How an NWA church is continuing to reach the Marshallese during a pandemic

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Twenty years ago, Cross Church in Springdale began to develop and invest in building relationships with the Marshallese population that had begun to sprout in northwest Arkansas. Today, the population of Marshallese people is around 15,000 and Cross Church has continued to develop and build on those connections.

When COVID-19 struck the northwest corner of the state particularly hard with many being impacted in these minority communities. Cross Church went to the consulate with a letter drafted and approved by Cross Church leadership the letter can be summed up in a few words:

“We love you, we care about you, we mourn with you, and we are here if you need anything.”

Doug Sarver, Missions Pastor at Cross Church, said the point of the letter was to just let them know that we’re here for them like we always have been.

Feed The 479, a ministry of Cross Church, has been instrumental in helping feed those across the area who have suddenly lost jobs and can no longer afford to buy food for their families. The ministry has many goals and operations, but during COVID-19, their main goal has been providing for families – including the Marshallese population.

Scott Carter, Associate Missions Pastor for Cross Church said a grant was submitted to help feed the Marshallese people for 37 weeks in a partnership with UAMS, since the grant hasn’t been approved yet and Feed The 479 was contacted to help deliver boxes of food in the community order to help bridge the gap.

One hundred and seventy boxes of food were delivered in the first week. Sarver said he picked up two and delivered them to an address. “I set them on their doorstep. It was two families at the same address so the porch was full of food, and I left,” he said. “As I was driving away, I saw the mother come out, see the food, and smile and wave at me so I smiled and waved back.”

Sarver said it’s simple acts like these that remind the Marshallese community that they are cared for and loved. All of the boxes of food handed out, whether to Marshallese people or anyone else, contains a card that lists Cross Church’s online service times inviting recipients to tune in and watch.

Feed The 479 distributes food on, Monday and Thursday mornings, and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Carter noted that recently they served 105 families in one night, which was a record.

Carter said that the way the food distribution is set up, families are allowed to come through once a month. So what made 105 families so unique was knowing that most, if not all of those families served that night were different from the previous nights. On average they only have about 75 families usually come through.

In addition to the efforts of Feed the 479, a donor in San Diego is donating 15,000 masks and 15,000 hand sanitizers specifically for the Marshallese – that’s one mask and sanitizer for each person.

Feed The 479 is always taking donations of food including canned chicken and tuna, canned vegetables and fruit, hearty soups, and more. A complete list of items and where to take them can be found here.

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