Loaves & Fishes Food Ministry

A Brief History of Open Hands

Open Hands began as a worshiping body of believers on March 11, 2013. As the second Monday of March 2017 arrives it seems like a good time to reflect on where we have been and share God’s dream about where we may be headed.

   The roots of Open Hands run a bit further back than four years. In early 2012 a group of members from Bethany United Methodist Church completed a 32-week Disciple Bible study. A recurring theme that we found in scripture was God’s call to feed those who are hungry. We interpreted this to mean both spiritual and physical hunger. Even as the Bible study was happening we began hosting monthly “Free Meal Mondays” at Bethany, feeding all our neighbors who would come. Through this ministry we forged friendships with people who lived at the Economy Inn of Lexington -ten miles away from Bethany UMC. Despite the distance, we felt a spiritual kinship and closeness. We were assured of a call to be friends and neighbors with our new acquaintances in Lexington. When the weather became warmer we hosted a series of cookouts at the Economy Inn, sharing hot dogs, hamburgers, children’s activities, and God’s love together. At Christmas of 2012 several members of Bethany UMC went Christmas caroling at the Economy Inn, bearing gifts and good will.

   With our hearts turned toward our friends, we prayed about a way to have a weekly meal and worship experience together. After much prayer and a season of seeking God’s will, we asked Wesley Heights UMC to partner with us and serve as the host site for Open Hands –the name we gave to the weekly meal, music, and message event. They opened their doors to us. We met for the first time on March 11, 2013 with 14 people in attendance (plus invited guests). From the very beginning, the hallmarks of Open Hands have included: everyone is welcome; everyone matters; the world needs more grace and less judgment. We practice these beliefs in our worship, our decision-making, and our daily living. We are empowered to do so by the love of God experienced in the sacraments of baptism and communion.

    God led us to the Lexington Church of God, one of our current sites for the Monday night meal, music, and message. The people of the church graciously joined our effort and we became partners in ministry. The love of God tied us together in mission. We began meeting at LCOG in October of 2013. As we have met there we have seen attendance steadily grow on Monday nights, reaching a high of 257 for our Christmas 2015 celebration. Along with growth in attendance, we have also grown in the number of individuals and churches that have become part of the ministry team.

In December 2013 a Board of Directors was formed to advise this growing ministry. We hired Bob Harmon to be our Open Hands Director, overseer of daily operations. On January 27, 2014 we unofficially opened Mercy Station Matthew at 506-C National Blvd in Lexington. We were at this site until April of 2016 when we opened Mercy Station Stephen at St. Stephen United Methodist Church.  We entered into a partnership to utilize part of St. Stephen as our newest Mercy Station that gave us a better location and enabled us to serve more people.  This site is open Monday thru Friday for the purpose of Bible study, devotions, prayer, connecting neighbors with needed resources, fellowship, and a myriad number of God’s other purposes in Davidson County.  In April of 2017 we began serving breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Mercy Station Stephen.

   In October 2016 we opened our second worship site at First Reformed United Church of Christ in Uptown Lexington. This has opened up new avenues where more people are serving and being served.  Between the two sites were are averaging close to 200 people each week.  The two sites have enabled us to have a more intimate worship.  

               In January 2018, we returned to Wesley Heights United Methodist Church where this all began to have a smaller, more intimate setting for our worship.  With the second site uptown, we did not need the huge gymnasium setting at the Church of God any longer and this move brought us to a place that is more suited for our meal, music, and message service.

               A new project that we have entered into is a partnership with Soul Food in Albemarle to help them create a Mercy Station model in Albemarle to serve the people in Stanly County.  This is the next step in showing More Grace… Less Judgment to more of God’s children.  We are excited as this ministry develops.  They have obtained their building and will be opening within the next 60 days.

As you can see, so much has happened in this short amount of time. As we celebrate our young age we also appreciate the opportunity that is before us. God’s grace is laced through and among the lives of all the people of Davidson County. God desires an end to cycles of brokenness and despair that have haunted so many for so long. We believe that God is calling Open Hands to be a big part of the word of grace that he speaks to his beloved people. With that in mind we will continue to seek ways to expand opportunities for employment, increase the presence of Mercy Stations and worship sites, pray for new ways to help those in need, and give glory and honor to God in all that we do.

From early on, we have stuck to the motto of More Grace … Less Judgment.  All of us have been fallen short but with the grace that God has available to us all we want to share that grace with those who are part of our community.  We do not judge where any of us have been, but we celebrate the grace that is available to us.

   Not one bit of this would be possible without the committed volunteers who give many hours to make Open Hands happen. Some assist with food service; some clean; some drive vans; some play in the band; some greet; some work in the clothing ministry; all are amazing in their love of Christ and neighbor. Beyond hearing the gospel call of sacrifice and servanthood, they are living it out through Open Hands of Davidson County. I salute all of our wonderful volunteers. It is an honor and a privilege to serve Christ alongside each of you.

Grace and Peace

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