A thought from a Bible study that took place three years ago has grown into a mission event that’s spreading to all corners of Van Buren.
The event is called the Matthew 25 Project, and Monday night at Freedom Park in Van Buren an estimated crowd of 2,000 people — including 800 children — attended the event to receive items and services that will help them in their everyday lives.
“It’s a way to bring unity in our community,” said Karen Beckner. “That’s the whole goal. The whole premise behind it is that if a few people can do a few things it makes a big thing. That’s why we’ve invited all the churches, businesses, merchants, the businesses downtown, civic organizations, to come together and do something big for our community.”
Beckner, who attends Current Church in Van Buren, was studying Matthew 25 when the words Jesus’ spoke to his disciples in verses 35-36 touched her heart: ” … for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me … .”
“I read that scripture and the Lord said, ‘You can do that. We can do that,’” she said. “I had lunch with my pastor and his wife and I said, ‘This is what we’re supposed to do.’ And they said, ‘We’re in.’”
Beckner and members of Current Church organized the event into the community outreach that Monday night gave residents of the city free haircuts, backpacks, dental checkups, hygiene products, socks, underwear and gently-used shoes, a meal and groceries.
“(Matthew 25) says ‘feed them, clothe them,’ all those things and that’s what we’re trying to do here today,” Beckner said.
Also included at the event was an inflatable castle for the kids, prayer tents and music.
“We moved it from the Current Church to downtown just because we were wanting to bring more unity to our community and we thought this would be a great place to have it,” Beckner said. “I really had no idea this many people would come. It’s awesome.”
The event was free to the public. Other businesses — like many of Van Buren’s downtown merchants — donated their services and time while other churches pitched in to help.
“It’s very humbling,” said Beckner. “People just call and ask to be involved because they just want to bless people. It’s just grown and grown and grown.”
The entire event, she said, was carried out in an atmosphere of caring and thankfulness.
“We’ve not had any arguments or people being ugly,” she said. “Everybody’s been so nice and thankful. It’s great.”