Early in his ministry at the church his father founded east of Lexington, the Rev. Dan Smith was troubled.
A young single mother who lost everything in a fire came to him for help.
“I had nothing to give,” he recalled.
And he was struck by the need to be able to fulfill what he calls the church’s mandate – the care of widows, orphans and the downtrodden.
From that was born the Joseph Project.
It was an idea, a goal, really, that took on life when church members Monty and Mistie Jensen became involved.
“They love feeding people,” Smith said. “Mistie got on the horn and started bombarding food banks.”
Her persistence led her eventually to Go Fresh.
The company is the brainchild of President Donald Trump and pays farmers for excess production.
Go Fresh sends semi loads of fresh dairy, fruits and staples – 30,000 pounds at a time – to Sanctuary Christian Center east of Lexington. There volunteers hand it out to any and all comers.
On Tuesday, they had the sixth such distribution, bringing the total to 180,000 pounds of groceries.
In June, the church had one semi load. In July, there were two. And Tuesday was the third distribution in August.
It’s “perfect stuff,” Smith said. Every box contains a gallon of fresh milk, a dairy box filled with butter, cream, yogurt and the like, a box of fresh, in-season fruit, as well as corn on the cob, onions and potatoes.
“It’s stuff that will get a family through for a week,” he said.
The distribution begins at 11 a.m.
On August 17, it took until 3 p.m. to empty the semi load. On Thursday everything was gone by 1 p.m.
Smith estimated between 400 and 500 cars passed through the line on Thursday.
He arrived at the church at 9 a.m. that day and counted the line of cars waiting. There were 75 in line two hours before the first box was handed out.
The church doesn’t require any paperwork. Anyone who comes will leave with food. Some people pick up boxes for multiple families.
During the summer, the church fed 200 children a day, Monday through Friday.
“The need is great,” Smith said. “This is nothing to do with us. God is moving in this place to help us fulfill (this mission).”
The church has also just received approval to begin receiving groceries from Feed the Children.
It is a huge undertaking for a small congregation.
Since COVID-19, Sunday morning worship draws 20 to 25 to the church and more watch the live service on Facebook.
The church’s budget “gets pretty abused” over the course of a month, so Smith started Oklahoma’s biggest yard sale every Saturday on a lot next to the church.
Vendors are charged $10 to set up – proceeds that help keep the Joseph Project afloat.
The church also accepts donations through Vinmo. Just make sure you are sending funds to the Sanctuary Christian Center in Lexington.
The schedule of truck deliveries can be found on the church’s Facebook page.
Smith gained his zeal for the ministry from his father, John.
About 32 years ago, the elder Smith bought a bar from Cal Hobson and turned it into a church.
Dan Smith was a carpenter in Phoenix at the time and was excited to learn the purchase included an 18-foot mahoghony bar.
“Thirty years ago that was $4,000 worth of wood,” he said.
He asked his father for the wood and was disheartened at the reply.
“Oh, we burned it,” his father said.
Today, the church still occupies the building that was once a bar.
“Dad was moved to remake this place,” Smith said.
He took over from his father as pastor in 2008, when the ailing man retired and moved back to Arizona. He died in 2010, but not before “leading more people to the Lord in the last year of his life than most people do in a lifetime.
“On his last ambulance ride, he witnessed to the two EMTs. Both accepted Jesus on the spot.”
Ministry runs in the family. Smith’s three sisters in Phoenix are all ministers.
He and his wife, Sherrie, have three sons.
It is likely two sons – Daniel and David – will continue the ministerial tradition. They are now students at Purcell High School. An older son, Christopher, is a construction supervisor in Phoenix and, while not a minister, is active in his church there.
On Sunday, Smith will preach a special Joseph Project sermon at the 10:30 a.m. worship service, which is open to the public.