Churches serve coffee, cookies and compassion

December 05, 1992|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Whether in the numbing cold on a Baltimore street yesterda or in a cozy church basement, messages of salvation went with (( the food.

The sidewalk meals were on North Avenue, in front of a food-stamp distribution office east of Charles Street. From a parked mobile kitchen, newly equipped and staffed by the Korean United Methodist Church of Baltimore, small clusters of people accepted free hot dogs, cups of chicken soup and coffee, boxes of macaroni and cheese -- and leaflets with scriptural exhortations.

Messages coming from loudspeakers were more personal and insistent. Experienced black preachers, who explained that they're used to the streets in ways the Korean Americans are not, helped out by manning the microphones.

"This food is being given by the Koreans because they have been blessed," intoned the Rev. John E. Taylor. "Come and share the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Put away that needle. Put away that pipe. Put away that gun. Put away all that is sinful. Today is the day."

Mr. Taylor, associate pastor of West Baltimore's Emmanuel Christian Community Church, passed the microphone to a colleague, the Rev. David Payne, who announced to bundled-up passers-by: "Coffee and hot soup and it's all free, just like salvation."

Meanwhile, uptown at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 33rd Street and The Alameda, an assembly line of about 50 chatting volunteers, mostly middle-aged and elderly women, wrapped an estimated 18,000 homemade cookies in Christmas paper and ribbon.

Transported from kitchens throughout the area, sweetening the air of the church basement as they arrived, the cookies were apportioned carefully, three or four to a package, and placed in larger boxes for distribution to nursing homes, hospitals and the six Compassion Centers of the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland.

With each snack went a printed seasonal message: "For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Savior Given; The Blessings of Jesus' Birth Be Yours."

The spirit of Christmas, less than three weeks away, has imbued local Christians. Yesterday's indoor work by the Lutherans and the outdoor work of the coalition of African American and Korean American Protestants were but two of many examples.

On North Avenue, the free food was taken silently, sometimes with a smile. No effort was made to determine need. Full cars stopped, drivers collected hot dogs for every passenger, and the cars then sped away.

The Rev. Paul C. Kim, pastor of the Korean church at 3509 N. Charles St., said, "Sometimes, I hear from black people about fTC Koreans not spending money for the black community. There is tension. We'd like to be a bridge between the two communities."

Helping him distribute the food were Soonjae Lee, Young Sik Kim, Jae Han Yoon and Sam Soo Park, four businessmen who contributed $25,000 to start the Korean church's new street mission. Its name, Good Samaritan Works Inc., is printed across the side of the mobile kitchen.

Forty-five member congregations of the Council of Korean Churches of Baltimore, of which Mr. Kim is vice president, will use this equipment at various city locations selected with the assistance of the black ministers, he said.

One of the latter, the Rev. Joan C. Webster, pastor of Christ Church Ministries on West Saratoga Street, said, "The problem between the Korean and African American communities is a matter of not understanding each other's culture. We must allow people to be who we are and yet coexist. We cannot deny what the Koreans have accomplished. This is an excellent beginning."

Up at Our Savior Lutheran Church, Mike Alley explained the accomplishments of the mission society's six Compassion Centers -- two in Baltimore and one each in Essex, Annapolis, Cambridge and Havre de Grace. Last year, he said, they ministered to 156,000 people in need of food, clothing, shelter, heath care, "or maybe just someone to talk to."

"We have no governmental funding," Mr. Alley said, "and this allows us to deal with problems that may not be just social, but spiritual."

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