|Pastor Paul and Rose Shorb of Faith Assembly of Lacey, Washington.|
Paul Shorb had no idea what he was getting himself into. In 2008, following the advice of some friends, he opened a food bank at Faith Assembly of Lacey (Washington). He handed out food from the back of his pickup truck on Sundays after church.
"If someone had told me five years ago what we'd be doing today, I'd have said, 'You're crazy,'" says Shorb, a retired soldier and now an Assemblies of God pastor.
From those modest beginnings where a handful of people received help, Faith Harvest Helpers has grown into a worldwide outreach. With three food banks, a distribution center, and a partnership with more than two dozen local churches, Shorb's outreach fed 280,000 people last year.
"It's about sharing food and giving hope," Shorb says.
And it's also about discipleship. With 400 volunteers, Faith Harvest Helpers doubles as a food source for the needy and an outreach connection for Christians.
"We want to be spiritually mature, reproducing Christians," Shorb says. "Washington is one of the least-churched states. We're trying to change that."
Volunteers at Harvest Helpers come in different shapes and ages. There's the bushy-haired teen and the gray-haired senior.
"It's all about being willing to help," Shorb says.
In addition to obtaining food from grocery chains' distribution centers (sometimes 7,000 pounds of oatmeal or 1,000 pounds of flour at a time), Shorb procures surplus salmon from local American Indian hatcheries. With the help of volunteers and a dozen pressure cookers, Harvest Helpers has canned as much as 60,000 pounds of salmon in one year.
By partnering with 26 local churches, Shorb has expanded the outreach of Harvest Helpers and of congregations in the area.
"We're trying to get the churches active," Shorb says. "For a small church, it's hard to have a food program. But if we can help by giving food, that changes the whole thing."
Shorb has found that attendance increases in churches that offer food to congregants and neighborhood residents.
|Faith Harvest Helpers receives surplus salmon from local Native American hatcheries for canning.|
"If befriended they start coming to church," says Paul's wife, Rose Shorb, who helps with the outreach. "We also found people in the church who really need it. But we want them to know that they're receiving this food because of the love of God."
In addition to filling stomachs, the Shorbs hope to fill spiritual needs.
It's an outreach that follows a simple equation - hunger plus food equals opportunity.
"The food opens the door to share the good news with others," Rose Shorb says. "We're not just a humanitarian outreach. We're also wanting to feed spiritual needs."
The Shorbs just completed Youth With a Mission discipleship training and hope to open an agriculturally based YWAM center on 44 acres near Yelm, Washington.
For more information about the church, see its website.
Author: Gail Wood, Pentecostal Evangel