When COVID-19 hit North Texas in March 2020, Northview Baptist Church in Lewisville was prepared. That’s partly because Rob Veal, executive pastor, came up with a program called Heart of the City in 2019, of which he is president/CEO.
Heart of the City could be duplicated in evangelical churches all over the nation, Veal said.
He and Northview senior pastor Kenneth Wells call Lewisville home, and know the area and the people. Wells has been pastor of Northview since 1981 and Veal has 40 years of service.
“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.”
But the pandemic changed things. By late spring and early summer of 2020, many industries and businesses had to 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 non-profit status for Heart of the City — granted in April 2019 — and by October of that year the food pantry was running. Northview Baptist was ready to help those dealing with the pandemic.
Currently 21 countries are represented. A new center has opened, making a total of four, and three new staff members have been hired. This year 80 people have made professions of faith in Christ through the ministry.
“It’s amazing how God is blessing this work,” Veal said.
Heart of the City is different
There are two key factors that make Heart of the City different. First, the primary purpose is people, not resources. Food and clothing are only “tools” to begin relationships with those served.
Second, it was created to be duplicated in evangelical churches all over the nation, Veal said, similar to Sunday School, discipleship, etc. — a Baptist social program ministry any church can do.
One reason the program is so successful is that Northview 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.
Current programs at Northview Baptist
Assessing the concerns of neighbors in the Lewisville area, Northview came up with three main needs. Since opening they have connected with 2,700 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.
A fresh-food patio serves the homeless and the working poor 24/7, with 1.5 million pounds of food given away since Heart of the City opened in 2019.
Northview also provides free clothing as well as life skills/coaching.
Support through volunteers, funding, donations
Northview has been an active part of the Lewisville community since 1964, partnering with 10-plus churches, 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.
“Northview generally just supports Heart of the City as it would any other mission program: by prayer, finances and volunteerism,” Veal said, noting the program is self-supporting. “As God continues to supply our needs, there is no burden on the church.”
Benefits of serving
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.