The Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church is making a difference in people’s lives in whatever way it can find to do so. Through its main outreach arm—the Beltsville Adventist Community Center (BACC)—it works closely with local government and community organizations to help those hardest hit economically in Beltsville and adjoining locales. Recently on Saturday, April 4, the church parking lot was the site for a drive-through food distribution operation.
It was the third Saturday in a row that the church parking lot was eerily empty. Pre-pandemic, the church parking would be packed with Sabbath worshippers. On this Saturday morning, a gathering of a different sort was shaping up outside. At 11 am, a handful of vehicles pulled into the empty parking lot. The cars belonged to a skeleton crew of volunteers: three staff members from District 1 Council Member Tom Dernoga’s office; three from County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ office; Beltsville Police Officer Kenneth Hibbert; and one of the Beltsville SDA Church pastors, Sifa Potauaine.
They donned masks and gloves and started to set up cones in the parking lot for the drive-through. Soon after, Illongovan Pandithurai, a Beltsville resident and the church’s head deacon and his ten-year old son, Daniel, arrived to set up tables on the parking sidewalk. They left to return later and put away the tables.
A white van emblazoned with Catering by Uptown on its side was backed up to the sidewalk and pallets with carryout containers were stacked next to the tables. Prince George’s County District 1 Council Office paid for the catering company to prepare 500 hundred packed meals—lunch and dinner. The menu for the day? Chicken, spinach, rice and beef, broccoli, and rice.
Cars started to stream into the parking lot. Names were checked off on a list, and for the next three hours they kept coming until all the meals were distributed. The drive-through food pickup will take place every Saturday for the rest of April at the Beltsville SDA Church. It is the best that the church can do at this time of social isolation.
How can a church serve its community during a pandemic with physical distancing measures in place? Well, you can always donate money to the cause, but sometimes it is just not the same. Humans crave human connection, and this is the challenge of the time we are in.
Pastor Sifa believes innovation is key. He says, “We have to adjust to circumstances that are outside of our control like this pandemic. When people cannot get involved in the act of service, then we offer up our spaces in service of those in need … until we can [personally get involved] again.” Service. Innovation. A global pandemic has challenged the Beltsville SDA Church to explore new grounds in ministry and make a difference however small in its community.
Photo Caption: A Volunteer for the Beltsville Adventist Community Center helps at the drive-through food distribution.