The Grace Project

By: Donna Clark

Hard times are exactly that…hard. Difficult, disturbing, stressful. What is the benefit of those hard times that we all have, and most likely will again experience in our lives? What good is there in the suffering? Research has actually found that up to 70 percent of people experience positive psychological growth from difficult times, such as a deeper sense of self and purpose, a greater appreciation for life and loved ones, and an increased capacity for altruism, empathy and desire to act for the greater good. That’s exactly what was revealed to me as I listened to the back story of The Grace Project.

Lauren Baker shared about when she and her husband Joseph encountered a financial tightness in their budget and the stress that it placed upon their lives. They had just become parents, and Lauren had quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Joseph had a second income to supplement, and for a period of time, their life was financially comfortable. The difficulty came when Joseph lost the second income. That loss not only affected them financially but for Lauren, it was a spiritual hurt that would have to be reckoned with. The loss seemed unfair, and at times blame for the situation was placed on God. She shared how she was angry with Him for the loss of income but yet prayed that He would help them to weather this storm. Watching every penny became very important. Shopping for sales and using coupons was a must. Not having a few dollars in the checking account to eat out was disappointing. Going from comfortable to uncomfortable had become the new way of life.

Lauren’s desire for a small table for her home, and not having the funds to purchase one, prompted her husband to learn basic woodworking. When the table was completed, she posted a picture of it on social media and requests began coming in for table orders. Their little business of building small furniture items, in a detached garage with no heat or air conditioning, became a source of a financial supplement for them. Her prayers continued that God would help them. And He did just that. She stated that she kept a journal of those answered prayers. Lauren noted 33 times that He had proved Himself faithful — through financial gifts from individuals who knew nothing of their struggle to small amounts refunded to them for no explanation to a reward for a free meal at a fast-food restaurant. The provision came in small portions, but they came, and through those timely blessings Lauren and Joseph found God trustworthy.

Now, several years later, having survived that difficult season, Lauren felt impressed to do something to help others who might be where her family was just a few years prior. She knows the struggle because she’s lived it. With today’s economy, everyone is feeling the pinch, but it’s worse for some than others. Her intent was to erect a food pantry, stocked with simple items, to help anyone who was facing a need. Whether it might be just a few items to make it to the next paycheck or several items to put a meal on a table, the pantry was to be available to anyone in need.

With Lauren’s husband being a youth pastor, they are aware of needs in the Elkmont community that others may never know of. She shared her dream with Joseph, and using the knowledge he gained while building small furniture items, he built the pantry to her specifications. It would be named The Grace Project. Her hope was to place the pantry in an area that would be easily seen and accessible. After meeting with the principal of Elkmont High School, she received the go-ahead to place the pantry on the school grounds at a location easily seen by teachers, students, and parents alike. Several local businesses contributed and the pantry was stocked. She keeps a check on the pantry every few days and reports that she is seeing items being taken; its purpose is being fulfilled.

There are several scriptures in God’s word that tells us that difficult times will come into our lives and that we’re not even to be surprised when they do. However, when the hard times come, His word also tells us that He is faithful and He will never leave us. When harm is done to us, God can make something good from it. I believe all these have come full circle in the lives of Lauren and Joseph. They are now taking what they have learned from those difficulties and using the lesson to bless others. She talked of the magnitude of this task, keeping the pantry stocked for those in need, but she felt this was exactly what God was calling her to do. That step of faith remains, a continuing reliance on God. Her hope is that those in the community who are able to give to others will do just that. At any time, items can be dropped off at the pantry or at the Gin House Restaurant in Elkmont. Lauren would love to give you more information on needed items and answer any questions you have. Her desire is that others will embrace the opportunity to give to those less fortunate and to join her in this endeavor. If you’d be interested in helping, she can be reached at

A scan of God’s word tells us that his heart is for the poor and needy and their cry is extremely important to Him. The verse she refers to as God’s blessing over this project is from Mark 6:42 where Jesus fed the thousands. “They all ate and were satisfied.” From the book of Matthew I’d like to add my own to hers, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

By: Donna Clark