By Allison Redmond
ORANGEBURG—From the outside, the Shepherd Ministry at St. Andrews United Methodist Church might just look like another church food ministry.
However, inside those walls is a ministry that spans beyond any conventional idea of what food ministry is.
Yes, the ministry provides meals and food boxes for individuals in their community. In fact, they deliver plates of food to 86 people each Tuesday, and offer boxes of various food to about 40 people on Wednesdays and Fridays.
But beyond the weekly routine of providing food for those in need, Shepherd Ministry branches out to meet the needs of its community with the resources the Lord provides. Volunteers with Shepherd Ministry may be found delivering snacks to a local woman who hosts around 50 children for a Bible study each week. Or they may be delivering birthday cakes to those they serve or bottled water to the local fire department.
During the school year, they partner with local elementary schools, donating coats during the winter months or backpacks full of food to ensure children will be fed on weekends.
Over the last few years they have delivered 60 backpacks weekly to the schools. This year, that number will increase to 85.
“We’re reaching at least 85 children per year, and they’re getting something to eat and they are getting a little bit of Scripture to go with it,” said Penny Salley, director of the Shepherd Ministry.
They even collect pairs of underwear for the local elementary school students during what they call “Undie Sundays.” Salley said this is a need in many schools that most may not consider.
“I think it’s very greatly appreciated by the schools we collect for,” Salley said. “It’s something that people just really don’t think about.”
Ultimately, Shepherd Ministry has grown with the needs of its surrounding community.
Salley said that over her time with Shepherd Ministry, she has seen an increase in the amount of people that need help supplementing their income with food from the ministry. But along with that growing need comes a growing volunteer base willing to do whatever is needed.
“We have grown with the people that have come in to help, which has just been so rewarding,” Salley said.
The Rev. Carol Cannon, co-pastor of St. Andrews UMC, is the self-described cheerleader of the Shepherd Ministry. She said the ministry provides the church with an opportunity to serve its surrounding community.
“What it provides is a way to reach out to the community and have a connection with the community that we would not have otherwise,” Cannon said. “It allows us to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ.”
According to Cannon, it is a ministry that calls on the service and involvement of everyone at St. Andrews, even volunteers from outside the church.
Salley said she has never doubted the Lord would provide for the ministry, even though the ministry is funded solely on donations.
“There was no question about it—God would see that (the resources) would come in, and it just worked out beautifully,” Salley said.
Salley said she encourages anybody interested to get involved with a ministry like this.
“It is very rewarding,” Salley said. “We have met a lot of wonderful people who have come in to pick up the food boxes … the whole thing has been such a rewarding experience, just to be able to give and to help.”
For more on the Shepherd Ministry, call the church at 803-534-6636.