First Woodway Baptist Church Takes Care of Neighbors During COVID-19

First Woodway Baptist Church is located in Woodway, which is a suburb on the west side of Waco, TX. The church has about 1800 people who attend each Sunday. VOMO spoke with Pastor René Maciel, Missions Pastor and Director of the Go South Missions ministry, about how they have been able to continue doing effective outreach even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pastor Maciel believes that his role is to help get people out of the pews, beyond the church walls and into the community. 

We heard that you have implemented some creative outreaches that can be conducted safely during this season of COVID-19. Could you tell us a little about that?

When the pandemic hit, we immediately put together a group of people through VOMO and we called it “Acts of Love.” It is basically a drive-through food pantry that operates Monday through Friday from 10 until noon and then 1 to 3. We’ve given out food to over 830 families over the past nine weeks. Each family gets three bags of groceries that are valued at around $75. That has been quite a sum of money, but most of it has been donated by church members or others who want to contribute to the needs.

We also had a special Cinco de Mayo celebration where we had mariachi music and handed out watermelons, gift bags, and paletas, which are Mexican ice cream bars. 103 guests came through and most of them were Spanish-speaking families, so it was a great way to support our local Hispanic community. We have a Spanish-speaking ministry here at the church called Viento Fuerte. That pastor, Tom Gutierrez, and several members from his church helped with the outreach. 

That sounds fun! What other outreaches have you done?

We had a drive-through dinner for single parents where we provided meals from Bush’s chicken for their families. Single moms and single dads were all welcome, and not just people from our church. Friends and neighbors throughout our community were invited to participate. We wore masks and gloves, of course, and handed out the chicken, sides and rolls, and then we had flyers about our church to hand out, and we prayed with every car.

I understand that one of your priorities has been to care for your senior adults. What are some ways that you have been doing that?

Well, we have been checking up on them and planned a special event just for them. So many have not been able to get out of the house in weeks. We offered drive-through desserts – pie and cake provided by one of our local vendors that we’re trying to stay connected to – in hopes that they would take advantage of the opportunity to get out. Those were packaged up for them, and we also prayed with them as they came through.

How are you able to stay aware of the needs and meet those as they come in?

Because of the unemployment that thas hit Waco, we’re having more and more people come to us. We put out an appeal every week to our church, and they have responded so graciously. We have people dropping food by every single day and another local organization that provides drinks, orange juice, bread, beans, and rice. We anticipate that the food insecurity will continue for a while.

We also have a virtual prayer room, and that’s been another connector for us. It’s a come and go thing… they can pop in and share their prayer request. 

Another ministry we have started is called Neighboring Lights. We are encouraging our church to be intentional about getting to know their neighbors. Invite them to a dinner or cookout, or leave a note on their doorstep offering prayer or assistance if they need it. In February we also gave out coupons to Bush’s chicken for the church to share with others. It’s really about providing ways for neighbors to care for one another.

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