Gathering and coordinating up to 50 volunteers for a few hours and feeding at least 400 families is all in a day’s work for Pastor Chris Whitney, head of Nashville Family Church in Franklin.
It was three years ago that the pastor, father and husband announced ambitious plans to feed more than 1 million people around the world.
“Six years ago we were doing a Cinco de Mayo special and they needed food. A guy came in delivering bread. We told him we would drop off a truck of food. We dropped off the food and little did we know, that day that One Gen Away was born,” said Whitney.
Since then, Rev. Whitney has partnered with pastors from around Middle Tennessee and in Houston, Texas, setting up massive food giveaways. Whitney’s movement, One Gen Away, would bring in a large bed truck carrying up to 25,000 pounds of food and drop it off at a site in the neighborhood they were serving. Volunteers from the neighborhood churches would help pass out the food to the hundreds that would often wait in line for hours, regardless of the cold or heat.
“Almost everyone says you didn’t tell me it was going to be this big. I can’t explain in words, even visually, how big it is until they see it happen. Everyone is amazed at how quickly and thoroughly everyone was served. I’ve never heard anyone say they would never do it again. I’ve always heard people say they can’t wait to do another one,” added Rev. Whitney.
Breaking down barriers
If you ask Whitney, he’ll tell you that feeding people isn’t the main objective for One Gen Away. His main goal for the movement is to actually break down racial and economic barriers in the community. Though the work with One Gen Away actually started a few years ago, it was actually born nine years ago during a normal day of prayer. He says God, in the middle of his prayer, dropped the phrase on him “one generation away”. Whitney said he didn’t know what that meant. He just knew to hold onto it and keep praying that God would show him what to do with that. He even went so far as to purchase the domain name for it. The light bulb went off a few years later when he says he and his wife were watching television with their daughter. He says they were watching a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. and their daughter broke out in tears. She couldn’t understand why the Black people in the movie were being mistreated. She asked Whitney ‘why the brown people in the movie were being hosed down like that.’.
Pastor Chris Whitney, head of Nashville Family Church in Franklin
“She didn’t’ understand the history of people of color and that’s when it hit me. We are one generation away from racism. We are one generation away from eliminating racism and the most segregated day of the week is Sunday. I thought how cool would it be to have churches getting together to help mankind,” added Whitney.
Breaking down racial barriers in a southern city rich with a Civil Rights history, is a large task for the white, small framed St. Louis native based in affluent, Franklin, Tn., but it’s a challenge that he says he is up for.
“I’m humbled. I don’t know why this white guy gets to grace people’s lives. I’m humbled and grateful. I hope my heart comes across with no agenda. That is my passion for my wife Elaine and I. We just want to serve people and other churches,” said Whitney.
So far, it seems to be working.
“Fifty or 60 years ago, what we’re doing today would have been unheard of. A Black pastor and a White pastor coming together to serve the common man on their own will, would have been unimaginable. But we have joined hands, partnered together and in the name of God, are tackling hunger and racism one food giveaway at a time. We are feeding people the Word, a meal and hope,” said Mitchell.
“Whitney has been a blessing to work with. I’m proud and honored to call him my brother in Christ where color doesn’t matter, but what you do for mankind does.”
“Hopefully we’ve represented ourselves as Christ would and that’s with no agenda and a desire to help.
It’s not just me. It’s we. Nashville is doing it. If we can do this in Nashville, then I believe we can do this in any city or country,” said Whitney.
Buying food for all
The effort to feed people across the world started a few years ago and quickly put a dent in hunger, particularly during the recession. Last year, One Gen Away gave away a little more than 600,000 pounds of food costing nearly $1 million. So far this year, One Gen Away has given away more than 375,000 pounds of food which equals about 284,000 meals given to families in need.
One Gen Away, along with its partner churches, must first purchase the food and have spent about $640,000 this year. It’s a cost that Pastor Ronnie Mitchell of New Livingstone Church in East Nashville says he’s willing to help cover.
“People are crying out from every corner of this city, this state and this world, and it’s up to the church to stand up and take care of that need. We profess to be Christ-like. Well, this is action meeting word, and the Church making good on its promise to take care of hurting humanity and do God’s will,” said Mitchell.
His church has co-hosted two massive food giveaways in 2012 in East Nashville in conjunction with One Gen Away. They are gearing up for a third giveaway on July 20.