September 23, 2020

‘All They Want Is to Make Everyone a Vegetarian!’

Word was out on the street: Adventists? All they want is to make everyone a vegetarian! So the town of Bentley, Alberta, Canada, turned its collective face away.

Karen Baumbach, a church member and farmer in the area, knew that talk alone wouldn’t change attitudes. But she thought that, with God’s help, maybe she could make a difference by developing relationships — something she had already learned to do as a child. 

Baumbach’s parents had worked at Burman University (then Canadian Union College). They were committed to helping those in need — especially students. Baumbach recalls, “It usually started with food. We filled the tummies and then the hearts with care, kindness, and love. My parents seemed to know whom to help: the student with cardboard in his shoes and wet feet, the guy without money for banquet tickets, let alone flowers, the young man with pants that needed hemming, the lonely girl with no family in the area. Their names could fill a book!”

Often as a youth, Baumbach woke up to someone sleeping on the front room floor. Or she would meet someone sleepily wandering upstairs mid-morning on a Sunday. Laughter and conversation would flow. She also recalls, “If there was a cause in the community, my parents were involved, and thus I was involved. I learned that serving others was part of God’s plan.”

After moving to Bentley, Baumbach wondered how to overcome the entrenched attitude of the community toward Adventists. How could her church serve her town when the residents were so indifferent and even somewhat suspicious? For years, her church congregation prayed for God’s leading in community outreach. Then a miracle happened: Bentley’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) invited the church to partner with them.

Since then, the group’s witness to the town has grown exponentially. Together they have demonstrated the benefits of working as a team. Baumbach writes, “We try to meet various needs in our community by sharing our resources—just like my parents did. It’s been a positive experience on both sides.”

The Bentley Adventist church now has a growing number of outreach projects. Baumbach’s pet project is Little Chefs, an after-school program for first- and second-graders. They cook, create crafts, play games, and learn social skills. Other initiatives include serving a soup supper to seniors, delivering cookie boxes at Christmas, and helping with a food drive for the Bentley school breakfast program.

Baumbach said that God also opened the way to respond to needs that don’t have a program. Some are as simple as providing a pair of jeans for a homeless man or diapers for a mom with a new baby. Someone might need immediate help after a fire, she said. Some kids may need winter mittens. Others may need a meal, a ride, yard cleanup, or an emergency food bag.

She points out, “While I may spearhead and co-ordinate many of the projects, they would never be possible without our small congregation all working together to make them happen. Attitudes change, trust grows, and relationships can begin when we first meet people’s physical needs with practical solutions.”

This story first appeared in the September 2020 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.

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