By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
RAYVILLE – Deep in the Delta farmland, Deanna Corbett battles hunger.
Most days she works alongside volunteers to plant vegetables in a community garden or stuff backpacks with food for the impoverished in Richland Parish. Her end goal is to plant seeds that reap a harvest for Christ.
According to statistical data, Richland Parish is one of the poorest parishes in the state. U.S. Census information shows that 27.8 percent of Richland Parish residents live below the poverty level, ranking it ninth out of 64 parishes in Louisiana.
Through her work, Corbett, endorsed by the North American Mission Board as a Mission Service Corps missionary and funded in part by Louisiana Baptists as an association compassion ministry, is doing her part to meet a physical need and give parish residents hope in Jesus.
“The projects give us a strong presence – the people know why we are there and what we are doing,” Corbett said. “The plight of the impoverished is massive.”
Corbett founded Shade Tree Missions shortly after she surrendered to full-time missions in May 2015.
With assistance from a volunteer base of nearly 25, Corbett conducts a backyard Bible club in a Rayville housing project, oversees food distribution to children in Richland Parish Schools, maintains a community garden in Rayville, works at a thrift store maintained by the Richland Baptist Association and holds bi-weekly Bible studies in the Richland Parish Detention Center.
Each ministry has provided its own unique opportunity to share the Gospel.
“The community garden is a good segue to the Gospel because we tell people the plot is free but it costs somebody something, much like salvation,” said Corbett, who is a member of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Rayville. “Gardening has many lessons about the Gospel that make it easy to share Christ.
“A lady overheard me in a thrift store talking about our food ministry to schools and asked if we volunteered with it,” she said. “I told her, ‘Yes,’ and she was so grateful because her son is a recipient. Those two stories may seem like small things, but they are part of something much bigger here at Shade Tree Missions.”
Corbett is one of many Louisiana Baptists who are impacting the future with the Gospel through compassion ministries.
The 2020 Commission Report, formulated by 400 Louisiana Baptist pastors, lay leaders and denominational workers, emphasized compassion ministry as one of ten “Key Actions In Reaching Our State” – known as KAIROS.
KAIROS 4, engaging LBC congregations in compassion ministries, provides “remarkable opportunities to share the love of Christ and reach people for faith,” the commission report states.
Clothing programs, ministries to prisoners and their families, abortion-alternative services, tutoring classes, disaster relief, counseling, and feeding ministries are examples of ministries that “can open doors to overlooked people groups,” the commission said.
Jeff Cook, compassion ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists, said while he is pleased 65 percent of Louisiana Baptist churches participate in a compassion ministry, the goal is to have every church involved.
“A good compassion ministry seeks to accomplish four goals – meet human needs, build trust and relationships, fully share the Gospel and connect people to the local church,” he said.
For more information about Shade Tree Missions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Details about giving to the World Hunger Offering can be found at https://louisianabaptists.org/LWHO.