When COVID-19 hit North Texas in March 2020, Northview Baptist Church in Lewisville, Texas, was prepared. That’s partly because Rob Veal, executive pastor, created a program called Heart of the City in 2019.
Heart of the City could be duplicated in evangelical churches all over the nation, said Veal, who is president and CEO of the ministry.
He and Northview Baptist pastor Kenneth Wells call Lewisville home, and they know the area and the people. Wells has been pastor of Northview since 1981. Veal has 44 years of service in various positions, with 30 years at Northview.
“Although we understood the needs of the people, it wasn’t until 2009 that God made me aware of addressing the social concerns of our community while we still share the gospel,” Veal said. “Immigrants started coming across the border. Therefore, we were already serving people. So Northview was ready to handle the problems caused by the pandemic. Knowing the needs of the people has made a difference and has impacted the area.”
Ready to help
The pandemic changed many things. By late spring and early summer of 2020, many industries and businesses had shut down. Shelves that were usually full were often empty. Except for essential workers, many were unemployed. Families needed food and clothing.
Fortunately, Veal had applied for nonprofit status for Heart of the City. The status was granted in April 2019, and by October the food pantry was running. Northview was ready to help those struggling during the pandemic.
The center has served people from 24 countries. A new center has opened, making a total of four, and three new staff members have been hired. Since the first of the year, more than 80 people so far have made professions of faith in Christ through the ministry.
“It’s amazing how God is blessing this work,” Veal said.
There are two key factors that make Heart of the City different. First, the primary purpose is people, not resources. Food and clothing are tools used to develop relationships with those served.
Second, it was created to be duplicated in evangelical churches all over the nation, Veal said. He noted it is a social program any church can do.
One reason the program is successful is Heart of the City teaches, trains, equips and provides oversight for any and all interested churches. Leaders feel it is a “laboratory” to practice what Baptist churches have been teaching their members for decades.
Assessing the concerns of neighbors in the Lewisville area, Northview came up with three main needs. Since opening they have connected with more than 4,000 families.
Advertised as providing local, fresh and choice food, the market/food pantry offers a wide selection of nutritious food. Participants are encouraged to tell others who have a need.
It also is a way to talk to people about Jesus, and food is a connection to prayer.
The ministry is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide fresh food to vulnerable and underserved groups. Nearly 2 million pounds of food have been given away since Heart of the City opened in 2019.
Northview also provides free clothing as well as life skills, training and coaching.
Active in community
Northview has been an active part of the Lewisville community since 1964, partnering with 10-plus churches and multiple denominations, cultures and races.
The main campus is open six days a week, with many opportunities for volunteers to engage where God is calling them to serve.
“Whatever the interest, there is something to do,” Veal said. “Warehouse labor, truck driving, shelf-stocking, personal shoppers, clothing sorting and hanging, one-to-one talking with those we serve, marketing, grant writing, program administration, social media and others.
“Our volunteer support is very strong,” he added. “Maybe they have never taught a Sunday School class or sung in the choir, but they can volunteer.”
Heart of the City receives support from the Texas Hunger Offering, Feeding America, the North Texas Food Bank, Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Big Lots, churches, civic organizations and retail partnerships.
Veal noted pastors often are so busy with administration they don’t have time to connect with people in the community.
“We forget the first call, and that is to love people. As executive pastor of Northview, I can sit across the table from people who visit Heart of the City and really listen. One of my favorite teachings is to love God and love others.”
For more information visit HeartOfTheCityLewisville.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story has been updated with new information since it originally ran on June 20.