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MCLE-influenced Nebraska church finds ministry niche
in feeding community

Nebraska Church
First Baptist Church, Fremont, Neb.

At First Baptist Church, Fremont, Neb., the Rev. Gundar Lamberts, senior pastor, nourishes the congregation’s souls with God’s word. They, in turn, have found several ways to nourish their neighbors’ bodies with healthful, nutritious food. And they’ve been aided in their efforts with ideas sparked by the Missional Church Learning Experience (MCLE), a program in which the Rev. Glynis LaBarre, transformation strategist at American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), arranges churches into regional learning communities and guides them in reaching out to and ministering with their respective communities.

Most recently, the church donated a box full of food each to the families of 12 children who attend a nearby year-round elementary school. The food—including apple juice, shelf-stable milk, canned fruits and vegetables, noodles, tortillas, tomato sauce, breakfast cereal and 3 pounds each of rice and beans—was intended to supplement the diet of a family of four or five during the school’s two-week fall break.

Noting that the students at his school tend to lose weight during breaks, the principal had suggested the idea, Lamberts says.

“Church members delivering the food were pleased by the smiles of the children, and we plan to do this again for the Christmas break,” says Lamberts. “The school guidance counselor will check with the families to see if the food was helpful, or if they have other suggestions.”

The food-box project replaced the church’s previous project—supplementing food that Food Bank for the Heartland, Omaha, Neb., had been placing twice monthly in backpacks for approximately 200 school children.

“We found out when we talked to the guidance counselor that the food was supposed to be for each particular child, but each child was sharing it with their siblings and parents,” says Lamberts.

The church’s MCLE team responded for several months by purchasing bulk quantities of beans and rice, then bagging each in 1-pound packages and delivering them to the school to be placed in the backpacks.

In addition, the church serves a meal to attendees of any of its Wednesday night programs—two kids clubs, a teen group and adult Bible study. The meal idea grew from the need to provide snacks for children who were bused to the church from a nearby trailer court and other parts of the city. “The children told our leaders that they were hungry,” Lamberts says.

Like many others, Lamberts was unaware of the great need for food so close to home—a challenge that can blossom into an outreach opportunity for any church seeking mission in its own back yard.

Recalling a presentation by Deb Peterson, a member of First Baptist’s MCLE team, Lamberts says: “Deb said she had always thought of missions as overseas. But she realized, through the MCLE experience, that she could be a missionary, although she lives in Fremont. Glynis went up to her, put her arm around her and said, ‘That’s what it’s all about.’”

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