Saturdays in the City: A Tiny Church Helps End Hunger


We all know that “God has supplied all our needs” but I’ve just watched a tiny church help end poverty and hunger in an economically challenged neighborhood by faithfully waiting to plant a new grocery store there.

SaveALot At Ecclesia

Members of the Ecclesia CDC and the Save-a-Lot Corporation celebrate the opening of the new Save-a-Lot supermarket at Liberty and N. Alston in Durham, NC.

Ecclesia House of Prayer Holy Church believed that God had a reason for allowing them to buy a former Winn-Dixie supermarket for literally pennies on the dollar. Over the last decade, the tiny “family” church has been taking a third collection regularly to cover the cost of carrying the building.

Sell to a Developer? Just Say No!

Even when a major local developer, trying to consolidate the block, offered a large chunk of change to take it off their hands, the congregation said no. They were carrying a vision from God to use the property to help poor children, single mothers, and caretaking grandparents who lived in poverty and hunger.

First priority as they understood it was to bring back a grocery store into this neighborhood where low-income residents have to rely on their feet or public transportation to get to the market. The technical term, in urban development, for this neighborhood is “food desert.” People simply couldn’t get to food without an unreasonable effort. Church and nonprofit pantries would feed the hungry. But a long-term solution was needed.

Persistent as Grocery Stores Reject Proposals

As their efforts to woo grocery stores repeatedly failed, the people of Ecclesia considered bringing in a drug store, another critical local need. Also no takers. They eventually sought city funding for a “green upgrade” of the property to be used as office and service space by nonprofits. The building is located diagonally across the street from the space-constrained Salvation Army and Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club. Still no go.

This week, after more than a decade of prayerful faith, the grocery store opened: a Save-a-Lot. God blessed the work of their hands and the prayers of their hearts.

Another ‘Grocery Store’ Blessing in Boston

I should tell you that this is the second time that I’ve seen God’s people bring a supermarket, against all odds, to an urban community where poverty and hunger were ruling.

The residents of Boston’s Bromley-Heath housing community used to share taxis or try to carry groceries on public buses from markets many miles away. Pastors and politicians negotiated with supermarket chains to open the first new inner-city supermarket in a quarter century almost adjacent to Bromley-Heath.

Why would God care to provide grocery stores to hungry people?

Why would God not care?

“The [food] desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. … they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come …  he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.  … Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 31)

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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