By Jessica Love, Mississippi Conference Intern
Photo right: This woman received meals from the Saltillo First UMC meals on wheels program because she is not able to cook safely.
"My mother has been a widow since December, 2009. After the loss of her husband, her health began to decline and she became less and less able to solely provide for herself....It was at this time that the 'Meals on Wheels' program became such a blessing to my mother and gave our family the reassurance we needed that mother would be provided with a healthy, nutritious meal on a regular basis."
This is one of many statements that tell the story of the Meals on Wheels program at Saltillo United Methodist Church, located in Lee County, Mississippi.
The outreach program began on January 2, 2012 as part of the church's Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation initiative. It has since flourished into a ministry of its own turning one story after the other. The purpose of the mission is to deliver hot, nutritious meals to disabled and elderly patrons three to five days per week. According to a report submitted to the Mississippi Annual Conference, most clients have either no family or family is too distant to care for them; and without the service, some would go without food.
Initially, the program could only prepare meals for seven recipients three times per week. The benevolent support of a mission grant made possible by the Mississippi Conference Office of Connectional Ministries, has enabled the program to deliver a total of 4,220 meals as of September 10, 2014. In addition, the church distributes a second meal route to those on a waiting list.
But the story does not stop there; Saltillo UMC is delivering so much more than "meals on wheels," they are carrying the love of Christ into homes as well.
"Mother certainly enjoys the meals, but maybe even more so, the time and attention the volunteers give to her. They not only meet her physical needs, but provide a spiritual blessing as well... The program has truly been a blessing to mother and the family."
These volunteers offer kind words and a smile and often reach out to offer transportation, reading materials, and simply time.
Carol L. Crump, mission chair at Saltillo UMC, expressed that another component of the ministry is to help recipients remain in their homes while providing them balanced meals with a nourishment bonus. "We are showing them God's love by being the hands and feet of Jesus," she stated.