By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Harvest Church might have a small congregation, but in the last few years, it’s worked to make a big impact in Hoke County.
When Hurricane Matthew hit the area in 2016, taking down power lines and washing out roads, the members of Harvest Church were among the volunteers serving meals to the hungry. In the aftermath of the storm, the church even became part of the official recovery efforts. Two years later, when Hurricane Florence came knocking in 2018, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work again.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the church members knew what to do to help their community.
“We’ve always been there, boots on the ground,” Chief Deacon Unique Lomack said of Harvest Church.
Military veterans Pastor Lisa Barnett and Pastor Darryl Barnett founded the ministry about 11 years ago. Harvest Church is located at 409 East Central Avenue in Raeford.
From early on, the church established a food pantry to help the hungry. Over the years, the ministry expanded its operations to try and reach more people in need.
“We started a soup kitchen out there two days a week, and were giving out food to the community,” Lomack said. The church also opened a clothes closet.
The hurricanes in recent years brought out more need than ever before, as people struggled with losing food stores when the power went out and – in some areas – stayed out for days.
“I think everybody can remember what that was like and what everybody was going through,” Lomack said.
Then, the Harvest Church worked with a federal liaison to implement the long-term recovery plan to help get people affected by Matthew and Florence to “a new normal,” she said.
This year brought new challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The church has been doing larger food giveaways, in partnership with organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank and Campbell Soup, during the pandemic. The group stepped up at a time many other churches were also trying to answer the sudden increase in food insecurity, due in large part to many businesses shutting down or laying off workers.
The church has seen the same increase in need that other churches in Hoke have reported seeing over the last seven months. The lines of people coming in to get food boxes on the weekends got longer than before, Lomack said.
“It has been extensive numbers. I’m talking 200-plus numbers on Saturdays,” she said.
The congregation of about 40 people has showed up to help coordinate and manage the food giveaways.
“Even though we’re small, we make a big punch,” Lomack said.
The church plans to continue doing food giveaways to reach as many people as possible, as best they can.
The church also works to offer spiritual support, with a prayer cubicle and pastors available to talk with those who are going through difficult times. Harvest Church is nondenominational, and heavily focused on helping the community, Lomack said.
“You come as you are. We love God, we love people, we want to serve people while really putting an impact on people’s lives,” she said.
For more information on food giveaways or how to get involved, visit the church website at http://www.theharvestchurch1.com/, or on Facebook, or call (910) 875-5796.