One man’s determination 70 years ago to bless others continues to bless some New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary families today at Thanksgiving when a food basket arrives at their door.
“It’s not just about bringing groceries. It’s about bringing encouragement,” said Dorothy, daughter of Albert Graythen, the man who decided long ago to share the blessings God had given him. Packing Thanksgiving baskets for others became a family tradition that is now managed by Graythen’s daughters Dorothy and Linda, and included their sister Kerstin until her death a few years ago. Consistent with the spirit of their sevice, they prefer to be known in print by their first names only.
As children, Dorothy and Linda, and their siblings, packed baskets assembly line-style in their driveway with food staples enough to go beyond Thanksgiving and provide a family several meals. Community as well as NOBTS families each year are recipients.
“[My father] always believed that God had blessed him and he needed to pass it on,” Dorothy said. “He especially had a heart towards those who preach the gospel.”
Decades ago, the Graythen family’s friendships with seminary families at their church—Metairie Baptist Church, Metairie, Louisiana—alerted them to those in need on campus. Today, Metairie Baptist Church partners with and supports the ministry to help keep the family tradition going.
“The Graythen family has made a difference in the lives of so many through their consistent ministry over the years,” said Thomas Strong, Metairie Baptist Church pastor and NOBTS vice president of spiritual formation and student life.
“They have led the church to compassionately care for others, specifically by providing food during special seasons of life,” Strong continued. “Numerous people, including many seminary students and families, have found great encouragement through the efforts they initiated.”
Through the years, the Graythen family received thank you notes from students passed on to them by the seminary.
“Every single time we’ve always heard back from the seminary students about how much they appreciate it and, at times, the need it filled,” Dorothy said.
Dorothy related an email Strong once received that shows the ministry’s impact. The student wrote that he had come home that day knowing he and his wife had food enough to feed their children, but no more. Instead, the basket they received that day provided the family food for the week.
Leaving home and familiar settings to move onto campus can be challenging, Strong explained.
“On occasions, hard times will force them to make difficult decisions with limited resources. This often results in food insecurities as they struggle to secure needed provisions,” Strong said. “In order to encourage those who are called and are following after Christ, we have determined to do all we can to help students in these challenging days to never struggle with food insecurity.”
WHEN HUNGER IS PERSONAL
“As a child, [my father] was hungry,” Dorothy said. Dorothy explained that her father as a young man had worked to support his two sisters and mother.
“He said he knew what it was like to be hungry,” Dorothy said. “He said, ‘I don’t want other people to have to go through that if they don’t have to.’”
No one knows how many baskets have been given away through the years, Dorothy said. Keeping track wasn’t the point.“I saw how faithful my dad was and how faithful God was to my dad,” Dorothy said. “God always provided money in the month that we needed to do this … It’s God doing this through us. It’s not us. I’m no different from anybody else. I just saw a need and wanted to fill it.”