Berean Church Shares Thanksgiving Meals for 25 Years

Berean Church Shares Thanksgiving Meals for 25 Years

Every year in Uniontown, Pa., on the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, a couple hundred people line up at the doors of the Berean church and can’t wait to get inside.

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

This year was no different. Despite the cold, some 75 families made their way to this tiny Allegheny West Conference church on the corner of Butler and Searight streets and hovered around the outside door to the fellowship hall waiting for entry and for Operation Jesus Feed to begin.

Lucille Colbert

Lucille Colbert prepares food during “Operation Jesus Feed.”

Inside was abuzz with activity as members of the church put the final touches on the feast they had prepared. “We have mashed potatoes, dressing, veggies, coleslaw and mac ’n cheese,” said longtime member Lucille Colbert, stirring the gravy that would be poured over the vegetarian dinner loaf.

Behind the small white stove where she stood attending to the food, there were several rows of long tables with chairs, which took up almost every inch of the room. Her daughter, Karen Nelson, a couple nieces, other family members and church members attended the table decorations. They covered each long table with table clothes, napkins and flower centerpieces in festive orange, yellow, red, white and gold colors. They added large rolls, packets of butter, cups, plastic silverware, napkins and plates of sliced cranberry sauce.

Against one yellow wall of the fellowship hall there was a table filled with pumpkin pies. Above it, a large rectangular sign with black and red lettering told the story: “Celebrating 25 Years of Operation Jesus Feed. Sponsored by the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church, area businesses and by God’s grace.”

Patience Barnes prepares to distribute food to visitors from the community.

Patience Barnes prepares to distribute food to visitors from the community.

Outside, shortly after the announced 1 p.m. start time, Patience Barnes, another of Colbert’s daughters, who serves as head elder of Berean and heads up this program, registered and then handed each family a slip of yellow paper with a number. There were moms, dads, grandparents, teens, lots of children and great need. There was also lots of hugging and expressions of thanks.

Carloda Miracle has attended all 25 of the Uniontown church's "Operation Jesus Feed" events. Photo by Sarita Blyden

Carloda Miracle has attended all 25 of the Berean church’s “Operation Jesus Feed” events. Photo by Sarita Blyden

Number 6 was Carloda Miracle, who says she lives on Lincoln, will be 75 in March and has been coming for all 25 years. “Thank you, honey,” she said taking her ticket and making her way down the steps and into the warm room to find a seat. When asked about her experience, she commented, “Patience and her mom are wonderful people. They do this every year, and I won’t miss it for nothing.”

After every seat was filled, Carl Rogers from the Allegheny West Conference office welcomed everyone. Rogers, who was involved from the beginning of Operation Jesus Feed and remembers when Dale Twomley, then one of the owners of Worthington Foods in Ohio, agreed to supply the vegetarian meat for this outreach program. It’s still the main entrée every year, but after dinner, every family also goes home with a “real turkey” and a box of food to make a complete Thanksgiving dinner.

The boxes, already filled with food, are upstairs in the sanctuary where Pastor Brandon White and a few more members are prepared to give one to each family when they finish dinner.

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Visitors enjoy the meal at “Operation Jesus Feed” at the Berean church. Photo by Sarita Ryan

Virginia Sherman, whose slip of paper reads, “#74,” says this is her second year coming for the dinner, the frozen turkey and the box of food. Along with the collard greens she grew in her garden this year, she says she’ll use it to feed her two sons, daughter and other family members on Thanksgiving. As she waited in the sanctuary for her turn to eat downstairs in the fellowship hall, she too expressed appreciation for Pastor White, Elder Barnes and the ministry of the Berean church. “We need a little help, and they give us a little help,” she says.