Posted by: minnow | March 30, 2008

The Food Bank

A tiny step I have taken to get a reality of life check in my life is to volunteer some Saturday mornings at the food bank my local fellowship hosts.  One thing I have noticed about this ministry as it is walked out in my college-friendly congregation is that most of the regular volunteers have three to four decades on the college crowd.  Am I being judgmental?  Perhaps, but mostly I hope I am honoring the fact that at least a few of us with gray hair (many of whom are older even if not as gray as I am) are trying to walk out a “least of these” faith. 

Christians from my parents’ generation to my own have been hit pretty hard of late.  From Church scandals reported with glee (usually by the main stream media) to accusations of being religious and legalistic rather than Christ-like (most frequently by the emerging church movement) traditional evangelicals have come under-fire.  While I have often joined the chorus yesterday I spent my morning at the food bank and had an unusual experience. 

I was impressed with my fellow volunteers.  Smiling, helping folks out with their boxes of food, making sure the little ones got a stuffed toy along with the loaves of bread, these caring individuals truly seemed to enjoy being at the food bank.  I saw long term volunteers recognize various faces in the crowd seek those people out to give them hugs, then ask them how their husband or wife was recovering from surgery or the flu.  I watched one of our oldest (as in time spent working at the food bank) ladies reach under her desk, pull out a brightly wrapped package, and give a new mom a hand sewn baby quilt.  It was the first time she had seen mom and baby since the little one arrived.  The package had been waiting for her under this volunteer’s desk for a couple weeks. 

I have waited in welfare and food-stamp lines before and have justified my existence to the harsh representatives of various government programs.  The cold indifference or outright hostility I experienced at that place in my life was a stark contrast to what I observed at the food bank yesterday.  I understood, yet again, the difference between the Church and government angencies, Jesus and Uncle Sam.

Now, I know the Church has its flaws.  I have often been the one to point them out.  But, yesterday morning, for two and a half hours, I got to see the hands and feet of Jesus in action and it made me want to come back for more.  Granted, this was a small sliver in a 300 plus congregation but that is not the point and besides there are other slivers.  My questions for all of us are these: In addition to talking–what are we doing?  Whose lives are we impacting?  Does it matter?  Are we dynamic or anemic ambassadors of Christ?  Is there more, another step?  I will be looking for answers to these questions.  In the mean time–next Saturday morning you can find me at Church, handing out bags for food or stocking the shelves.

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Responses

  1. Minnowspeaks

    Bril blog! I am on the leadership team of an inner city fairly progressive evangelical Anglican church in Liverpool UK. The social problems we encounter are challenging to say the least.

    For about five to six years now we have operated a Food Bank from our church to help people in real need. It has been a really valuable ministry.

    Until recently, it had been stocked by the church community, but administered mainly by one of the church leaders, an Associate Minister who has now moved to be the minister of his own church elsewhere in Liverpool about 6 months ago.

    A week or two ago I wandered into the storage room where most of the items in the Bank are kept. I was stunned by what I saw. It looked like I had walked into the tinned food section of the local Wal-Mart store. The amount of stuff we had collected was very impressive, it just had been stored on the shelf over the last six months but had not been “distributed to anyone as they had need”.

    I intend to try and address the problem over the next few weeks, and have taken encouragement from your blog and am thinking of trying to arrange for a small team to get things moving again!

    By contrast, two and a half years ago, I began a project which has evolved into a ministry amongst over 50s in our community, and is now led by a memebr of our Shared Ministry team.

    We had done lots of work amongst young people but had unconsciously left our older folk feeling somewhat marginalised. A thriving ministry is developing and over the last six-twelve months the group has set up a Credit Union, the funds from which help provide very low interest loans to people in real need. I was staggered to hear from a lady within the group who has taken on the responsibilty of co-ordinating the Credit Union that the group on average banks £1000 (I don’t know what that equiates in dollars) a month into the Credit Union account!

    Hope you keep on enjoying your Saturdays.

    Phil

  2. Thanks for your encouragment!
    The man who heads up our foodbank is amazing. All our food is donated. Trucks go around to the local groceries to pick up produce, dairy, bread, and at times even meat. Boxes are made up in the back with non parishables (and whatever meat we get in) and the cliets can shop the shelves for as much as the rest that fit in their two bag limit. Our administrators do a lot of paperwork I don’t know anything about including why they have to do it. They recently made a DVD to share with others who are trying to start up a similar ministry. I don’t know how informational it is. I think the filming goal was to encourage. I could check to see if a copy could be sent to you if you’re interested.

    Your Credit Union sounds great!


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