Idaho Meat Ministry Feeds the Community

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Nothing Wasted: Calvary Chapel Salmon's Meat Ministry Feeds the Community

Story by Kathy Symborski
Photos courtesy of CC Salmon, ID

When there is a need, God stirs hearts to act. In Ezra 1:1-5, He stirred the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, releasing the priests, leaders, and the people to a single purpose for His glory, to rebuild the Temple. And in a rather unconventional way, God has done the same with His people at Calvary Chapel Salmon, ID—through a practical Meat Ministry feeding their community physically and then spiritually.

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Larry Wade hands a package of meat to a woman at Calvary Chapel Salmon, ID, in late November. For more than 10 years, CC Salmon’s Meat Ministry has been providing food for the small community as a practical outreach. The ministry accepts meat donations; volunteers, both from the church and the community, perform the butchering and processing before giving it to those in need on Mondays.

Stirred to Vision: Purpose

It started in 2010 with a few hunting friends who donated some of their game meat to hungry families in the community. It wasn’t long before other hunters were impressed to do the same. A few years later, one of the hunters learned that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) put down injured wildlife and discarded them at the landfill.

“Idaho didn’t always have a ‘salvage law’ that said you could salvage injured or killed animals, so often this meat was wasted,” according to Jordan Costner, a CC Salmon member who is also a senior conservation officer for the Salmon region of the IDFG. CC Salmon and IDFG began working together to bring these animals to church member Larry Wade’s warehouse to be butchered and distributed through the church.

Idaho’s salvage law eventually changed to allow the person who inadvertently injured or killed the animal to harvest it. Supply dropped off substantially at that time, but God’s Spirit was moving on the hearts of local ranchers. Chris French, head volunteer butcher, noted, “It was then that ranchers started supplying domestic animals and meat.”

Four years ago, the entire process was moved to an old dairy barn at a local ranch where all the essentials for cutting meat were already in place. “I felt God nudging me to move the Meat Ministry; He put it on my heart to use what He has given us to His glory,” Chris stated. Now, a decade later, they give away enough fresh hamburger, steaks, stew, and cubed meat to sustain those in need in the community.

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Standing in front of CC Salmon are some of the Meat Ministry’s volunteers. In the back row (left to right) are Chris French and Larry Wade. In the front row (left to right) are Gladys Waterman, Philip Waterman, Karen Wade, Sue Houston, and Sue Remmele. Chris, head volunteer butcher, explained, “God put it on my heart to use what He has given us to His glory.”

Stirred to Action: Participation

CC Salmon Assistant Pastor Lee Miles acknowledged, “We live in a very benevolent community. Anytime someone is in need, all kinds of people are there to help. They just show up. In times like this, when people are tired of being asked to give, you don’t see that around here; they are always willing to step up.”

Salmon is a somewhat insulated rural community with a population of about 3,500. Located in central Idaho, along the Salmon River, its closest city, Idaho Falls, is about 160 miles southeast. Chris said, “People will go into the big city to do their shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club, and they will pick things up for us. Even though they can’t cut up meat, they can get supplies.”

When the need for volunteers arise, the call goes out humorously from Senior Pastor Hagen Miller at Sunday service: “If you love to cut up dead animals, sign up in the lobby!” A team of four to six people will show up at the ranch and spend several hours processing the animal. After it is packaged, it’s taken to the freezers at the church to be distributed each Monday.

Numerous local businesses, banks, and even the local hospital help support Calvary Chapel Salmon’s ministries through various fundraisers or point-of-sale “round up” donations. “We have line items we budget for, but the amount of donations that come in from the public just blows my mind. Sometimes we don’t even know who made the donation. It’s just amazing how God provides!” exclaimed Lee.

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The ministry began with local hunters donating the meat to CC Salmon. When they learned that injured wildlife was being discarded in the landfill, the church began a collaboration with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). The IDFG allowed the ministry to process that meat source.

Stirred to Overcoming: Power

“When the body is functioning properly, everybody is doing something, [even if it’s] doing just the best they can. It’s a blessing, but that doesn’t mean it’s without challenges. Challenges help us grow,” Lee reflected.

Fish and Game staff were “thrilled to be able to bring the meat to us so that it didn’t go to waste,” Chris affirmed. “How interesting that [my obedience] to what God asked me to do, not letting any animal go to waste” was also stirred upon the hearts of those officers. Jordan observed, “The agency’s goal is to protect, preserve, and perpetuate our resources—but more importantly to live out our faith and care for our neighbors’ needs. This wasted meat was a problem, just as people going hungry was. So we came together to fix a problem.”

The local ranchers were a tremendous help when the laws changed and wildlife donations slowed. Lee noted, “When the ranchers caught wind of that, they donated their own domestic animals, even paying the processing cost.” Ranchers also work with hunters when wildlife cause crop damage on their land. Through depredation management, big game are killed and often donated to the Meat Ministry. Chris knew this was the hand of God supplying all their needs because “it just came pouring in!” Lee continued.

Freezer space can be an obstacle when animals come in faster than the ministry can give away meat. Recently, the Meat Ministry had to turn down a deer, Larry Wade revealed, because “we had no more room. Our freezers were stocked with a whole cow, two elk, and a deer; IDFG had to find someone else who could use it.”

The Meat Ministry takes in game around the end of August, coinciding with hunting season, all through springtime. Year-round processing isn’t tenable yet. “We have a cooler, but because of shortage problems, we haven’t been able to get a cooling system to mount on top of the cooler,” Chris explained. Most recently, even freezer paper and gallon freezer bags have been scarce, but ministry volunteers know these are opportunities to witness the Lord’s hand of provision.

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Three volunteers work together to prepare and process some of the meat. From left to right are Karen French, Sue Remmele, and Bob Weir. The church provides fresh hamburger, steaks, stew meat, and cubed meat free to local residents. CC Salmon member Jordan Costner pointed out, “It’s hard to minister to someone who is hungry when they are thinking about … where their food is coming from. It’s hard to just tell them that ‘All they need is Jesus,’ [when] they are hungry and haven’t had a good meal in a couple days. We have the means to put food on their table and in the freezer … [then] we can focus on the heart condition."

Stirred to Love: God’s Glory

Lee related, “Deuteronomy 15:7 falls in line with the mission of our Meat Ministry: ‘If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother.’ God puts it on peoples’ heart to do stuff and instead of just saying we [were] going to pray about it, we just did it and let Him decide to continue (the ministry) or not.”

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, CC Salmon noticed a new group of people coming to get meat—employed local residents whose incomes had been reduced by shortened hours or even lost due to layoffs. After paying bills, they often couldn’t pay for groceries and relied on the ministry for their protein source. Jordan pointed out, “It’s hard to minister to someone who is hungry when they are thinking about that immediate need of where their food is coming from. It’s hard to just tell them that ‘All they need is Jesus,’ [when] they are hungry and haven’t had a good meal in a couple days. We have the means to put food on their table and in the freezer … [then] we can focus on the heart condition.”

Often, volunteers will be blessed with some of the meat. Larry expounded, “It says in Deuteronomy 25:4, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.’ So they get to take some of the steaks home because they give up several hours of their time.” Chris added that the Meat Ministry also cuts the large leg bones for people to make bone broth and for the cattle ranchers to give to their stock dogs. “We are trying to honor what God has given us by using it to the maximum amount we can.”

“Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” John 6:12b

Volunteers involved in the ministry are not always church members or even Christians, “but through the fellowship and being around folks who run it, some have come to be part of the church,” Lee affirmed. The Meat Ministry is a tool that brings people together where Christ is shared. Chris noted an example. “We have a retired meat cutter, not part of the church at all, who heard about the ministry and wanted to help. This fellowship gives us time to talk about God’s goodness all the time. He’s hearing and receiving it because he keeps coming back. Otherwise, he may never receive anything spiritual.”

Calvary Chapel Salmon is aware this ministry has become bigger than they ever expected. “Like a snowball, you keep it rolling and it keeps growing,” Chris contended. “People may not think they are part of the church, but when they become part of the Meat Ministry, they are serving their neighbor for the glory of God.”

                  

Click to learn more about Calvary Chapel Salmon, ID

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Local ranchers also generously donate meat for the ministry. Once the freezers were so fully stocked with a whole cow, two elk, and a deer that they had to turn a donation away.

 

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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