By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
EUSTACE–Sometimes a great legacy can propel us to our former glory. The Jesus Connection in Eustace is experiencing just this kind of renaissance.
For 20 years the First Baptist Church in Eustace has operated a food pantry. Its had times of growth and decline – sometimes servicing a single family, other times filling the entire parking lot with people in need of a meal.
The early 2000’s were a period of prosperity for the food pantry. It was open one Tuesday every month and people came in from the surrounding tri-county area for its services. After a time the leader that organized the weekly pantry fell ill and the ministry transitioned back to a one-room service. It stayed that way for nearly a decade until some of the church’s faithful started talking about a growing need in the county and their ability to do something about it.
“It started during the pantry’s charity golf tournament,” The Jesus Connection organizer Gary Walsh said. “Larry Albertson approached me about it. A conviction was heavy on his heart that the pantry should be bigger than it was. Since I had been organizing the pantry it was on my heart, too. We prayed about it with (pastor) Paul McKinney and God has been leading us in this direction ever since.”
Today, Walsh and Albertson, along with their wives Patty and Carol spearhead the community service ministry with two goals in mind for recipients: feeding both the spiritual and physical sides of man. After some preparation the pantry is again open the first Tuesday every month from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Considering future plans, Walsh said that he hopes the pantry will grow to be open each week to serve more people. If or when the ministry grows again, it surely means more trips to “The King’s Storehouse” in Tyler, where Walsh and Albertson purchase the food. You can count on them being up for the drive.
“Jesus said we are to take care of the poor and needy,” Walsh said. “We are not here to judge anyone, just to serve. We just ask that they take part in a 15 minute Bible study before they leave.”
The response from the community to the resurgence of The Jesus Connection has been phenomenal, Walsh said.
“We already have 12-14 faithful volunteers,” he said. “And we raised $5,000 at Twin Lakes Golf Course earlier this year.”
Walsh draws upon a story Jesus concludes in Matthew 25:40 for inspiration and guidance. The scripture reads; “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Roughly translated, that means “If you’re serious about loving me, be serious about loving people.”
The Jesus Connection is seeking sponsors and donations to better serve the region. For more information call the Eustace First Baptist Church at 903-425-2261.