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Boxes of Hope

Boxes of Hope

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Pastor Chris Morante didn’t think it coincidental that he had been teaching on the life of Jesus as the COVID-19 crisis escalated in mid-March. He told congregants at Evangel Church in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, they needed to view the pandemic as Jesus would.

Morante knew that the church, near the hard-hit New York metro area, would encounter people needing help. Having previously partnered with Convoy of Hope for events, he called to request a truckload of food and supplies, scheduled for delivery March 27. On March 26, the congregation had its first positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

“A family of six was immediately under quarantine,” says Morante, 34. “Since the 14-day period resets if someone else gets sick, they were looking at weeks or possibly months. Within just hours, their sense of hope had plummeted.”

The church delivered a box of food and supplies to the family right away. The impact of that simple act amazed Morante.

“Their faces brightened,” he recalls. “It was like we had brought them a box of hope.”

That sparked an idea. After establishing procedures for volunteer safety and disinfecting products, the church began distributing Boxes of Hope. The contents include cleaning products, food, and paper products.

Morante reached out to ministry friends to share the idea, with encouragement from national Assemblies of God leadership and the Church Multiplication Network. A missions-focused marketing and branding firm, Rethink Creative, quickly produced a themed website.

Churches can sign up through the website, which has a map to point people in need to a church in their area. Resource partners for the boxes vary by community, but Convoy of Hope is a regular. The Springfield, Missouri-based humanitarian organization is continuing to resource churches and communities even after surpassing its initial pledge to provide at least 5 million meals during the crisis.

Congregants donate personally if possible. Several major Christian publishers also are on board, providing discounted books to include in the boxes. A personal letter from Morante goes in each Evangel container, encouraging the recipient to contact the church for prayer.

Bloom Church in Branson, Missouri, became the first congregation to jump on board. Pastor Michael S. Carlton, a close friend of Morante through ministry networks, helped develop the website and procedures.

“I realized the church needs to live up to being considered essential business,” says Carlton, 37. By mid-April, Bloom had provided over 600 boxes in southwest Missouri. Carlton says the priority is families directly impacted by illness, followed by those in quarantine. But boxes also have gone to families impoverished by shutdowns, as in Branson’s tourism industry. “Mini-kits” for health care workers will be added soon.

Churches are cautioned to follow Centers for Disease Control recommendations, with volunteers wearing gloves and masks, and carefully monitored for any possible exposure prior to being allowed to serve. A no-contact delivery system is used. Volunteers pray with recipients at a safe distance or by phone.

“We received an email from a lady who received her box while she awaited test results,” says Carlton. “We had prayed with her, and she was so grateful, not only to learn the test was negative, but also for the prayer support during such an anxious time.”

Morante says he is inspired by the story in Luke 9 of Jesus feeding the 5,000, part of the teaching series just before COVID-19 hit.

“There was a huge need; the disciples were overwhelmed,” he says. “Their first response was ‘send them home,’ but Jesus used what they had and blessed it.”

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