The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 2, 2014

Persons of the Week: Food for the soul: Church group delivers soup, companionship

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — Mount Olive United Methodist Church delivers a kind word in a bowl.

On the first Sunday of the month, eight members of the Sidman area church lead an effort to cook and deliver hot meals, mainly soup, to a total of about 70 shut-ins from their church and people in need throughout the community.

Called God’s Kitchen, the ministry became a reality soon after Deborah Sedlmeyer and David Lehman Sr. came up with the idea and approached Pastor Tom Moore about implementing their plan.

The first hot meal was served in January 2013.

Many members of the congregation support the project by making financial donations, making baked goods, and preparing and delivering meals, said Sedlmeyer, who along with her husband, Buzz, cooks and delivers the meals.

The church’s youth group also helps by making personalized cards, making baked goods and packaging the delivery bags, she said.

“We are stewards of God and are called to serve others,” Sedlmeyer said about why she is involved with God’s Kitchen.

“Our soup delivery allows us to serve two ways: by providing a hot meal and by providing Christian fellowship with those who are homebound.”

Lehman, another of the cooks, said they make so much soup that the church had to buy a commercial stove to handle the volume.

Lehman said one of the people to whom he delivers is a 103-year-old woman.

“Everybody should deliver soup to her at least one time,” Lehman said.

The woman has had 60 foster children, and between raising the children and living through other experiences in her life, has many stories to tell, he said.

“I make her my last stop because she is so interesting with whom to talk,” he said.

The mission of the ministry is not only to deliver soup to people, but also to provide fellowship, he said.

“The conversation is one of the byproducts of this, and probably, the most important part,” he said.

 Marjorie Beyer, who along with her husband, Vince, cooks and delivers the meals, said there are many elderly residents who don’t have family members.

“They really appreciate receiving a hot meal and homemade dessert,” she said. “But most of all, they enjoy someone visiting them, even if it is only for 15 minutes.

“It’s God telling us that it is something he wants us to do.”

Vince Beyer said the people to whom they deliver look forward to the meals.

“We visit with the people, have a chat with them and see how they are doing,” he said.

It is rewarding to help others by taking them a warm bowl of soup and dessert, he said.

Marlin Plummer, who also cooks and delivers food, said the people they visit are thankful for the calls because of having someone with whom to chat.

In the Bible, God directs us to help our fellow man, he said about why he is involved in the project.

Jim Doyka said his brother, Bill, was taking a trip and asked if he could substitute for him one weekend.

Jim Doyka said he was only going to cook, but decided to deliver a meal to the father of his wife’s friend.

“It was a good time,” he said about visiting the friend’s father.

He said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the other volunteers and the friend’s father so much that he decided to continue helping with the project.

For their efforts, the eight are the Persons of the Week.

Moore said as a part-time pastor working full time in a secular job it can be difficult to make home visits, so the ministry is working to fill that void.

“I believe everything we do as a church needs to have two basic purposes: to glorify Jesus and to be a blessing to someone,” he said. “This ministry is a double blessing for me.”

Moore said the soup ministry now feeds 70 to 90 people.

“A visit and a bowl of soup does wonders,” he said.

Lehman said his church is active, with members conducting missions both locally and nationally.

Locally, church members help The Salvation Army and multiple food pantries, he said. Nationally, they have gone to Louisiana and elsewhere to help natural disaster victims.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.