The generosity of a Seymour church will result in hungry people receiving food and a man and his three children living in a new home.
Seymour Christian Church members spent time this week organizing donated items as part of the fifth annual Raising Tons of Food project. All of it was collected by the more than 200 boys and girls involved in vacation Bible school.
At the same time, in the parking lot, adult volunteers constructed the walls of a house, which soon will be placed on a Laurel Street lot for Steve Engelking and his family. The church undertook a similar building project five years ago.
It was neat to see everything come together, said Love Lockman, children’s pastor and wife of the church’s pastor, Bill Lockman.
“To be honest, it’s overwhelming. To think that God would use this church in Seymour, Indiana, to feed hungry people and to provide a home in one week is just amazing,” she said.
“It’s just a matter of everybody coming together,” she said. “Everybody bonds, and it’s people you see on Sunday morning that you may not get to talk to or they go to one service and somebody else goes to another service. All of a sudden, everybody is working together for common goals.”
Lockman said the goal of the first food drive was one ton, but five tons were collected. Last year’s drive resulted in 20 tons of food, so this year’s goal is to top that, she said.
Youngsters from infants through high-school age attended the six vacation Bible school classes. They were encouraged to ask family members and friends to donate to the drive. Many of them also went shopping on their own to collect items.
It became a competition to see who could bring in the most pounds of food, and the winner in each class will receive a prize.
Lockman said it’s important to show kids they can go out and do something good to benefit others. She said one boy fasted for a day to see what it’s like to be hungry.
“That’s what the kids are doing. They are getting it,” she said. “There’s one in four kids in America that go to bed hungry every night. If you’ve got enough (money) to buy chips and a pop, you’ve got enough (money) to buy somebody a box of macaroni and cheese.”
The food drive serves as the mission project for vacation Bible school. This year’s donations will go to the food pantries of The Alley and Community Provisions.
While Lockman said she is all for world missions and reaching out, which the church does a lot of, it’s also nice to be able to help people close to home.
“Our theme is, ‘Go, go for Jesus,’ and we do this little cheer, ‘I can go, you can go, we can change the world,’” she said. “It’s trying to empower individuals and children that they can make a difference in their community.”
Lockman said the project is a good lesson for kids to understand that some others their age go to bed hungry.
“To think about somebody they go to school with may not have enough to eat, they can connect with that,” she said. “So it’s empowering. That’s what I want to do. I want to empower people that you just do what you can and you can change the world.”
With the house, the church teamed up with Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County and Crossroads Missions of Louisville, Kentucky. Habitat for Humanity provided a family to build a house for, while Crossroads Missions provided some tools and guided church members in putting the frame of the house together.
The church had a special offering collection about a month ago, and that money was put toward the $6,000 needed to buy lumber.
Project manager Dave Lockwood said Crossroads Missions does short-term mission trips throughout the United States and Mexico. The house projects are called Help Build Hope, where they facilitate the construction of the walls and putting them together.
Lockwood said a project normally can be completed in about 3½ hours. But Seymour Christian Church decided to spread the work over several days during vacation Bible school.
“The nice part about this, too, is because we’re in a church parking lot, we can have kids as young as 5 years old out here, so you can have ages 5 through 85, where at the Habitat site, you have to be either older than 16 or 18 to do that,” Lockwood said. “This is one of the few ways I know where the whole church can come together in a service project for the community.”
Having building experience wasn’t required, Lockman said.
“People say, ‘All I can do is swing a hammer.’ ‘Well, you swing a hammer, you can change a life,’ so that’s what I want people to realize,” she said. “God made you just like he wants you. You have a gift and a talent. It may not be the same as mine, but it’s still important.”
Once the frame of the home is assembled, Lockman said, the congregation will pray for the house, and kids will write their names and Bible verses on the walls.
The home will then be turned over to Habitat for Humanity, which will coordinate the remainder of the work involved in making it livable for the family.
The last time the church did a house project, Lockman said, they had enough money left over to buy appliances for the home. She’s hoping that will be the case again.
One requirement with Habitat for Humanity is the family that will be living there has to help build the home. Engelking said he was just fine with that.
“I’ve been here every day,” he said. “It’s great being able to put my own work into my own home. It’s to be able to say, ‘I helped build my own home.’”
Engelking said he wasn’t familiar with Habitat for Humanity until someone told him about it and encouraged him to apply.
“The housing opportunities out there, you can’t find any place to live out there right now,” he said. “Somebody put this in my head, ‘Try this.’ So I did, and Habitat for Humanity put me through this application, and I was approved.”
That was a great moment, he said.
“I was thrilled and so were my kids,” he said. “It makes you overjoyed. I don’t know how to explain it in words.”
Engelking said he appreciates Habitat for Humanity and everyone involved in building the home. He and his children are excited about moving in soon.
“Living in my own home and being able to own my own home, that’s what I’m looking forward to and all three of my kids to be happy,” he said. “They’ll be happy, and I’ll be happy.”
Lockman said she was glad to see the food drive and house project come together once again.
“This year, when we added the house to build, God had a little talk with me because I’m like, ‘Oh, can we really do both at the same time? Can I do this?’ God reminded me, ‘Love, it’s not you. It’s me. I’ll bless it,’” she said.
“The number (of tons of food) really isn’t that big of a deal to me,” she added. “It’s just a goal out there because you look at this and the shelves of the community are almost bare, so this will make a tremendous impact for our community.”
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“To be honest, it’s overwhelming. To think that God would use this church in Seymour, Indiana, to feed hungry people and to provide a home in one week is just amazing.”
Love Lockman, children’s pastor at Seymour Christian Church