Somebody stole “God’s grill.”
A massive barbecue cooker/smoker – 16 feet long – belonging to Rock Hill’s Feed the Hungry Ministries was taken from the backyard of a ministry volunteer last week.
The cooker, bought with donations that are so hard to come by, has cooked hundreds of turkeys and Boston butts and more for thousands of hungry and homeless people over the past decade.
It was stored behind the home of Deborah Key in the Lesslie community southeast of Rock Hill. But when Key went out Friday to fetch the cooker, she found no cooker.
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No wheeled trailer that the cooker sat on, either. No gas tanks. Not even a grease spot was left.
“I am just sick over this,” said Key, who along with husband David “Red” Key have helped cook uncountable tons of food for the hungry over the past two decades.
“This is not a grill; this is God’s cooker – God’s grill. This cooker belongs to the people, the hungry, who depend on it for a meal that maybe they would not get any other way.”
Key called the York County Sheriff’s Office, but so far the $6,000 cooker has not been found. The theft remains under investigation, sheriff’s spokesman Trent Faris said late Tuesday.
In response to the theft, flyers have been put up around Rock Hill and all over York County. The cooker is not just a mobile stove, say those in the ministry, but an instrument of God.
Feed the Hungry Ministries – now in its 40th year of serving meals to the broke and broken – has no church building where the cooker can be stored. The ministry is a mobile kitchen.
“We have the whole of York County looking for this cooker that has served up nourishment in Jesus Christ’s name so many times,” said the Rev. Ronal King, the gregarious and magnanimous founder of the ministry. “This affects people and could affect them for months.
“We have room on that cooker for 33 turkeys – one for each year that Jesus Christ was on this earth.”
Each year for the past decade, the smoker was the 24-hour, non-stop, turkey-cooking machine that churned out much of the meat that fed York County’s poor and homeless on Thanksgiving.
Then the work was repeated on Christmas – and at other times when loaned to other like-minded people trying to feed those whose bellies are empty.
Yet King, a man of great faith whose capacity for grace in the face of despicable deeds knows no bounds, is not seeking vengeance.
A year ago, King spoke up in court in favor of a lenient sentence for a man who had impersonated him and hustled thousands of dollars in donations from unsuspecting do-gooders.
When the guy got out of drug rehabilitation, King helped him all over again.
“Our ministry is about redemption, not revenge,” said King. “I have asked for mercy and prayed for people even in the face of their depredation. This may have been an act of desperation, done by a desperate man.”
To make matters worse, the trailer that the cooker sits on was donated by a law firm, and the welder who forged it did so at a cut rate. Another volunteer had just refurbished the burners and many of the chrome fixtures because the cooker had been used so often to feed so many.
If the cooker is returned intact, Key said her inclination is not to press charges. If not, if the cops find the cooker has been scrapped, or the culprit remains a cur, Key said the courts must act.
Most times a sneaky thief hurts one person. Maybe a family. But in Rock Hill there is now a brigand whose villainous ways reach all the way to heaven.
“Everything cooked on that grill is an extension of God’s will to help the less fortunate out there,” said Key. “I am praying for the grill to be returned. This is a crime against the poor. It breaks my heart. Nobody should want to be cursed and be in possession of this.
“Who steals God’s grill?”