A huge semi-truck pulls into the parking lot at the Trinity Lutheran Mission Center in St. Joseph, Mich. The driver lifts the door of the trailer, which is filled with boxes of food. A lot of boxes. There’s no way all that food is for this one stop, but the driver keeps unloading box after box, until the semi’s trailer is empty. That’s 3.5 tons of food that Trinity will be handing out to families in need.
Trinity’s Mobile Food Pantry helps feed the community once a month. The food comes from Feeding America. Deacon Scott Kizer leads the program at Trinity and this mission is near to his heart. Kizer was born in Benton Harbor, which is right next to St. Joseph. Benton Harbor has seen its share of difficult times. On a normal work day there’s not much going on. Many buildings are in decay. Windows are boarded up and streets are empty with few, if any, people walking around the downtown.
“Employment is not there,” said Kizer. “It’s a community that, since the 70s, I don’t want to say deteriorated, but things haven’t gone well for them.”
Many people being served by Trinity on this day are from Benton Harbor. The relationship part of this ministry is not the same since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Kizer is working to regain that part of the mission. Trinity and their circuit of churches had their mission headquarters in Benton Harbor not long ago, but when Covid hit they decided it wasn’t feasible to continue to pay for space for the operations. They plan on finding a new home in Benton Harbor. “With this Covid ordeal,” Kizer said, “I think we can focus on what was working well and what wasn’t working well.”
What is working well is the Mobile Food Pantry. Kizer and about 20 volunteers sort, organize, and then pack boxes for each family. The families get a big box of staples like meat, vegetables, bread, milk, and even a treat or two. A line of cars forms down the street and around the block and Kizer greets each car before they get their box. The volunteers bless each individual who comes to get food.
On this day, more than 80 families were served—it was another successful day for the ministry in Southwest Michigan. They have had as many as 125 people drive through the Mobile Food Pantry on one day this summer. The participants in the program are extremely appreciative for the ministry. One elderly woman brought her mother with her to Trinity and they each received a box of food. She said gratefully, “I don’t get food stamps, so this is a blessing.”
The Benton Harbor Outreach is an Innovative Missional Ministry of supported by the Michigan District, LCMS. For more information on the Michigan District’s Here We Stand campaign or Innovative Missional Ministries, visit herewestand.michigandistrict.org. To volunteer, go to michigandistrict.org/volunteer.
Photos and video by Jeff Heisner/Michigan District, LCMS