Beaufort church offers free meals, prayers to those in need

loberle@islandpacket.comFebruary 21, 2014 

John Brown, of Beaufort, ladles bean soup into a cup to serve on Saturday afternoon at the Plant the Seed Ministry soup kitchen in the Atlantic Inn parking lot in Beaufort. The soup kitchen is provided by the Shell Point Baptist Church and is held every Saturday.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: Plant the Seed ministry, free warm meals and friendly conversation

    WHERE: Atlantic Inn parking lot, 2249 Boundary St., Beaufort

    WHEN: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays

    DETAILS: 843-575-2200

One Saturday afternoon, Beaufort resident Sondra Hampton was walking down Boundary Street to the store with her 13-year-old grandson when she was stopped by a friendly face.

The woman in the Atlantic Inn parking lot asked if she'd like something to eat. Hampton didn't need food, she told the woman, but she did need prayer.

Hampton had stumbled upon Plant the Seed, a ministry of Shell Point Baptist Church in Beaufort that offers a warm meal and friendly conversation every Saturday in the inn's parking lot. There, she met Joy Kircher, who prayed with her and invited her to Shell Point.

Hampton had just finished raising her children, who are in their 20s, and was starting over again, raising two of her grandchildren.

"I was going through a lot, and I needed strength," Hampton said.

Plant the Seed began as a Friday night dinner, when Shell Point opened the church doors to anyone who wanted a free meal.

It turned into a time of fellowship for members of the church, but they were getting very little participation from the community. They weren't reaching those in need.

"We felt called to go out to (them)," said Kircher, the pastor's wife.

So the ministry moved to the parking lot at the Atlantic Inn and was named Plant the Seed.

John Brown, a member of the church who helped on Friday nights, wasn't keen on the idea and originally didn't want to be a part of it.

"I just didn't like the concept, standing on the side of the road feeding people," Brown said. "I came by the second week they were doing it. When I saw what they were doing and how they were meeting people, I couldn't stay away."

He began talking to the homeless who came, the poor people he'd previously deemed lazy, shiftless, not wanting to work and just out for whatever they could get.

"Now, I see them as people who are struggling to make ends meet and to put a life together," Brown said. "Some of them have certainly made terrible decisions in their lives. But everyone deserves a chance, whether it's a meal, a place to sleep or clothing. Our niche is that we can give them a warm meal."

In addition to helping the needy, Plant the Seed also aims to grow Shell Point Baptist Church, making a point to invite those they serve to join them Sunday mornings. After meeting Kircher that fateful Saturday, Hampton became a member at Shell Point.

"They pick me up every week for church and are there for me if I need anything," Hampton said of her church family. "They show a lot of love. It doesn't matter your race, whether you're a man or woman or child, you are loved there."

Brown said that for a while the church would send a bus to the Atlantic Inn parking lot to pick up kids for church services and youth activities at Shell Point.

Brown said he doesn't know what happened to those kids. But he does know that for that time, they were experiencing Christian fellowship and learning of God's love for them.

"All we know is we had them for that period of time," he said. "And we had the chance to plant the seed."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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