Giving Back: Bethel Holiday Feast
● By Brandi Barnett
Fit For A KingDecember 2006
By Teresa Wilson
Reaching out to the homeless is a ministry the members of Bethel Church feel strongly about. As many as 200 volunteers go out into the community year-round bringing in the poor and providing them with hot meals, clothing and a time of prayer and affirmation.
There are many outreach programs the church uses, but the annual Bethel Holiday Feast is by far the highlight of the Christmas season. For more than 10 years, the church has hosted the event in hopes of helping the poor and hurting in Redding. Last year’s feast brought in hundreds who were treated like kings at the elaborate feast, which is prepared and served by volunteers. Church members provide their finest china and holiday décor to ensure the banquet hall is reminiscent of a true family gathering.
Planning and preparation for the holiday feast begins about two months beforehand. In the past, gently used clothing was given to families in need, although Chris Overstreet, outreach pastor, said this year they would like to hand out new clothes and toys for the children. Food baskets are also given away to be sure the guests will have something in their cupboard following the feast.
Another outreach program called “To the Streets” has been very successful, according to Overstreet. Every Saturday, teams go out into the community on busses, stopping at predetermined locations such as the Good News Rescue Mission. They pick up homeless people and transport them back to the church for a hot lunch and time of fellowship.
“This is an opportunity for me to make a difference in my community. Everything we do is by team; it’s not just one person. We gather around the vision,” said Overstreet. “We’re out there, rain or shine, in six different locations,” he added.
Thursday evenings provide a more intimate opportunity for volunteers to succeed in their outreach efforts. Volunteers visit families who live in motels or low-income apartments and invite them to an in-home study group of about 35 people. Overstreet said the consistent personal attention has built many relationships with the less fortunate in our community.
“We try to build relationships with people to see their lives changed,” said Overstreet.
Overstreet has many ideas to take these programs to a new level, such as transitional housing and a hotel to help those who really have a heart to change. The top item on the list: More busses to bring in more friends. �