Despite pandemic, New York church expands summer lunch program

“God showed up in every aspect of the program,” Karen Jones reported about First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa’s pandemic adaptation of its summer lunch ministry that reached out to children who live with food insecurity.

In the face of the global health crisis, the New York congregation’s ministry attracted more volunteers, expanded into two additional trailer courts, incorporated virtual vacation Bible school (VBS), and delivered healthy lunches to more than 100 children.

The established program received a $10,000 grant from American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS)—made possible by the Louise Burchard Pierce Memorial Fund—among other community support.

“COVID-19 was an unexpected challenge,” Jones noted. While the increase of volunteers willing to help with meal distribution solved one challenge, organizers still had to determine how to prepare and distribute lunches following “stringent” sanitizing procedures and social distancing guidelines.

Church members thought the pandemic meant no 2020 vacation Bible school, but, as the summer lunch delivery system fell into place, they realized the program could also “deliver” VBS. Craft materials and snacks were delivered along with lunches, and craft instruction, stories and songs were made available on YouTube.

“[God] provided for us to feed the hungry, spread the gospel, share financial blessings, role model Christian love, and work as a community of believers for a good cause,” Jones wrote in her ministry report, adding, “We saw the Holy Spirit at work in the almost flawless operation of the whole program.”

Ballston Spa, Saratoga County seat, features great disparity between the very wealthy and those living in poverty. The county has more mobile home parks than any other county in New York state; 20 parks alone are located in the Ballston Spa vicinity.