Linda Mills, 70, has served others in her community for 42 years by hosting Sunday lunches from her cozy home in Havelock, N.C. Her humble service has earned her the affectionate moniker “Mama Mills.”
It all started when her husband Harold, who passed away 15 years ago, said “Mama, I’m bringing a little, starvin’ Marine home,” Mills said.
From then on, her longtime ministry grew and became known as “The Lunch Bunch.” She faithfully provided a home-cooked meal and a “home away from home” welcoming many young soldiers and others “who needed some extra love,” she said. On Sundays, she cooked lunch for 20 to 40 guests usually. On one Easter, she fed 74. Most of her guests are young U.S. Marines from nearby U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C.
But the widow’s popular after-church meals came to a halt in September when her home took on floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence. Mills, a member of First Baptist Church Havelock, stood on higher ground on her neighbor’s porch and watched the water rise up her yard and feared for the worst. Her neighborhood was flooded when Joe’s Branch Creek overflowed from the Neuse River’s storm surge.
Dressed in high boots the next morning, Mills surveyed the damage done overnight. While only the crawl space of her home was flooded, she found her barn out back, which housed three freezers and two refrigerators full of food for her ministry, had taken on nearly four feet of floodwater.
“When I saw those freezers turned upside down and food everywhere, I thought that maybe God was closing a door [to the ministry],” she said.
“All my provisions were taken away from me and I wondered, ‘Lord, is it time for me to do something else?'”
But through help from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers and other friends, she realized that maybe God was opening doors instead.
When SBDR volunteer Bill Gore of Bethel Baptist of Boone, N.C., showed up to treat mold underneath her home, he said he knew Mills was a special person. Gore and many other SBDR volunteers were meeting job requests out of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, one of several SBDR command sites.
“Her loving demeanor towards a stranger stuck out,” Gore said.
When Mama Mills started sharing her story of how the lunch bunch began and showed him all the photographs over the years of people who had come on Sundays, he encouraged Mills to continue her service.
Gore, a longtime SBDR volunteer, said he was impressed by her care for others.
“This just absolutely amazed me,” he said.
Mills shared with him how God had always provided for her needs in the past. One time when she was planning to serve meatless spaghetti, two friends showed up with 30 pounds of chicken.
“Of course, we had fried chicken the next day,” she noted.
Gore and SBDR volunteer Richard Browning of Rock Spring Baptist Church in Louisburg, N.C., visited and prayed with Mills and gave her a signed Bible before they left. They encouraged her to go on with the ministry.
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Source: Baptist Press