By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Just the sight of a tear forming in the eye of an elderly person upon receiving some much needed food is enough to convince Rick and Lokey Burton their mission is to save lives through giving.
The Mustard Tree Mission has grown steadily since its inception as youth missions in Venezuela in 1997. Today the organization is a food distribution center, a clothing warehouse for the needy, and a God's ministry that serves hundreds of families and countless others with whom the mission comes in contact.
The mission has grown to include the downtown area of Meridian. The Mustard Tree Store, selling a wide variety of items to help defray costs associated with the food pantry and clothing warehouse, is located at 511 23rd Avenue. Rick Burton says the mission isn't abandoning any of its other locations, just expanding the roots of the Mustard Tree.
"We wanted to make an impact on the downtown area because we have so many people who wished we'd be here," Rick Burton said. "We are thinking about bringing some of the food services here in the near future. Again, because the people are asking for it."
Over the course of almost 40 missions to Venezuela, Rick Burton has developed a keen intuition concerning the needs of the people. That is why he sold his insurance agency. Plus, and probably more importantly, Burton says the Lord told him to serve the people through mission work.
"Can't argue with the Lord," Burton said laughing.
Every third Saturday, such as the one this weekend, Burton and his volunteers will open up the food pantry at Life Church located at 2224 North Frontage Road. Families who have been waiting for hours, many of them the elderly who do not receive the food stamps most people think they do, stand in line for vital flood supplies. It is here the tears tend to rain down.
"These elderly people don't have the assistance everyone thinks they do," Burton says. "They are on a tightly fixed income and need this food."
Burton says the mission relies on local donations and the Feeding America and Mississippi Food Network and the USDA to provide them with enough food to feed the 200-plus families. He says it is a daunting task but one he knows the mission is destined to accomplish.
"The response over the years has grown as we have," Burton says. "Both in those who need our help and those who are instrumental in providing the food they need."
Saturday mornings, when most people in Meridian are asleep in their beds, a lone woman will walk to the Life Church location to be the first person in line. The time will be 4 a.m. Burton says she has been there every third Saturday since September. Always first, always thankful to get the food.