Personal Passion Blossoms into Church Ministry
What began as a personal passion for Monroe church members Dan and Mary Adams, has blossomed into a thriving church ministry in southeastern Michigan.
In 2018, Mary worked for the Monroe County Youth Center, a juvenile detention facility. When their local congregation wanted to adopt some families for Christmas, Mary contacted her probation officer friends to find out who really needed assistance over the holidays.
Equipped with five names, Mary took them to the church and members chose families for whom to provide food, clothing and toys. Dan and Mary personally delivered some of the packages. “One of the houses was dilapidated,” Mary says. “You could just see the need…and the appreciation for everything we brought. It started a spark in us, and we began praying about what else we could do.”
The next year for Thanksgiving, the Adams adopted 10 families for whom to provide a full Thanksgiving dinner. Another church friend joined in their effort. One grateful recipient called the church and talked with clerk Linda Hamstra, thanking Monroe members for providing such an amazing meal. Linda was confused and asked for more information. The person mentioned that Dan had been there and knew he was an Adventist. They just assumed the gift had been from the church. When Linda found out, she told Mary the church would love to support them in their community services endeavors. It was then that plans began formulating for a food pantry ministry.
It began small, at first, with members donating non-perishable food and hygiene products to build up a supply to draw from. Distribution would be once a quarter. Mary advertised on Facebook, in the newspaper and through other food pantries in the area. Church volunteers packed bags full of groceries. The Monroe Adventist Food Pantry was ready. At the first distribution in November 2021, they served 25 families.
Mary wanted to do more, though. She reached out to local stores and businesses, applied for grants and contacted the Michigan Conference Adventist Community Services (ACS) department to see what assistance they could provide. Limited financial grants from Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Kroger began coming in to purchase more food. ACS delivered two refrigerators to the church so they could offer a few perishable items like milk, bread and butter.
At the next distribution in March 2022, they served 25 families. In July, the number grew to over 40. In November, they served 50 families before running out of supplies. They had to turn away 15 others. In just one year, the number of families needing assistance had increased over 200 percent.
An hour before the November distribution began, cars began lining up in the church parking lot and down the main road. Dan organized them into two lines to avoid a traffic jam and walked from car to car, talking with people. It was frigidly cold that day. People were wrapped in blankets, trying to stay warm. They couldn’t afford to keep their cars running with the heat on, burning gas as they waited.
“That opened my eyes even more,” Dan says. “People are definitely in need. Even the people who didn’t get food were grateful. Every single one of them asked me to thank the church for our efforts. They were disappointed they didn’t receive anything that time, but not one person pulled out angry.”
The food pantry has made a definite impact, not only on the community, but on the Monroe church family. Jim Hamstra, church elder, has noticed members pulling closer together. “There’s something to focus on,” he says, “and it’s helping the community in a positive way.” Each car receives health and wellness information as seeds for the future, and members offer to pray with the guests.
This ministry has changed Dan and Mary, too. “First of all, it’s opened our eyes to a need in the community, then to help more, and mainly to pay more attention to what’s going on around us. It has made us more conscious of what we actually need.”
In the Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 17, 1903, Ellen White wrote:
“While every man has his own burdens to bear, he is not to forget that by helping others, he helps himself. The opening words of Christ's sermon on the mount are an illustration of the principles laid down in his teaching. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ he said; ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ . . . In his life he showed the power of self-sacrifice. In his work he has given us an example of what our work should be. Whenever the Lord brings destitute fields to our notice, and gives us opportunity to help, we are never to neglect the opportunity.”
The Adams and their Monroe church family are taking that charge to heart.