Remember the children’s story about the little train engine that tried and tried to climb the mountain and said, I think I can, I think I can? And then finally it took a run up the mountain and said, I know I can, and the little engine made it. That could be the story of New Life Church and Ministries which has been working tirelessly for more than 25 years to provide help for the hungry and clothe those in need, said New Life member and volunteer Karen Ruhl.
The Psalm 91 Shelter House, located at 6101 SR 247 in Hillsboro, started out providing food for just a few families, but set a record-breaking day last Friday, serving more than 600 families and 35 other ministries. The previous record was set the Friday before with the ministry serving more than 550 families.
In the Bible, the 91st psalm speaks of the lord as a refuge, a fortress. It speaks of protection and faith as a shield. The verses in the psalm are many, but New Life Ministries embodies the whole, Ruhl said.
What the ministry has been able to accomplish with serving these record numbers, Ruhl said, is “amazing.” She said that “with pastors Bill and Linda Bowman, through prayer, hard work and a handful of faithful volunteers, New Life also feeds more than 20,000 families weekly by their donations to other churches and food banks.”
“This isn’t just a story about a small church, it is a story about how mountains can be moved, families can be helped, people can be touched, volunteers can work side by side and help feed 400 to 500 local families each and every week,” she said. “And all of this in spite of the economy in Highland County.”
Each Friday, volunteers arrive by 9 a.m. and start to prepare the food. Some food needs to be bagged and crews go to work counting and sorting. All of the food gets moved to stations along the driveway where, beginning at about 2 p.m., people drive through and their cars are loaded from both sides of the driveway.
And just like the post office, in sun, snow, sleet, and rain, New Life Ministry volunteers show up in order to serve the provisions and offer smiles and words of encouragement to those who have to wait in line.
Ruhl said what you don’t see on Friday is what goes in to getting the food to the Psalm 91 Shelter House. Bill Bowman drives semis and box trucks to and from various locations throughout the week and loads and unloads the food at a warehouse and then again at New Life’s Shelter House.
“He works tirelessly each week and is always ready when he gets a phone call to pick up donated food,” Ruhl said. “And he goes whenever he gets a call that there is food available.”
The other person you don’t see is pastor Linda Bowman, who oversees the entire operation and picks up clothing for Ivy’s Clothes Closet, which provides free clothing to those in need – clothing that is donated and has to be sorted, organized and hung up for those who come to look for clothes, shoes and coats.
Bill Bowman said the clothes ministry served about 200 families last week.
Ivy’s Closet is always full, Ruhl said, thanks to the donations, which are accepted whenever the ministry is open.
Ruhl said both the Bowmans are very active on Friday. Bill Bowman makes truck runs and Linda Bowman is hands out food to the ministries that have come to rely on donations to help feed their hungry. And it is not unusual to see Linda Bowman praying for someone in need on Friday down by the Shelter House.
At the end of the long day, somewhere around 5 p.m., after another truck has been unloaded by the Bowmans and the team of volunteers, the group gathers to smile and give thanks to God for providing another week’s worth of food, Ruhl said.
“It is rare to meet such selfless people,” Ruhl said. “But the Bowmans do this day in and day out and they do not receive any pay. They serve the Kingdom of God and look forward to souls being saved, bodies being healed, lives being changed, minds being delivered, families being restored and the Kingdom established.”
Fifty-one Fridays a year, the Psalm 91 Shelter House provides food to those in need. The only Friday that the Bowmans and volunteers are not doing this at New Life is when they are passing out food to those in need during the annual Help the Hungry Outreach.
“We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” Bill Bowman said.
“Its not Bill and Linda Bowman that do it,” he said. “The lord does it, and he does it through the volunteers who are not only not all members of New Life, but not all members of a church either.”
He said it’s also possible because of people like Jeff Parry of Five Points Implement that lends the use of a fork truck every week so that the thousands of pounds of food can be offloaded from the trucks more easily.
“It’s hard work,” Linda Bowman said. But, she added, there are so many that come out in the heat and the rain and the snow, so many that are willing to help.
“It’s all for him,” she said.
Bill Bowman said they see a lot of veterans come through the line each Friday and he feels that they are sometimes forgotten in society, so as a way to honor veterans, New Life Church and Ministries is dedicating a flagpole on Nov. 29 at noon. It will carry the American flag, the Christian flag, and the MIA flag. The dedication ceremony will be led by the Highland County Honor Guard.
The memorial to veterans is something that Linda Bowman said has been on her heart. Her father, a World War II veteran, passed away earlier this year, and while she was hopeful to erect the memorial while he was still alive, she is thankful, nonetheless, that they have been able to do it at all.
New Life Church and Ministries is located at 6101 SR 247 in Hillsboro. For more information, go to www.newlifehillsboro.org or call 937-393-4249. Ivy’s Clothes Closet is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday through Friday.
Donations are always welcome and 100 percent of the donations received are used to help with the food and clothing ministry. Each week, Sunday school is held at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday worship service at 10:30 a.m., with a free lunch following. A service is also held each Wednesday at 7 p.m.
According to Ruhl, Bill Bowman has something he says to all who are new to the church, and that is, “The first time you come you are a visitor, but the second time you come you are family.”