Local fairs are known for impacting their local communities, but how about the world beyond? For over 20 years, Richvalley UMC, located near Wabash, Indiana, has used the proceeds from its tenderloin booth at the Wabash County Fair to help strengthen missions that impact communities around the world.
The tenderloin trailer had humble beginnings. “We started in a tiny little trailer,” said Vickie Thrush, Richvalley UMC member, and tenderloin volunteer, “There was hardly room for all of us to stand in there, and we had to bread the tenderloins somewhere else.”
Through consistent upgrades over the years, the church is now able to serve tenderloins from a larger trailer, in which thousands of pounds of pork tenderloins are hand-breaded, deep-fried, and prepared for sale each year. Customers have the option of purchasing fries and a drink and enjoying their meal in a shaded picnic area next to the trailer.
Proceeds from tenderloin booth sales have gone to support United Methodist institutions such as Africa University, Red Bird Mission Henderson Settlement, Midwest Mission Distribution Center, Helping Hands, FISH Food Pantry, and many other missions and organizations across the U.S. and around the world (see list below). Richvalley UMC even supports a missionary couple currently serving in Africa.
Randy Thrush claimed, “I think this week we’re going to gross around $35,000. We have a lot of expenses in that. But it’s likely $10-15,000 will go to missions.”
The church raises the bulk of its earnings during the week of the annual county fair. At the end of the year, the mission evangelism committee allocates the funds to different missions and needs that have been shared with a member of the church or directly with the committee.
Patty Cooper said, “We keep 20% to keep up the facilities, then we divide up the remaining 80% and give it away.”
She continued, “To be able to give that kind of money, we could never do that out of our own pockets. It’s a huge ministry opportunity for us.”
As customers approach the cash register, they were greeted by Kathy Baker who has been a member of the church for over 30 years and serves on the mission evangelism committee. Kathy shared that the church has a strong mission focus, and they feel called to give as needs arise from within the community. They recently made donations to the family of a young boy and an older church member who were battling cancer to help cover their expenses.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to do that,” she said with a smile.
“We had a guy come up the other day and said, ‘Is there any way you can feed me? I have no money.’ Our pastor happened to be around and he replied, ‘Absolutely, we’re Christians, that’s what Christians do.’ And since then we’ve continued to lift him in prayer,” said Nancy Eviston.
Due to a decreasing number of church members and volunteers to work the booth, the church has recently begun partnering with Lagro UMC to help fill some of the empty time slots.
As she served customers their drinks, Nancy stated, “This takes a lot of manpower. As our church get older, we don’t get a lot of new members, so it has become a struggle.”
“They [Lagro UMC] have more younger people and that’s what’s saved it because we don’t want to close. We love it,” she added.
Kathy said, “Members from their church come and work, and we pay their church. We give them the money, and they’re able to do what they want with it. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a ministry to them.”
Recently, the church began a new form of missional giving to help meet the needs of people throughout the community. Members of the church were given $50 grocery gift cards and were encouraged to give them away when they come across people who are having trouble feeding themselves or their families.
“We offer them to anyone in the church,” stated Kathy. “If you want, take one, two, or five. It’s not just for our mission group.”
“If you feel led by the Spirit or know of someone who needs something, tell them ‘Bless you and here’s a $50 gift card,’” added Vickie.
The strength of Richvalley UMC’s giving ministry goes far beyond selling sandwiches at the country fair; it’s in the many ways they continue to respond to the needs of the people in their midst and strangers around the world, many of whom they may never have the opportunity to meet in person.
It’s also in the way the church seeks to do God’s work as a family and treats everyone as such.
When asked about the longevity of the tenderloin booth and why the church continues this ministry, Kathy said, “I think it’s about the involvement we all have in making this week possible. Sometimes, we grumble, but we love it. We love being around one another. It’s such a good feeling.”
Missions/Ministries supported by Richvalley UMC:
FISH Food Pantry
Our Father’s Library
The Vances – missionaries serving Africa
Midwest Mission Distribution Center
Redbird Mission – Henderson Settlement
Gift Card Mission Outreach
And many others!