In four hours Sunday evening, a group of 150 volunteers gathered in two shifts at Tates Creek Christian Church and more than 100 people got together at CenterPointe Christian Church to prepare more than 50,000 meals.
Those meals, along with some 950,000 more, eventually will fill the bellies of hungry children in Haiti and North Korea.
The gigantic effort is part of National Missionary Convention 2010 at Rupp Arena from Nov. 18 to 21. The convention, associated with the independent Christian church denomination and with Churches of Christ, meets at this time every year in various cities to promote mission work.
With the convention here, Lexington churches wanted to do something big and memorable.
"We did 300,000 meals in Peoria," when the conference was held in that Illinois city last year, said Russell Johnson, National Missionary Convention director of leadership development. "But the churches in Lexington said if we can get started earlier, we can do a million meals. The churches have made a million their goal."
The effort began Sunday, and if organizers can get at least 100 volunteers for each of the scheduled two-hour shifts, they think the goal is reachable.
Ron Eversole, Tates Creek Christian Church administrator, said he v olunteered Sunday and, "if I can do it, anybody can."
Volunteers funneled rice, dried fruit, vegetables and meat, soy meal and a blend of vitamin and mineral supplements into a bag that was then vacuum sealed and boxed, ready to make the journey overseas.
Most of the meals, about 750,000, will be sent to Lifeline Christian Ministries, which has been providing more than 50,000 meals a day in Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake. About 250,000 meals will be sent to North Korea for orphanages, schools and homes for handicapped children and adults.
Johnson said the 1 million meals will help feed 5,000 children for a year.
"We see kids for whom one meal a day is huge," he said, adding the meals are usually cooked and distributed at schools, drawing children to some 32 sites at which they receive an education and nutrition.
David Empson, executive director of National Missionary Convention, said each filled bag contains enough food for six people.
Each bag is filled to a precise gram weight determined by nutritionists and scientists, he said. Plus, "it's really pretty good," he said.
After the meals are boxed, they are shipped in containers that hold 285,000 meals.
Johnson said the meals cost about 14 cents each. There are no handling costs, he said, and transportation is donated.
"Lifeline has 30 years of experience in working with the Haiti people," he said. "We are not putting the food on a dock and hoping someone will get it."
About 750,000 meals have been paid for, and organizers hope to raise $30,000 for the rest, Johnson said.
Conference organizers are expecting more than 8,000 participants at Rupp Arena, Empson said. More than 400 will be veteran overseas missionaries, and about 3,500 will be teenagers and college-age students.
Some of the young people will make meals and some will build prefabricated walls at Broadway Christian Church. The walls will be sent by truck to Mexico and Native American reservations to be used in the construction of houses.
Meanwhile, those million meals need to be bagged.
"We would welcome anyone who would want to come to help," Eversole said. "I know there are some Girl Scout troops and other groups involved, and the Tates Creek High School band."
CenterPointe Pastor Brian Bolton said his church is the "overflow site" for volunteer efforts that Tates Creek Christian cannot accommodate.
"We made more than 21,600 meals" on Sunday, he said. "That is tremendous."