A megachurch in Florida recently paid off approximately $38,000 in lunch debts for students in two local public school districts as part of an effort to fight the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Idlewild Baptist Church, which has campuses in Tampa and Lutz, recently sent the checks paying for the lunch debts to Hillsborough County Public Schools and Pasco County Schools, respectively.
Yerusha Bunag, director of local missions at Idlewild, told The Christian Post that the charitable act was part of the church’s overall involvement in helping local public school students.
“Our church has been very invested in helping public schools in our community. Before COVID, we were involved in tutoring, mentoring, campus rejuvenation, student supplies, teacher appreciation events, etc.,” Bunag explained.
When the pandemic impacted the church’s school partners, the congregations “began sending them non-perishable groceries that were delivered to the families when they came to the school to grab their kids' lunches.”
“After talking to the school districts in the two counties where our church is sandwiched between, we found out that, though lunches are being funded this year, the debt that students owed to the schools was very high,” continued Bunag.
“We wanted students to know that God loves them; that in God, all debts are paid. So that's what we did. We paid the debt for juniors and seniors at Hillsborough County and the debt for all students at Pasco County.”
The director also stated that the church “did this to be a witness” of “the incredible love that God has for them.”
She said the aim was to show the community that “we are administrating God's grace to them through these charitable efforts.”
“We want to be a good testimony of what real love is,” she added. “We want our community to be curious about what God's love is. We want them to be attracted by our good works so that they will be open to listening to the Gospel.”
Bunag said that the church is not involved in this effort to “feel good about themselves” or for “vainglory.”
“We do it for the sake of the cross and to reach the lost,” she said.
Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning and Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis thanked Idlewild for the donations in statements shared with Patch.
"This will really make a difference,” Browning said. “It will come as a relief to so many families, especially at a time when many are struggling."
As the pandemic's economic impact continues to ravage the United States, many churches have stepped up to offer assistance to those in need.
Last December, for example, Hope City Church of Joplin, Missouri held a meal-packing event where volunteers packed approximately 40,000 meals for the needy.
“In a season where it can be easy to give our attention and focus to things, we wanted to focus on people. Instead of having a typical worship gathering, we spent most of our time packing meals that will help feed hungry families,” Hope City Lead Pastor Cody Walker told CP at the time.
“We know everyone needs two things: food and hope. We hope these meals will be able to provide both for people who need to know they are not forgotten or alone.”
In Southern California, Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church delivered over 2.4 million pounds of food at over 300 food distribution events throughout Orange County, according to The Epoch Times.
Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas partnered with the evangelical humanitarian organization World Vision to distribute thousands of boxes of fresh food through the Fresh Food Box Program to those facing hunger during the pandemic.