The Rev. Shedra Moore greeted her hungry congregation Sunday with the phrase that has become her annual tradition:
"First, the word."
The crowd responded:
"AND THEN THE BIRD!"
The Word of the Lord International Church, which meets each week at the Midtown Community Resource Center, prepares meals for those in need throughout the year, Moore said, but the Thanksgiving dinner is always special.
The congregation was treated to its annual Thanksgiving feast on Sunday, courtesy of Bishop's Family Dining on West Kellogg Drive. Nearly 250 church members were bused from the center at 1150 N. Broadway on Overland Charters buses to the restaurant.
It is the second year the restaurant has donated the entire meal to the congregation, nearly all of whom are homeless or considered working poor.
Moore has been providing the holiday meal since the early 1990s.
Last year, when it looked as though she wouldn't be able to provide it, Luu Le became one of her angels.
Le, the owner of Bishop's, offered to provide the entire congregation a holiday meal — free.
He did it again this year.
"Because it is the right thing to do, seriously," Le said. "It has been a really tough year, businesswise. We are down 25 percent. But you know, look at the situations they are in. I am glad I have a job. I am glad I have a business. I wouldn't want to be sleeping on the street or living in the shelter. I think it is the right thing to do."
Le said he does it because he remembers what it was like when he first came to America — to Wichita — and a family took his family in for the holidays.
"We have had so many layoffs this year and now business is down because of that," he said. "But we do it in order to put a smile on people's faces. They remember from last year."
The need for help has definitely increased this year, Moore said.
"We are seeing more of an increase in people," Moore said. "It coincides with the economy bottoming out. We are here to help people turn their lives around. We try to give encouragement."
As a pastor, Moore has also found a way to give back.
"Our church votes me a salary," she said. "I never take it. I always decline my salary and use the money to feed the poor and homeless. I can't tell these people how to trust in God if I don't trust in God."
For people like Jerome Armstrong, the Thanksgiving meal was nothing short of miraculous.
"It's like dying and going to heaven," he said.
Chances are, Armstrong said, he will have a Thanksgiving meal at the Union Rescue Mission but having a sit-down meal in a restaurant is especially nice.
"Thanks to Rev. Moore, I get a decent meal," he said. "She's a real miracle worker for somebody to care about a person, no questions asked."
As he stood in the line that snaked onto the restaurant's front sidewalk, Armstrong thought about what he would eat.
"Teriyaki chicken and rice," he said. "I love rice. Chicken and rice are the main focus for today — and being thankful."