During the pandemic churches have adapted and learned to work with this new kind of normal that has been established. It’s not every day you hear of a church feeding more than its town’s population, but that’s just what has happened in Marmaduke, Arkansas.
Marmaduke has a population of approximately 1,111 and last week at First Baptist Church Marmaduke they fed just a little over 1,200 people.
The drive-through Wednesday night meal came from an already established system. During normal Wednesday night services at the beginning of the children and students’ ‘Back to the Bible’ programs, the kids would be fed. So, when in-person services were canceled because of COVID-19, the youth pastor at FBC Marmaduke, Cole Thomas, asked pastor Kim Bridges if they could continue making meals on Wednesday and feed the community instead.
The first week they held it, 168 families came through. Now, almost seven weeks in, they feed an average of 155 families each week. The most on one Wednesday has been 260. What has made it truly unique is that after meals have been picked up, Pastor Bridges stops the families and asks how they can be prayed for that week.
“One woman came through one week very down, very discouraged,” Bridges said. “She asked for prayer for her children because they didn’t know what they were going to do about childcare etc. The next week, she came back through all happy and excited because the prayer had been answered.”
It has been a blessing to FBC Marmaduke but also the community. Every week, at about a quarter to five, cars begin lining up in their parking lots. From 5 to 7 p.m. they serve the families in those cars. As each one pulls up to the Family Life Center, they are asked how many meals are needed, talk a little bit as their meals are prepared and before they drive off, Pastor Bridges asks to pray with them. He said the church leaders have discussed keeping the Wednesday night meals going through the entire summer.
“It’s been a neat experience for us,” Bridges said. “I think this unprecedented time has been a great opportunity for the church to realize we don’t have to meet in a building. When we do what we do, we do it for the right reason.”