Spreading a gospel of love through brown-bag lunches

Sharing food with those in need has been part of the Father and Son Love Ministries since its inception, but now the Lutz church has branched out to create a free summer lunch program — with no strings attached.

The church is tucked away in a commercial office plaza, just off State Road 54, at 24156 Foggy Ridge Parkway.

All families and children are welcome to come by the church on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m., to pick up the free bagged lunches.

Assistant Pastor Ken Waters wears plastic gloves and a hairnet, as he prepares sandwiches for the Father and Son Love Ministries’ free summer lunch program.
(B.C. Manion)

The free Father and Son Love Ministries Summertime Lunch Program runs through Aug. 29, but will be closed on July 4.

Although the program operates just two days a week, the church provides multiple bagged lunches to help families to get from one distribution to the next.

For instance, a family with four or more children will be offered up to two lunches per child, per visit. A family with one to three children will be offered up to three lunches per child per visit.

Each lunch consists of a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich; salad or fruit; cookies, doughnuts or pastry; and, a small bottle of water.

The program aims to send a message of hope to those in need, said Pastor C.J. Johns Sr., who said he felt spiritually compelled to launch the program this year.

“It’s hard for people to be knocked down and still feel dignity,” Johns said. “If you don’t have kids and you’re struggling, what do you do? You’re not lesser than because you don’t have money.

“We’ve turned into a society where if you don’t have an American Express card, you’re a throwaway. It’s ridiculous,” Johns added.

By reducing grocery bills for families, perhaps they’ll be able to pay for summer camps for the kids, go on some family outings, or do other things they enjoy during their summer break, Johns said.

At the very least, he added, it can take some pressure off families: “You don’t have to open a can of Spam every day.”

Assistant Pastor Ken Waters and his wife, Cheryl, typically arrive about an hour before the doors open, to begin preparing the sack lunches.

“We are making sure that these sandwiches are nice and fresh,” the assistant pastor said. “We try to make sure they get a healthy portion (of turkey),” he added, as he layered several slices of meat on two large pieces of bread.

Helping to feed those in need is more important than focusing on strategies to build church membership, said Pastor C.J. Johns Sr., who leads the Father and Son Love Ministries, a church at 24156 Foggy Ridge Parkway in Lutz.

Being involved in the ministry is rewarding, the couple said, adding that they hope those receiving the lunches will enjoy them.

The church covers most of the cost of the free summer lunch program, but Publix helps by donating bread and pastries every Sunday and Wednesday, the assistant pastor said.

The biggest problem so far is that there hasn’t been much traffic.

It’s been difficult to get the word out, Johns said.

He hopes that will change as the church does more outreach to food pantries, apartment complexes and other places where there may be people in need.

Those dropping by to pick up lunches aren’t required to listen to any type of preaching or to sign any paperwork, Johns said. “We don’t need names. ID. Social (Security numbers). They don’t ever have to see me again.”

And, when it comes to how many lunches are provided to a family, the church is operating on an honor system, the pastor added.

The free lunch program isn’t intended as a promotional tool for the church, Johns said.

The only information included in the bagged lunches is a flier listing the program’s days and hours of operation.

The idea is to be of service, and to perhaps serve as an example for others, Johns said.

“We need some boots on the ground. We need ministers who are going to be doing the servant’s work, of serving people,” he said.

In the pastor’s view, doing this kind of work is far more important than focusing on strategies to boost church membership.

He wants to spread a message that: “Maybe there is goodness in the world, maybe somebody does care.”

Assistant pastor Waters agreed it’s important work: “Walk the walk.”

Johns added: “People may think we’re crazy, but I believe we can change this world, one person at a time. I believe it. It’s not a slogan.”

What: Father and Son Love Ministries Summertime Lunch Program
Where: 24156 Foggy Ridge Parkway, Lutz
When: Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m. (through Aug. 29, except for July 4)
Cost: Free
Details: This church ministry provides free sack lunches, as an act of service to others, during the summer months.
Info: Call (813) 383-8410.

Published July 4, 2018

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