Church's huge annual picnic piles up a lot of grilled chicken, cookies

It's a monumental undertaking Southwest Bible Church has pulled off for almost a decade: gathering up to 1,500 people on the church's north lawn, ministering to them and following it up with a huge community picnic.

On Sunday, the church on the corner of Murray Boulevard and Weir Road, accomplished just that.

'Next to Easter and Christmas, this is one of our main events,' said Larry Elliott, the church's worship pastor.

With temperatures hovering in the upper 80s, attendees participated in a 1½-hour worship service - complete with prayers, music and inspirational messages - before enjoying one of the larger picnics held in Beaverton this year.

Although last year's weather didn't cooperate, it didn't dampen the congregation's spirit, Elliott noted.

'It did rain last year and the Lord had a plan and it worked out,' said Elliott, adding that the event simply was moved inside.

When the service was over, Debbie Eaton, a senior pastor assistant and veteran coordinator of six past picnics, sprang into action, ensuring 1,750 pieces of chicken, 1,000 small bags of chips, 200 pounds of macaroni and 17 huge packages of Costco cookies made their way to hungry church-goers.

That included calling on the assistance of as many as 50 volunteers.

Big chicken order

For Eaton, pre-planning is everything.

'We start planning, getting the preliminaries, in April,' she said.

The picnic's chicken order was so big that it took two Albertsons stores to fill.

Those enjoying the picnic included Diane Shimojima and her two children, Hailey, 20 months, and Colby, who is almost 4. Colby munched on a piece of chicken while Hailey busied herself by munching on the inside of an Oreo cookie.

Shimojima said she has been attending the church for about eight months.

'It's been great,' she said. 'They've been wonderful, (it's a very) friendly church.'

One of the day's attractions was a pie booth where participants entered more than 20 pies including pumpkin, sour cream apple, key lime, Java chip ice cream and strawberry. One of the contestants was 10-year-old Sarah Stubblefield, who entered her strawberry meringue pie, a creation that took about two hours to complete.

'There's some vanilla and sugar, strawberries and there's other stuff I can't remember,' Sarah said.

Last year, she made strawberry jam. Sarah said it didn't matter if she won the contest, noting that several of her friends had entered as well.

Her father, Carl Stubblefield, said the family has been attending Southwest Bible Church since 1992.

'We came because we love the preaching,' he said. 'We love the Bible-centered preaching and focus on Jesus Christ.'

Stubblefield said he's a big fan of the annual picnics as well.

'Hey, they're great,' he said. 'Everybody is having a good time.'

Summer series

Beginning Sunday, the church replaces the remainder of its summer morning services with Sunday Summer Nights, which run through Aug. 27.

'This is kind of the kick off of our afternoon summer services,' said Tom Aylward, an associate pastor at the church.

The Sunday services begin at 6 p.m., also on the church's north lawn, 14605 S.W. Weir Road.

David Klinkenberg, a noted violinist and fiddle master who has been playing since he was 4, is the featured artist. He will perform Celtic, bluegrass and Christian music.

Subsequent guests include noted guitarist David Harsh on July 30 and Andrew Palau, son of the internationally known evangelist, Aug. 20.

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