Slow-smoking BBQ is as African American as sweet potato pie. Fits well with unhurried front-porch time. So much so that years ago I decided to try to learn to BBQ (still working on the ribs).
Last fall men from Church of the First Born (COFB) and Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church (LMPC) leased a rolling smoker and cooked hundreds of pounds of chicken and hots under a tent pitched at COFB. Preaching and fellowship followed. I couldn't help remarking to Daryl, an excellent pitmaster, while he turned succulent chickens, that I'd love to do something similar at the Westside housing project. He was open to the suggestion.
In mid-November he and Kenneth let me know that they wanted to fire up the smokers for Friday, December 18 at the Westside. Since we hadn't talked about it since the earlier event, I immediately went to the Chattanooga Housing Authority to get permission. The Director has left the day before on vacation, so permission couldn't be decided upon until Dec. 1, but we were encouraged to keep planning.
Kevin Youngblood, of Ft. Worth, Texas, has a regular BBQ ministry, “Smoking for Jesus,” to a needy area in his city. He took what he knew how to do and made it a gift, having been impacted by the book Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. The RMNI Board had read it.
Daryl and Kevin are friends. Kevin volunteered to pay for the meat. Getting logistical help from Kevin, we planned a meal for 800, together with job counseling from the State of Tennessee, choirs, children's ministry, Christian literature distribution and preaching. The menu called for 432 pounds of pork loins, 320 hotdogs, 60 pounds of coleslaw and about 135 pounds of baked beans, with ten chickens thrown in.
Friends at the Westside distributed flyers. A tent company donated the same tent used at the earlier gathering and the Lord seemed to very quickly pull everything together. First Baptist of Hixson, another black church, and Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, another white church also provided cooks and other volunteers. Student Venture, Christians from Univ. of Tenn.-Chattanooga, and the House of Refuge also came out to help as well as the COFB praise team.
Friday opened with hard rain all morning, with no end in sight, so we abruptly postponed the Smoky Meal Ministry until Sunday after- noon, when it would be dry, although the high would only be about 40 degrees. We didn't know how many volunteers would be able to come Sunday afternoon, or how many residents would come out for a meal provided largely by strangers.
At 1:30 PM workers fanned out distributing New Testaments in an almost lifeless city-scape. They also offered “The Story of Jesus” booklet for children and tracts, while inviting residents to come. Children's ministry began shortly after. The job counselors had to cancel, but we had some job information to distribute. Volunteers showed up-just enough for three serving lines and every other ministry area.
At the end of the day we'd provided about 700 meals. All the beans, slaw and hots were gone, and almost all the pork, the balance of which was given to the House of Refuge Christian half-way house, together with the rest of the Doritos and bottled water. COFB Pastor Alfred Johnson preached about be- ing careful of the locations we find ourselves in, and his praise team took the chill off at least the team members.
A unique atmosphere of loving service permeated the area. The volunteers were so kind and the residents very appreciative. One homeboy repeatedly shouted, "I ain't seen this many folks from the Westside in a minute!" [for a long time]. Later a major participant in the event volunteered to pay all costs. Our resident association contact heard good reports. It was a Christmas present all around.
The dependency of a parachurch ministry such as ours upon the local church was so obvious. We provided the community connection and oversight, but the church provided the resources, including about 60 volunteers. We ended up using three different church kitchens (St. Elmo Presbyterian provided their brand new facility) and two home kitchens.
Church and student volunteers pulled pork despite burning fingers and getting really greasy for the Lord. Seldom have I seen a ministry come together so well with so many variables. It had the Lord's Name written all over it. Gifts to RMNI provided assistance some months ago to one of the ladies on the right.
Ellen Going Full Time to S. Sudan
Ellen arriving at Lohutok: 2006
Ellen Fox first served in S. Sudan with our first RMNI Team in 2006, returning with us in 2007 and 2008, and in Uganda in 2009, when we had to divert from Sudan. That initial response to Ellen remains the same—enthusiastic! She retired last September and is planning to teach at a girls' school for two years. She plans to arrive within the next few weeks. The village has no running water, flush toilets or electricity. It doesn't have a store, due to a barter economy. The bride price is between 20-25 cows. All water must be carried in 5-gallon jugs from one of three wells.
Please pray for wisdom as she collects essentials for this immersion experience. Pray also for the ability to learn the local language (which has no written scriptures). She’ll be living in one room of a four-room or- phanage. She already has many friends in the village to ease the transition. If you’re interested in learning more about joining in this ministry, please contact us.