Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saturday’s message was hope for those in need

By 7:30 Saturday morning, families were lining up outside the locked doors of the Batesville Civic Center. They had received word that the Convoy of Hope was in Batesville, delivering free groceries and other services to area families in need.

Inside the civic center, 780 volunteers were hustling, all wearing identical gray t-shirts bearing Jesus’ words: “I have come so that people may live and that they may enjoy life to the full.”

The volunteers were busy preparing to distribute free goods and services to the guests who would soon come through the doors.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Many were assembling bags of groceries to be handed to those who had perhaps not been enjoying life to the full lately.

The volunteers had been treated to a fine dinner the previous night at Batesville First Baptist Church, where we’d learned the background of Convoy of Hope.

The organization was founded in 1994 by Hal Donaldson whose own family had been assisted by friends and neighbors after a 1969 automobile accident took his dad’s life and severely injured his mother, leaving the family without sustenance.

Now headquartered in Springfield, Mo., Convoy of Hope has a world-wide mission to feed and otherwise minister to the needy.

Locally, plans had been under way for months. Convoy of Hope would bring in a load of groceries, but the Batesville community, led by about 30 churches, would be responsible for financial and logistical arrangements, with the goal of serving the needs of 3,000 people in one day.

Perhaps more significant than the total number– 3,190 people served–was the fact that the servers came together across denominational, social and racial lines for their common purpose of spreading hope.

The Convoy planners had considered both physical and spiritual needs of the guests. A large area was set aside for prayer. Small groups of volunteers and guests sat holding hands with heads bowed.

The guests left with bags of groceries, clothes, new haircuts, family portraits, and perhaps much more.