Conviction feeds body and soul

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A chilling mist of rain Dec. 12 barely diminished the line of hungry people that waits for food outside Manna Ministries each Saturday in Alabaster.

“These people wouldn’t bring these babies out here in this cold weather if they weren’t starving,” said building manager Wayne Blankenship. “They’re hungry.”

Manna Ministries sprung forth out of Don Smith’s driveway in Alabaster 25 years ago when he said God pulled at his heart to be more than a Sunday Christian.

“I looked around and was just miserable. I said, ‘You mean this is all there is to the Christian walk — sing some songs, say some prayers and read some scriptures?’ It just wasn’t enough,” Smith said.

So, he walked across the street from his church into a government housing area, knocked on a few doors and made an effort to get to know those who lived there. Smith met six widows that day who all lived down to the last penny every month.

From there he knew what he had to do. He told his Sunday school class to only come back the next week if they were willing to bring food for the poor.

Many of those class members continue to help Smith provide food each Saturday morning.

“These people are hungry. They are hungry for food and hungry to know God loves them,” said volunteer Phyllis Harbin.

Those who benefit from the ministry are asked for little. The ministry asks they show up for a short church service and donate a few dollars when they are financially able.

Jess Hardin and his mother, both of Columbiana, came through the line Dec. 12. Hardin said he feels better each time when he leaves. He said he feels full.

“You get fed by God and get fed physically,” he said. “They pray for you and they make sure you have enough to eat.”

Manna provides about 120 families with food each week. People walk out of the ministry with milk, eggs, rice, cereal, canned vegetables and loads of pastries and breads.

Blankenship works with companies like Sysco and Merita bread and stores like Publix to gather slightly damaged deliveries. Many times Blankenship makes those pick-ups as early as 4:30 a.m.

“All of this stuff otherwise would just be thrown in the dumpster just because the loaves got a little smushed,” Blankenship said. “I’ll beg for it –– I’m not ashamed to do so if it feeds these people.”

Those people are often seniors living off limited social security checks and single mothers with hungry kids to feed.

Andrew C. Edwards’ face lit up when talking about what Manna does for his family.

“It helps out and is such a blessing to us,” Edwards said.

Zeina Peeples agreed.

“Not any and everybody would come out here on a Saturday and do this for people,” she said. “It really means a lot to our family.”

Manna Ministries carries about $3,200 in expenses each month even though there are no paid staff members. To help offset those costs, the ministry is currently seeking 12 churches, like the 12 tribes talked about in the Bible, to sponsor a month of ministry work. Along with covering operating costs, the ministry hopes the churches will host food drives and provide volunteers. They currently have six churches on board.

For more information, call Blankenship at 337-6916.