On the first and third Wednesday of each month, they start arriving about 6:30 a.m., rain or shine, waiting until Concord Baptist Church opens its food pantry at 10 a.m. As the hungry and hurting gather – more than 100 families per month, representing more than 500 people – they are served by this rural Kershaw County church that worships 65-70 on Sunday mornings.
Concord Baptist Church is located about nine miles south of Lugoff and Interstate 20 on Porter Cross Road off State Highway 601. Lugoff is five miles west of Camden and 30 miles east of Columbia. Concord Baptist defines many of the churches in South Carolina – rural and smaller membership.Yet, pastor Jimmy Hanf says, the people of his church have been involved in food ministry for 12 or 13 years, organizing the food pantry with food from Harvest Hope Food Bank, donations from other churches, donations from the area Boy Scouts, and community food drives. On distribution days, there are at least 15 volunteers who help register those coming for food, serve in distribution, help load buggies and automobiles, and assist with paperwork.
“We have a list of items each person receives,” Jimmy, a missionary and former Kershaw Baptist Association director of missions, says. “We fill those lists based on a family’s need. A larger family will get more items.” Items are distributed from 10 a.m. to Noon.As the people gather in the mornings, Jimmy meets them about 9:30 a.m. He invites them to join him in a devotion and prayer time, and recently those gatherings have moved to the church’s sanctuary.
“We have to be careful because this is a government project and I can’t share the devotion during the actual registration time,” Jimmy says. “So, I do it beforehand, and I’ve had the opportunity to introduce people to the Lord, and as a church, we’ve prayed for hundreds of people.”
“We see a lot of the same people, who come from around the church but also from smaller communities several miles away,” Jimmy, who is a Lugoff native, says. “Our volunteers have gotten to know many of these people, and they all have a story. Our volunteers know those stories and have built meaningful relationships. We see and serve senior adults raising grandchildren, and the unemployed and underemployed. We see ourselves as the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Cindy Kirkland is the director of the food pantry and gives testimony to God’s provision of the food. “There have been days when we seemed to have very little food on the shelves, but then there would still be food available when we closed the doors that day. As a church, serving others, we are blessed by the generosity, donations, and volunteers from so many places.” When pondering this the feeding of the 5,000 comes to mind.
Concord Baptist is a missions-minded church. Aside from the food pantry, 22 students at Doby’s Mill Elementary School – about five miles from the church – receive free food every weekend. These Sacks of Love include non-perishable items that children can eat over the weekend when they have no access to free or reduced lunches at school.
“We see our Sacks of Love effort as an extension of the food pantry,” Jimmy says.
The church’s effort in local missions has also generated support for Jimmy and Jeannette Hanf’s regular mission trips to Peru. These trips focus on water quality among the Peruvian people under the ministry name Agua Es Vida or “Water is Life.” A handful of Concord church members have been on the missions trips eager to see a broader scope of mission service.
“Concord is a very missions-minded church,” Jimmy says. “That culture began with the local food pantry long before I started serving here, and it’s a blessing to see how focused the church is on serving others.”