Maranatha Church Helps Feed Hungry Neighbors

Weekdays are proving to be just as busy as Sabbath mornings for Maranatha Adventist Church in Seattle — and that’s just the way the service-minded congregation likes it.

“We have a rich legacy of community service in our church,” says Derek Lane, Maranatha Church pastor. “Service seems to be our strength.”

Maranatha Church is one of three Washington Conference churches involved in a pilot program for church revitalization. A renewed calling to service in the midst of a pandemic is proving to be effective for this congregation.

The church arranged to serve as an emergency food distributor. Each Wednesday, the routine is similar. The produce truck arrives at 8 a.m. for unloading. A volunteer team picks up dairy donations at 9 a.m. Nonperishable food boxes are assembled by 10 a.m. The church’s front doors open at 11 a.m. About 200 food boxes are all distributed to 60–80 families by 1 or 2 p.m.

While the Othello Park neighborhood is booming with new upscale apartments with easy Sound Transit access, there are many lower-income families in housing east of the church.

“We see many of the same people from week to week,” says Wendy Bucknor, Maranatha community service coordinator. “We’ve done this for enough weeks that we can quickly identify who is new. Our neighborhood is primarily Asian. Some people are comfortable speaking English, and many others are not.”

When the distribution line opens at 11 a.m., walk-up clients receive their boxes and then repackage the contents into provided backpacks or wheeled bags. The church’s front driveway then accommodates two cars at a time for pickup.

“There are three churches on our block. Neighbors just see buildings. They don’t know us until they see our faces,” Bucknor notes. “We are the church to them. I am looking at the church right now as me, and I am being revitalized.”

It’s not just two days a week the church family is busy helping their neighbors.

On Fridays, the church serves 100 plates of food to a nearby homeless village. The church also has a free legal clinic and an addictions counseling program. It most recently established a health testing site where community health care partners provide testing for COVID-19, HIV and other issues each Monday.

“Matthew 25 is a snapshot of ministry in the last days: feeding the hungry, providing water to the thirsty, visiting the sick. That’s the kind of ministry we want to be involved in,” Lane says. “Our attendance has increased, our members are feeling fulfilled spiritually, and we’re just excited about what God is doing here.”