It seems remarkable that a ministry strategy, so simple in design, could continue to thrive and grow in an ever-changing world.
But more than 2 decades after the first 1,000 boxes were distributed in New York City, this month's goal is to provide enough Boxes of Love to reach over 156,000 people.
Each box contains a complete meal for a family of 6 and also includes Christian materials for adults and children. Give toward Boxes of Love.
Since 1987, Here's Life Inner City has organized this outreach strategy each November, just in time for Thanksgiving. Funds are raised, food boxes are packed, and partner churches in cities across the U.S. are equipped with a tangible expression of God's love.
Now's the perfect time for such tangible gifts. In 2009, 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008.
The gift of food during a time of need can be priceless, but spiritual food lasts much longer. Addressing a physical need opens the door to meeting deeper spiritual needs. The gospel message is presented to each family that receives a box.
Perspectives about God can change through a Boxes of Love outreach.
One Chicago grandmother had been praying for her family to have food for Thanksgiving. Her family thought she was crazy to believe that God would provide for them. But, much to their surprise, Corey Buchanan of Chicagoland Prison Outreach and one of his chaplains arrived with a Box of Love.
"The family now believes that prayer works," says Corey.
In a "nothing is free" world, people might wonder what the catch is. Responses vary from skeptical to grateful and everything in between. However, the goal remains to introduce people to the free gift of salvation.
Another Boxes of Love distinctive is the emphasis on family. Some churches, civic groups, and city programs offer large meals at Thanksgiving for those who would go without.
What makes Boxes of Love so unique is that it enables families to have Thanksgiving in their very own home. Instead of standing in line with hundreds of others, families cook their holiday meal in their own kitchens.
The vision of Boxes of Love fits with Cru's emphasis on connecting people to followers of Jesus. Through Here's Life's provision of resources, the local church is empowered to get out in the community and tell people about Christ.
Many churches in the inner city lack the resources and connections to fund an outreach of this magnitude. The desire to help is there, but the funds are not. That's where Here's Life comes in.
Boxes of Love are offered to partner urban churches and ministries at no cost thanks to Here's Life's national and local fundraising efforts. Evangelism trainings are also provided.
These churches distribute the boxes in their own communities, connecting with those in their neighborhood in a positive way. The church is no longer just a building, but a body of people who care.
When a box is delivered by local caregivers, it not only meets the immediate physical and spiritual needs at the time, but it often launches a long-term relationship, which provides hope in the midst of poverty.
Delivering boxes in the community opens the eyes of local and church volunteers to what God is doing in the city and gets them involved.
"There is a point where we as a church have to get out of our comfort zones," says Louisville, Ky., pastor Bill Carpenter. "Boxes of Love makes us get out into the neighborhood. The church members appreciate serving, but this takes the spiritual and puts it into the practical."
An evangelism training only strengthens the opportunities for people to get involved, often with great results. In Atlanta, 10 members of a local church saw 11 people indicate decisions for Christ as they delivered 25 Boxes of Love.
Learning how to tell others about Christ motivates volunteers not only to do it, but to teach others how. Using a simple tool, like the Would You Like to Know God Personally? booklet, a volunteer can leave something with the recipient that clearly presents the gospel. The booklet could then be used to tell others about Christ.
The world has changed a lot since that first box was delivered in 1987, but the ultimate need remains the same. People everywhere need to not only hear about Jesus, but to experience His love in a tangible way.
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