Neighbors in Need is an initiative launched by the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church. They distribute 300 hot vegetarian meals every Sabbath afternoon to their community located on the outskirts of Indianapolis.
Neighbors in Need, an initiative launched by the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church, distributes 300 hot vegetarian meals every Sabbath afternoon to their community located on the outskirts of Indianapolis. The population ranges from the homeless, to the elderly, and families facing food insecurity. The church’s mission is simple: to feed hungry bellies and fill souls starving for the love of Jesus. Since the project’s inception in 2020, four different delivery routes have been created and a whopping 18,900 meals have been distributed.
It was a humble startup. A Bible worker assigned to go door to door began meeting with an interested community member. Her name was Tammy. She had responded to the evangelism flier and was eager to learn more about Jesus.
“I had been to several churches and never heard this truth before. Everything I was learning I was able to find in the Bible,” Tammy shared with excitement.
Not long after, Tammy informed the Bible worker of a growing homeless population only miles away from the Anderson church and suggested they do outreach by putting together sack lunches. In 2020, a small group came together, 20 sack lunches were packed, and the first mission outreach to tent city began.
Nestled along the White River in Anderson, Indiana, is a community of residents living in tents and makeshift shelters. Jessica Dellen, director of Neighbors in Need, often delivers food along the route, accompanied by her husband and two small children. Upon arrival, Jessica bravely makes her way down the muddy hill into a wooded area to call out to anyone interested. One by one, folks emerge from their small shelters and are greeted with warm smiles by her small family along with handwritten notes from the children, food and drink, and even a gospel song to cheer them on.
“It's called Neighbors in Need, but I'll be honest with you, they are not just my neighbors. They're my true friends. I love them. They love me. We're like a family. And that's what this is about,” Jessica says, as her eyes welled with tears.
The Neighbors in Need project expanded its operation in November of 2022. The old facility, which housed a small kitchen, was renovated and now functions as the Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Community Center. The newly designed space includes a commercial kitchen, showers, laundry room, and walk-in closet for donated clothes. Because of these outreach efforts, people from all faith walks have volunteered to serve on Sabbath afternoons.
Dennis Fuller faithfully volunteers saying, “For weeks, I prayed and asked the Lord to help me find something to do. So, when I heard about Neighbors in Need, I was one of the first to volunteer.” Fuller fondly reminisced about his encounters during delivery. He mentioned an elderly woman eagerly awaiting their arrival every Sabbath afternoon, stating, “The Scriptures say, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Serving the community is my privilege and it is an honor to bring glory to God’s name.”
One of the top priorities for the Anderson church is ensuring that interactions with the people they meet are respectful. Therefore, immense effort is put into building and sustaining the bridge from the church to the community. Dellen said, “Becoming a part of that community takes time. First, you must build trust with people. They want to know that you’re not out to take advantage of them. So, building those relationships is imperative, and building that trust is essential.”
An operation of this magnitude costs up to $13,000 per month to sustain and funds are often low by the end of the month. However, Anthony Nix, current pastor of the Anderson church, notes that God miraculously replenishes the account and continues to meet their needs. Anderson church members faithfully pour into the community's mission, along with neighboring churches and even unknown donors from across the nation who want to support the effort.
When asked how this mission to their city has transformed the lives of its members, Nix replied, “Our mission to our city has revived our church meaningfully. Not only has it revived our church, but we also see people who live under bridges come into our services, sometimes drunk, sometimes without shoes, but they sit in our pews and our members love them. The Three Angel's Message is something we need to preach today, but you can't do it unless you gain that trust and build that relationship first.”
Felicia Tonga is associate director of communication for the Lake Union.