Woodward, Okla. —
CHESTER - If you can smell the mouth watering aroma of country style pork ribs around the third Friday of each month, then you are probably somewhere near the Elm Grove Community Church.
For 11 months - they skip December - volunteers on that third Friday serve 400 to 550 meals to guests from all around the area. Most of those guests come to the church even though take out dinners are available. A $5 donation gets you the barbecue, side dishes and a variety of desserts.
And visitors not only enjoy the great food, they are also helping out kids.
Beneficiaries of all this are children in the area as the dinner funds about half the cost of the church's Wednesday evening children's bus ministry. The church has four full size buses and five 15-passenger vans. Each Wednesday evening they pick up approximately 200 kids, ages 3 to 17 years.
The 12-and under group attend Powerhouse Kids at the Elm Grove church and the 13 to 17 year olds are taken to the ROC Church in Seiling, where the teen activities take place, said Elm Grove Pastor Orville White.
Elm Grove Pastor Orville White said the children are the mission field.
“I had been here for about 20 years and I felt that my mission was over and I was ready to check-out," he said. "Then I went to Tommy Barnett’s Pastor School in Phoenix. One evening in his ministering he said, ‘I know we have pastors here who are struggling and wondering are you through, or you are pastoring and you’re wondering what’s my future? Let me just say something to you, go home and let the Lord speak to you. Find something that nobody else is doing, and then do your best to make it the best.’
"It was at that moment God made a contact in my heart and said ‘I’m not through with you.’ I came home with this dream and this vision. We started, between 15 and 17 years ago, and our first dinner consisted of 15 pounds of ribs. Last night we smoked 430 pounds.”
White can be found along with volunteers working in the kitchen during the preparation phase of the dinner, and he will also be out serving visitors.
“It is a community gathering and people enjoy the visiting," he said. "It’s not only the neighborhood. We have people from as far away as Shattuck, Woodward, Arnett, and Watonga, who come out on a regular basis. Some come on senior citizen buses and vans.“
White said one man from California used to come to the dinner regularly when he flew home to Oklahoma once a month to visit his mother in a Hydro nursing home. The Hydro pastor invited the man and for 2 years he scheduled trips to make sure his trips coincided with the dinner.
On Thursday of the dinner week, 12 to 16 volunteers gather in the afternoon and begin smoking the ribs. After the ribs have smoked about 2 hours, a meal is provided for the volunteers. On Friday morning the ribs are put on to cook all day in the church’s professionally equipped kitchen.
White said the church purchases the ribs at a discount, from a local grocery store and salads are brought by women in the congregation.
He said volunteers come from across the area, some who attend Elm Grove or other churches and some who do not attend church. All of them see the value in the children's ministry. Many of them also come for the children's ministry and do the cleanup after the activities on Wednesday and after the Friday meal.
“Our motto is this – we are trying to get enough Jesus into these kids that they will know right from wrong when they grow up," White said. "Probably fifty percent of our children are from dysfunctional homes or are foster children. Some do not even know who their parents are. "If we can get enough Jesus in those kids, so that when they become teenagers and have to make decisions on their own, because they have no parents, we’re trusting that they won’t forget the lessons they've heard about Jesus.
“We are not here to honk the horn for some denomination. We are here to talk about Jesus.”
For more information on the Elm Grove Community Church monthly rib dinner, call 580-764-3514 or visit www.elmgrovecc.org.