty that they exhibit when they do finally open up and share their lives and hearts with us.  -And the joy when they find that someone really does care and love them!
        So imagine our delight this past Tuesday when one of the girls enters the room "aglow" and smiling.  Most of the girls are single, but this young woman is married, and although she has experienced much heartbreak, is determined to make it work.  She delighted in telling us about the weekend - her husband had spent an entire day with her and the children:  making a meal to eat together, going on a picnic and playing ball and other outdoor games together.  She was so happy and encouraged!  As we rejoiced with her, we encouraged her and the other girls to continue to pray for the men in their lives, whether husband, boyfriend, father of their children.  God moves mountains, and He softens hardened hearts!

Ways You Can Partner with Forest Park Ministry Center

* Have a food drive in your church
(get list from Donna)There is a dire shortage!
* Hold a Baby Shower for new moms who come to

the center; we need supplies for 12 layettes by October!
* Be a prayer partner and pray for our guests needs
* Need larger sized mens and womens clothing

must be in very good condition
*Hold a Paper supplies shower for the center

*Need a data entry volunteer once a week
*Need a small desk for the receptionist in the waiting area