EAST MANATEE -- Bradenton's Taylor Taulbee walked to the stage Friday at Christian Retreat and, as a crowd of 300 looked on, he broke four bricks stacked up on top of each other with one chop of his right arm. One brick was labeled alcohol, one tobacco. Another drugs and a fourth, unbelief.
"That was one of the most exciting moment of the evening," said Pastor Phil Derstine of Christian Retreat Family Church.
Taulbee, who is also known to his friends as T-Bone, is a member of the Bradenton-based youth evangelism group, Sozo Extreme, which was invited, along with other outreach ministries in the area, to a free Community Outreach Thanksgiving Dinner Friday in the YEX Youth Center at Christian Retreat.
Besides breaking bricks,
the group, led by Bradenton's Dwayne Parker, alsoknown as Bishop Freeze, tore up phone books and bent pipes, all of which, Parker said, show that physical strength can break strongholds and distractionsthat separate people from God.
The unique and first-time event, which also was open to the general public, fed at least 300, Derstine said.
"We prepared 35 turkeys for dinner," Derstine said. "We had our volunteers bring plates of food to the people. We didn't want them to stand in line. We wanted them to sit and enjoy and be served."
Hundreds of pounds of food, including bread, pastries and cakes, vegetables and fruit, courtesy of The Source on State Road 64, were given away after the dinner.
"This is the first time we have teamed up with The Source," Derstine said as he invited people later to pack the food in cardboard boxes. "I like to link up with ministries."
For The Source, which is well-known for its several days per week food giveaways at its building across the street from Bright House cable on State Road 64, the dinner was a natural fit between two Christian organizations trying to reach the needy, said Mark Sedacca, a volunteer pastor for The Source.
"We just gave away80,000 pounds of food before Thanksgiving," Sedacca said.
"This is what we do. We have trucks out there every day picking up food."
The idea of a community outreach dinner to reach many on the margin of society germinated one Saturday afternoon for Derstine when he viewed the work of Christian Retreat's Homeless Outreach team, which visits homeless communities in the area.
Derstine decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner and bus the homeless to Christian Retreat. From there, he began to network with other groups that serve the homeless and the at risk.
He made contact with Everyday Blessing Group Home from Sarasota and The Well Discipleship Center of Bradenton.
Forty homeless were bused in for the dinner.
"They met us at the library in downtown Bradenton and we bused them here and will bus them back," Derstine said.
Many in the crowd were touched by the feeling of thankfulness in the hall during dinner.
"There was a real community feeling," said Kathryn Dunn, who just recently joined Christian Retreat Family Church.
Tim Thomas of the YMCA in Sarasota brought a number of youth for the dinner.
"This is just great," Thomas said. "This is truly outreach."