Amy Beitelschees-Albers comes from a family whose parents lived their faith more than they talked about it. “We were good Lutherans,” said the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, North Manchester, Ind.
She also comes from a long line of people who were blessed with the gift of cooking and hospitality. While the food is important, Beitelschees-Albers believes it is really about sitting around the table after the meal, talking and building relationships with people.
So it’s no surprise that she started a food truck church called So Much More Ministries.
The ministry serves meals in a southeast Fort Wayne, Ind., community that could be considered a food desert, with few churches or conveniences. Every Thursday, the truck is parked at the corners of Paulding and Hanna streets in an empty parking lot. There the ministry shares food and friendship with anyone in need of a hot meal, warm hospitality and prayer.
This journey started many years ago after Beitelschees-Albers heard about Shobi’s Table, a St. Paul, Minn., ministry that isn’t just a food truck—it is church. “This is how we need to do church, as the church needs to expand and we need to get out of our four walls,” she said.
After finding a food truck originally used to feed the homeless in Washington, D.C., Beitelschees-Albers began renovating the vehicle with the help of friends and family.
“I really wanted to see how to use food and a healthy meal as a conduit to build relationships and to share the love of Christ.”
To get started, Beitelschees-Albers applied for and received a grant through the Lutheran Foundation in Fort Wayne. After finding a food truck in Columbus, Ohio, that was originally used to feed the homeless in Washington, D.C., she began renovating the vehicle with the help of friends and family.
In September 2019, the food truck church began its ministry. From that September to March 2020, So Much More Ministries was serving around 20 meals every Thursday.
On any given Thursday night, there isn’t just food and prayer available at the truck. To build relationships in the community, there are also activities for everyone, including word searches, trivia, and questions to learn more about each other and about faith, such as “When was a time when you experienced God?”
When once a regular Thursday night was serving around 20 meals, So Much More Ministries has been providing anywhere from 80 to 120 meals during the pandemic.
Once the pandemic hit and shelter-in-place orders took effect, So Much More Ministries took a five-week break to figure out how to manage the ministry, knowing that serving meals would still be necessary. When they took the truck out again, the need for food had increased greatly. When once a regular Thursday night was serving around 20 meals, they have steadily been providing anywhere from 80 to 120 meals during the pandemic.
“With people being laid off, people are hungry,” Beitelschees-Albers said.
Not only does this work take a lot of time and effort, it takes resources. In the year it has been operating, So Much More Ministries has done a handful of fundraisers, going to church festivals and catering meals for congregations. Once COVID-19 hit, the fundraising dried up, but the need only increased.
Beitelschees-Albers has a new passion project to do fundraising that takes her back to her roots of cooking—a church cookbook. It will be something a little different from the church cookbooks that have been passed down and sit in kitchens across the country. Not only will this cookbook have recipes, it will also share the stories and traditions of those recipes from the people who have submitted them. The project started this fall and is still in progress.
Reflecting on this ministry, Beitelschees-Albers said, “This has nothing to do with me, other than how God has used me and the gifts he has given me.”
To learn more about So Much More Ministries, visit its Facebook page.