Around 925 volunteers worked in four shifts on Sunday at the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau to ration and pack 150,000 meals for children in countries where poverty limits the food supply.
The meals are a joint effort between the church and Feed My Starving Children, a not-for-profit global hunger relief organization with a Christian mission. The organization is based in Minnesota and was founded in 1987.
Feed My Starving Children has three locations in Minnesota and one in Illinois for meal-packing that are run completely by volunteers. It also partners with hosts, such as La Croix church, to hold packing events around the country known as MobilePack. In order to hold such an event, a host must gather at least 500 volunteers, raise $17,000 to fund the food supplies and shipping, find a suitable location and set a quota for 100,000 meals packed in one day.
Sunday's MobilePack event was the first for the Southeast Missouri.
A four-week sermon series called "Hope Rising" being offered by the church spurred the congregation's participation.
The series includes challenges for its participants. One challenge, called "We Stand," involved members spending last week on a fasting diet consisting of water, rice and beans in one cup servings and three-quarters of an ounce of chicken. Their diet was similar to those packed for the children, which contain a chicken-flavored vegetarian base, dried vegetables, soy, rice and a vitamin and mineral mix.
The second challenge, called "We Serve," was the packing day.
Watts said last week she called the organization to tell them to raise the packing goal from 100,000 meals to 150,000 because of the overwhelming volunteer response. By the end of the week, she and other organizers had to stop allowing volunteers to sign up for shifts.
"Every dime we raise will go to fund this," Watts said.
The congregation will use additional funds from the offering to fund their involvement in a charity for Africa called Sojourner, Help, Advocacy, Development, Education, or SHADE, which also feeds children.
Joel Howells, a MobilePack supervisor who was on hand Sunday to run the event at the Arena Building, said his organization and volunteers from the Minnesota and Illinois locations and MobilePack events will produce an estimated 93 million meals for children in more than 80 countries in 2009.
Watts said her congregation has been mission-oriented from the beginning.
"For us, this is a concrete and simple way that people can put into action their love of Christ and their faith," she said.