By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
COLUMBIA, La. (LBM) – When Union Central Elementary School notified First Baptist Church in Columbia they needed assistance distributing meals to students homebound because of school cancelation due to the coronavirus outbreak, Pastor Eric Harriman quickly assembled a group to respond.
From March 17-25, multiple teams that included 10 First Baptist church members, law enforcement members, Union Central Principal Kim Adams, a FBCC member, cafeteria workers and other school personnel — distributed nearly 1,200 meals (600 for breakfast and 600 for lunch) prepared daily by Caldwell Parish School cafeteria personnel into neighborhoods and housing projects in Columbia and other parts of the parish.
Adams thanked First Columbia, the non-denominational Life Church in Columbia and the school district’s special education director, speech therapist and school psychologist for their assistance during this difficult time.
“It was encouraging not only to see the churches come together but the many volunteers from the school district step up,” Adams said. “This was a truly team effort, which is what we do here in Columbia. That’s the normal for us here. We don’t think much about it, we just do it.”
Harriman said he is proud of the effort put for by his congregation and others in the community.
“I am extremely proud of our church members, but am not surprised,” he said. “They always step up to the challenge. Our people want to know how they can help during times like this. Anytime we have shared a need, they have stepped up.”
Harriman said such times have reminded how the body of Christ can extend beyond denominational lives to serve others in His name.
“Different volunteers from different churches with different denominations are all working together during this time,” he said. “It was a way for us all to get on the same page as we stressed the need to be safe but not panic. When you are a pastor in a small parish like I am, you find out you are not just the pastor of your church, you become a pastor in and for the community. We really try to work together, especially in times like these.”
The lunch distribution is among the many ways First Baptist has ministered to its members and community during the current situation.
First Baptist’s deacons have shopped for senior citizens who are unable to leave their homes, and, the church has livestreamed its worship services, Bible studies and a children’s spiritual enrichment program.
Harriman said staying connected to critical during a time when disconnection from others can happen.
“When we open up again, and gather again, I think our Easter Services are going to be even more special than they are each year,” he said. “It will be an incredible time to reconnect and fellowship and worship with other believers.
“I think we will realize what a privilege it is to be able to come together several times each week as believers and worship and study and share life together,” he continued. “While we wait for that day, we will continue to stay connected while we attempt to keep our community safe.”