Hopewell ‘pays it forward’ with free lunches, breakfasts

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 2010

The posting on Facebook told of a man who’d had his day made when he pulled up to a local fast food restaurant drive-thru to order breakfast. He pulls up to the window, making the motions to pay for his meal, only to be told this:

“Your meal has been paid for by Hopewell Baptist Church.”

He drives off in wonderment, a smile on his face. His day made, he said.

Think of the practice as “paying it forward” – after all, that’s how Hopewell Baptist Church’s pastor Barry Wilkerson describes it.

“We don’t do it to try increase membership like one might think,” Wilkerson said. “We do it to demonstrate to people that Jesus’ love is practical. It’s a way to help people see that God loves them. It makes Jesus real to them.”

Congregation members have taken it upon themselves to spread the good cheer. They are “encouraged” to patronize local restaurants and purchase the meal for the next person in line.

Wilkerson said he and members of the church have received numerous thanks for the practice.

“I had a mother call one night from Greenville,” he said. “She said she had just come from taking her child to the doctor here and had very little money. She said she didn’t know how she was going to afford to buy lunch, but that the child had to eat. She said when she pulled up to the window to pay, the cashier handed her one of our cards.

“A church member in the car in front of her had paid for their lunch,” he said. “She said it was such a blessing, and I told her, ‘That’s why we do it.’

“It’s not for the recognition,” he said. “It’s to remind people that Jesus loves them.”

Wilkerson said the idea was modeled from a story of a church doing a similar practice in Florida.

“It sounded like it was the perfect thing for us,” he said. “So we did it.”