It’s important for churches to realize the importance of demonstrating care for all communities they serve, even more so during times when people are hurting, according to Reverend Lester Ferguson, senior pastor, Grants Town Wesley Methodist Church.
Ferguson, the newly appointed Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) executive director, said it’s even more important during times when people are hurting for the church to come out of its four walls and meet the people where they are.
“It is important for all churches to realize how important it is for us to demonstrate practical care for all communities we serve,” said Ferguson, who was appointed executive director, replacing Philip Smith, who served in the post since the organization was formed in 2013, and resigned to accept a post at a new non-governmental organization (NGO) but will remain on the BFN’s Board of Directors.
Ferguson, one of the founding directors of the non-profit organization, said when Smith resigned, to take on another responsibility, he was invited to step into the BFN’s executive director’s role, and said he did so gladly.
Offering himself in service is not new to Ferguson. For most of his life, he has been involved in the church and charitable work.
He has been in ministry for almost three decades, 25 of them with the Salvation Army – which, in addition to its Christian religious program – also operated social programs, including feeding programs.
Ferguson was the first Bahamian divisional commander of The Salvation Army in The Bahamas, leading the ministry organization for 10 years.
He said he believes charitable work is important because it is a part of his faith, and that his faith is important.
“As a Christian, faith without works is dead and so a part of what it means for me to love God is to love my neighbors, and loving my neighbor is not just saying words but showing them in practical ways.”
At Grant’s Town Wesley Methodist Church, Ferguson oversees a ministry which has a soup kitchen; the Boys Brigade, which he says is practical; a homework center for children in the community who do not have internet access at home to allow them to go to virtual school; and a daily food pantry to give to people in the community when they have food.
Smith said he believes they could not have found a better person than Ferguson to take the helm and to take the BFN into the future.
Stepping into the executive director’s role at the beginning of the month, Ferguson said he would like to see the BFN expand its services to the Family Islands.
“The BFN’s mission when it was launched was to be a resource for soup kitchens and feeding ministries, [and] so far, we’ve been doing a good job in New Providence but I would like to see it expand to the Family Islands. I would really like to see a coming together of the feeding programs, soup kitchen in New Providence, consolidating our efforts to reach more people.”
Ferguson said they can feed more families if they can collaborate. He would like to see the BFN be a resource to other soup kitchens, in kind, and as well as technical, so they can do a better job.
“The average soup kitchen does not want to spend time on administrating and fundraising and that’s where BFN can step in to assist.”
Ferguson takes over the helm at a time when the BFN operated on its biggest budget, to date, over a million dollars, owing to the fact that they were involved in the national food distribution program during the pandemic. He anticipates it will take that amount to run the program again, as the country remains in the throes of the pandemic.
When the BFN first started nine years ago, Ferguson said it was the result of a number of churches having gotten together and talked about what it would look like to partner with each other. He said they envisioned a collaboration of feeding centers and soup kitchens, so they could be more efficient in the use of resources, with a limited donated dollar pool. The attempt was to maximize the donated dollar and buy in bulk, so that they could better feed families.
“We knew it was going to be an important function – we didn’t realize just how important our work would be, especially considering what has happened over the last two years.”
Prior to the pandemic, Ferguson said there has always been need but that the need was magnified in the last two years.
“Philip Smith, along with the founder of the Bahamas Feeding Network, His Excellency Frank Crothers, grew a vision of pulling together a few churches, feeding centers and soup kitchens in 2013 into a national network of more than 100 civic, secular and religious organizations feeding thousands every week. Philip’s drive and commitment inspired a team of volunteers who, before COVID, prepped, cooked and packed thousands of hot meals a week and, post-pandemic, packaged enough groceries to keep a nation from starvation. His tireless fundraising ensured there were always supplies,” said Ferguson.
“I am honored to help continue the mission of the Bahamas Feeding Network. I look forward to further strengthening all of our partnerships to help hungry families in our nation.”
He said the BFN could never have accomplished what it did without the support of believers in what they were doing.
“We are grateful for the contributions of a number of local and international organizations and businesses whose unwavering generosity kept our mission alive, especially during the last two years of the pandemic,” said Ferguson.
BFN Chairman Felix Stubbs described Ferguson as a man whose purpose-driven life has impacted and uplifted countless numbers of men, women and children, whose lives he said are better today because of his encouragement.
Following Ferguson’s stint at The Salvation Army, he headed the policies and regulations unit of the then-newly enacted Persons with Disabilities Equal Opportunities Act. Since 2017, Ferguson has been the pastor at Grant’s Town Wesley Methodist Church.