The banquet was the idea of a group of young adults who were inspired in January when they attended a Christian conference designed to unite college students in worship, prayer and justice.
Passion 2012 attracted more than 42,000 people from all 50 states and 30 countries to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The Passion movement was founded by Louie Giglio in 1995. The first gathering was held in Austin, Texas, in January 1997.
Mary Kate Work, daughter of Candies Creek Baptist Church Pastor Jamie and Dana Work, attended the four-day conference earlier this year where evangelist Francis Chan issued a challenge to do more as followers of Jesus Christ.
The challenge is based on the parable of the great banquet found in Chapter 14 in the gospel of Saint Luke.
“If you’re going to give a banquet, you need to give to someone who cannot repay you. You need to give it to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind and bless them in Christ’s name,” Work said. “We decided in January we wanted to do this and have been working on it ever since.”
She said the Bible study group contacted potential sponsors to act as hosts and local charity organizations and agencies to find guests. The response from both was incredible.
“We just told them we want you to come and we want to show you some love,” Work said. “We want to show them what it feels like to really just get a glimpse of Christ’s love. That’s the only reason we did this ... because these people need to feel more love.”
One sponsor, Brenda Gilbert Wynkoop, said the feast began Saturday when she went to North Cleveland Baptist Church where she was introduced to her guest, who requested not to be identified.
“They brought in a guest who we were encouraged to take out and spend the day with and just show them love and if they had any needs, we took them out and helped them get their needs fulfilled” she said. “For one thing, we were having a party and we wanted them to feel special when they came to the banquet so we made sure to get them an outfit.”
Wynkoop said her guest was a single woman who has lived in the emergency shelter the past four months.
“This woman had worked and had gotten herself in a place where she became physically ill and unable to work. Now she’s trying to get the right benefits available to her, but in the meantime, she has nowhere to live,” Wynkoop said. “I invited my daughter, Kelsey, to come along and it gave her a new outlook on homelessness. She has a great personality, but, life is hard.”
About 45 guests and sponsors went shopping for new clothes; 39 went to the First Baptist Family Life Center on Stephens Road on Sunday for grooming and about 70 people accepted the invitation to feast at Black Fox Farm owned by Joe and Ellen Washington. Black Fox is a working nursery, but they are also open for weddings in a barn.
“We had a wedding on Saturday, so we left everything in the barn like it was,” Ellen said.
On Sunday afternoon, guests were taken to the Family Life Center where volunteers styled women guests’ hair and the men were treated to a shave and a haircut.
Members of the Bible study group are Reid Work, Katlin Barkley, Callie Limburg, Alex Maxwell, Katie Ogle, Erica Jolley, Hannah Lee, Cody Disney, Katie Huff, Josh Muncey, Jade Disney, Caleb Disney and Erin Seide. They are hopeful the sponsors will continue their relationships by inviting their guests to church, into their homes and occasionally out to dinner.
“As a Bible study, we want to continue to go to the emergency shelter, the Summit and housing authority and do whatever we can. It’s going to be a continual thing that doesn’t stop after tonight,” Work said.