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A practical way to serve God

A practical way to serve God
A practical way to serve God
Martha Byrd, on left, Ellen Brooks and the Rev. Mark Lindsey prepare hot meals last week in the kitchen at Corydon First Baptist Church. (Photos by Randy West)

‘When you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it unto me.’
‘The Gospel of Matthew, 25:40

The Corydon First Baptist Church has 40 to 50 active members, and about half of them volunteer to operate a bustling food ministry on Tuesday nights that serves an average of 100 hot meals in the dining hall and delivers 50 to 75 more boxed meals to grateful people in their homes.
People call the church and ask for a hot meal to go, or they might need enough food for a week, or they come for dinner in the church basement.
They’re all ages, from infants underfoot to the elderly who have to be helped up and down the basement stairs. They come from all over Harrison County, and a few come from Crawford, Washington and Meade counties, too.
They might need a good, balanced meal; they might be experiencing a crisis of some kind, or they might just be lonely and looking for a friendly face, said the Rev. Mark Lindsey, 43, the pastor at Corydon Baptist for 5-1/2 years.
‘They’re not destitute, just struggling, some more than others,’ he said.
All the volunteers have jobs. Some greet the visitors, while others cook the food ‘ last week the menu included fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, salad and pecan pie. Others serve (or deliver), clear the tables and clean up afterward.
Several teenagers are among the volunteers.
Some volunteers are assigned to talk with the guests who want to talk and make them feel at ease. If the guests want to discuss their problems, the volunteers are there to listen and encourage, Lindsey said. If the guests want to hear volunteers testify about their own lives and experience with the love of Jesus Christ, they are prepared to do that, too, Lindsey said. The goal is not to recruit new members to Corydon Baptist, but if they express a desire to come to church, well, that’s OK, he said.
Today, he said, ‘People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. They can be told about the love of Jesus Christ until you’re blue in the face, but, basically, until they feel the love of Jesus Christ through our actions, it doesn’t mean anything.
‘I believe anybody would feel comfortable in the presence of Jesus Christ. We want them to feel comfortable around us.’
Lindsey said members prepare and donate food to their ample food pantry, but they also get plenty of canned goods from all the high schools, chicken from Tyson Foods and ice cream from TCBY.
‘We have more food than we can give away. Whenever we put the word out, we’ve had an overwhelming response’ from the community, Lindsey said.
Corydon Baptist started the food ministry just over a year ago. Ivie Dennis was part of that effort, and since then she has started another food ministry, The Bread of Life, just down the street from Trinity Assembly of God’s Oasis Ministry in downtown Corydon. That ministry is open on Thursdays. There’s another one, at Calvary Baptist Church in New Salisbury, that’s open on Mondays and Fridays.
Lindsey said some people visit all three places each week, and that’s all right, he said, because some people need help on a regular basis. The food ministries are there to be used.
‘Emergencies come into their lives and we’re just seeking to help them any way we can,’ Lindsey said.
One person called the Baptist Church last Tuesday evening and requested delivery of 10 boxes of food. No problem. ‘It’s like that every Tuesday,’ Lindsey said.
All the hot meals are cooked on a regular four-burner stove. “We’re praying for a commercial gas stove,’ the minister said.
Lindsey said he knows from experience how crucial a helping hand can be when it’s needed, and he knows about the power of prayer, too.
At one time, he was working three part-time jobs while going to school, and his wife, Renee, 43, was also working, and they still weren’t making enough money to pay their bills. ‘We could have used this kind of extra helping hand from time to time,’ he said. They had two young children then. (Dawn Lindsey Wilson, now 24, is married and will soon move to Alabama. Amber is 18 and studying at Ball State University.)
Mark Lindsey is a recovering alcoholic and drug user. He lived with the twin evils of drug and alcohol abuse for 15 years, from age 15 to 30, before his wife finally said that she loved him but she’d had enough and couldn’t live like that anymore. An insurance sales representative at the time, Lindsey asked his wife for one more chance (a plea she’d heard many times before) and promised to quit. He said, ‘If I can’t do it, I will leave.’ He asked for God’s help.
‘God enabled me to stop. I walked away from it, cold turkey.’
That was in October of 1989. One year later, after examining his life in vain for evidence of God’s presence, he said, ‘I gave God my heart.’ Six months after that, he was called to music ministry, which led to yet another calling, at a Promise Keepers’ convention in Atlanta, to full-time service as a preaching minister.
‘It scared me to death,’ he recalled last week. He had long wanted to be a music minister and felt comfortable in that role. ‘But God wanted to use me out of my weakness, not out of my strength,’ he said. ‘I had been feeling that He was calling me to something more. He wanted me to preach His word. I had run from God for a long time.’
Lindsey refers to a New Testament passage that was important during his conversion: John 15:5, where Jesus said, ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches.’ He said the food ministry is ‘one way to show the love of God for people in a real and practical way.’
Lindsey said he knew the members of his church had many gifts, but he didn’t realize ‘in how many areas they were gifted in.’ For example, he said, ‘Miss Martha’ Byrd, who heads up the food ministry, has no desire to teach at church, but she enjoys preparing food. ‘She could serve the Lord that way,’ Lindsey said. ‘You should try one of her meals. She is definitely gifted in cooking.’
Lindsey said his strategy was to give the volunteers ‘an avenue to be used by the Lord to make a difference in someone else’s life.’
He said May Dell and Janice Young ‘have come alive in this program. ‘They have shown different sides of their personality that I had never seen before. It’s really neat to see.’
May Dell, 78, Corydon, said they had a bake sale in November that raised $650 to buy things needed in the kitchen. (Her cooking specialities are fruit cake and coconut and Reece’s peanut butter bon-bons.)
Jessica Mathes, 13, an eighth grader at Corydon Central Junior High School, was serving her first meal a week ago last Tuesday. She volunteered at the food ministry because she’s a member of the Junior National Honor Society and is required to do so much community service. She served meals.
‘It’s not really hard,’ she said. ‘It’s actually quite fun. It’s a real nice way to serve people and help their needs.’