MYAKKA CITY —Senior Pastor Mark Horton calls it Bethany Baptist Church’s “manna ministry.”
For the past six weeks, the church has advertised free bread on a hand-made sign placed next to one of the buildings on the church campus at 26604 State Road 70 E.
The biblical book of Exodus tells how God miraculously provided manna to feed the starving Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness after their escape from Egypt.
“God gave them more than they could handle and that’s kind of what’s happening out here,” Horton said Thursday after another delivery to the church of bread, English muffins, doughnuts and other baked goods.
The baked goods were stacked high on a long line of tables, as hard-pressed families drifted in to collect what they needed at no charge.
Horton said his congregation intends to continue the manna ministry indefinitely, and the bread is available from Tuesday afternoon through Saturday of each week. The distribution building is unlocked, so anyone needing bread can get some day or night.
“Basically, anyone that wants or needs bread is welcome to come in any time after 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday to take what they need. It doesn’t matter where they worship,” Horton said.
Katie McLaughlin and her husband, Marshall, have been attending Bethany since January, at the urging of their three teen boys.
Thursday, as she helped with the bread distribution, she said the manna ministry means food on the table for some families. “Everyone is hurting in the economy we’re in,” McLaughlin said.
She said that her family attends services at Bethany because they fit there. “It’s like a jig-saw puzzle and we fit. It’s a family community,” she said.
Terri Horton, wife of the senior pastor was helping out Thursday, and said that a lot of people are happy and thankful for the bread.
Mark Horton said the congregation just wants people to know they are cared about.
“We are seeing the affects of hard times,” Horton said. But he has faith that if his congregation helps take care of other people, “the Lord will take care of their needs.”
Bethany Baptist was founded in 1888, and its grounds include the original sanctuary with rich, warm woods and the portraits of former pastors lining the walls. The campus also includes a larger, more modern sanctuary, set among majestic old oak trees, and a cemetery off to one side.
The congregation now has about 135 who attend services. The number is growing, and the average age is getting younger, said Mark Horton.
“We had a mom who came in with several kids after her husband had taken off with everything they had,” he said. “We took them a box and a half of food, plus the bread, clothing and toys.”
Bethany Baptist still has dinner on the grounds after traditional services at 11 a.m. most Sundays. It also has a contemporary service at 8:30 a.m. in its older sanctuary.
“Why not start something new where it all began?” Horton said of the contemporary service.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Horton also has a day job working with architects and designers on specifying tile for commercial projects.
It’s a busy life, but Horton said, “The Lord takes care of everything so I’m not complaining.”
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.
If you go
Bethany Baptist Church,
26604 S.R. 64 E., Myakka City
Services: Contemporary service at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, traditional service at 11 a.m. Sunday