Three hundred thirty people live in the town of St. Thomas, North Dakota. An average of 20 people attend in-person worship at the United Methodist Church. Each week people in the community, a farming community located 15 miles from the Canadian border, can be fed in body and soul by the United Methodist Congregation.
Last spring, members of the United Methodist Church in St. Thomas, installed a “Little Free Pantry” inside the local building that houses the community’s post office and cafe. An unused newspaper dispenser was transformed into a food pantry.
“If the people aren’t coming to the town center of St. Thomas, North Dakota, for the news, they’ll certainly know they can come for nutrition,” said Rev. Jerry Bass, who serves the congregation.
Members of the congregation bring food items to replenish the Little Food Pantry. A volunteer checks the supply a couple of times each week and stocks items as needed. No strings are attached. People come and take the items they want at any time.
“If people want the food, they can take the food,” Pastor Jerry. “It is going great. We even added a shelf to offer more items. We occasionally put dog food in the pantry and other items for pets.”
St. Thomas UMC recently has expanded its food ministry. They are now are offering a free meal at the local cafe.
“The idea came to me watching a story on the NBC Evening News,” said Bass. “It was a story about a restaurant owner on the east coast who started a similar outreach in her establishment. When I shared the idea with the folks in St. Thomas, they jumped on it.”
A poster with tear-off slips was created and attached to the Little Free Food Pantry. In a matter of two days, the free meal offer appeared. The sign was placed on the transformed newsstands food pantry that sits in the vestibule of the cafe and post office.
“Persons can simply tear off a coupon, go into the cafe, and eat. The church will cover the cost of each meal, up to ten dollars,” shared Pastor Jerry.
The cafe manager is enthusiastically on board with the concept. The goal is to meet the need of those seeking a hot meal. The congregation has dedicated at least $100 meals to the local café and will expand as needed. Members of St. Thomas UMC have donated funds specifically for the meals and the Little Free Food Pantry.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it will be used. The current commitment is for ten meals a month but could be expanded depending upon needs,” Bass said. “The Little Food Pantry is still going strong. This is a great addition.”
Bass shares that it is a time of experimentation for everyone for worship and being the hands and feet of Jesus.
St. Thomas UMC continues to worship in-person and online. Bass records service and posts the service on YouTube channel. “We have had extended family members, who are connected to the community St. Thomas who are attending online,” said Pastor Jerry. “I have created my little studio at my house. We continue to explore new ways to do ministry for this rural congregation. But St. Thomas has a heart for others.”
The 2021 Miracle Offering: Feeding the Dakotas will distribute funds three ways. One-third of the gifts will be for grants to local congregations to start or expand a local hunger ministry, like the one at St. Thomas UMC. Prepare your heart and gifts for the 2021 Miracale Offering to help fund local hunger ministries.