Petra Outreach Ministries

Amanda Lowrance

Petra Outreach Ministries

Driving through Selmer last week, you might have noticed free produce being handed out at the south Y. This is the work of Petra Ministries International Fellowship Inc.

Petra stands for preparing a place for everyone to receive agape (greek for love) and has had an active, silent involvement in the community for almost decade.

Petra was founded in Selmer in1992, and is currently run by Paul and Bonnie Young.

“Our desire was to feed the hungry,” said Young. “We started feeding children in east Jackson and it moved from there to seniors.”

When the program first started the focus was on children but later moved to the elderly after discovering a number of cases in need of help.

“Once, I was cleaning a lady’s house and instead of food, she was eating cat food,” said Young. “She didn’t even have a cat. She was a little blind lady, who went to church with me. Nobody took the time for her. I just thought if there is one person, there are more.”

Young wondered just how many people lived in these conditions in the community.

“We began to seek out the seniors,” said Young, “because they seem to be the ones that are forgotten.”

Religion is a main theme of Petra, but it is only a part of what it is all about.

“First and foremost, we like to feed the spiritual man and then comes the physical man,” said Young.

Young feels that the ministry and the outreach have been ignored.

“We have been on South Sixth Street for five years now and we are the best kept secret in McNairy County.”

One reason that their efforts have gone unnoticed is because of Feed America First. Everyone assumes that the ministry is just a wholesaler to this organization.

“Petra is much more than that,” said Young. “We feed approximately 500 families a month with a substantial amount of food, including about $500 worth of meats, fruits, frozen items, sweets, and the whole thing.”

There’s no criteria to meet in order to receive services from the outreach program.

“God has blessed us to be able to do this. You do not have to belong to my church for me to feed you. People are hungry that don’t go to church. Our outreach is for the entire area.”

The outreach program now travels to Jackson and Henderson as well throughout the year.

“Initially we served 38 seniors, and then the tornado hit and destroyed our building. Now, it has grown to approximately 500 families.”

A tornado destroyed the first building that Petra had in Selmer, but the disaster did not slow down their need to help others.

Mark and Linda Pedigo are on-sight supervisors, who were aiding the outreach program last week along with many other helpful members, including Chrissy Heffner and Hazel Haynes.

Petra’s mission statement is, “Petra is a place where ministries unite and still retain their own identity. Where God is the central focus in all that we do.  A place that is not separated by race, color, status in life, gender, or denominations. Our focus is unity with one goal ‘to reach a lost and dying world, to show love and compassion to all.’”

To help Petra with this noble, whole-hearted cause, mail donations to or stop by the central office located at 393 South Sixth Street, Selmer, Tenn. or call (731)-434-1002 for more information.