Thursday, February 12, 2009

Soul Food

I borrowed today's title from my family devotional book proposal I just finished this morning. It's on my brain, but it fits today's post well, I think.

Yesterday was food pantry day at church. After serving a steadily increasing number of families last fall (in the 60's), we actually dipped during the holidays only to shoot up to 70+ in January. 84 families received groceries this week. We expect that our numbers will continue to climb.

But what's more amazing to me than the statistics are the transformations that take place at food pantry. No doubt about it...the gym is filled with tired faces, anxious faces, faces tight with pain or worry. But our volunteer interviewers greet each client by name with a smile and a touch of the hand, and that seems to make a difference. Yesterday Yolanda's prayers for her recipients made several cry, not out of frustration but because of the love that was being shown for them. Not just our New Life Church love, but God's love. That moves me to tears.

And I watched as volunteer Cindy pulled guest Patricia out of line to help her translate because our Spanish-speaking clientele is growing faster than we can find bilingual volunteers. Patricia, whose eyes crinkle up when she smiles (and she always shares her smiles) and who has been a regular recipient since we opened, took a seat next to Cindy, sat her toddler on her lap, and became part of a team. As I continued to seat guests at their table, I watched her grow in confidence. She's been a recipient. She knows how it feels to be on the other side of the interview, and she knows our process. She seemed genuinely pleased (not bothered) that Cindy had asked her to help and stayed long past the time she would have normally left with the promise to help next time, too.

And I experienced God's goodness when I approached Katrina, a newer pantry recipient whose English I knew was excellent. I had just seen a woman come through the registration line wrapped only in a blanket (on a miserable, cold, rainy day). Her face looked like the rain had drenched her spirit, too. I knew we had coats set aside, and I desperately wanted to get that woman a coat before the supply ran out. However, my Spanish is marginal at best, so I pulled Katrina aside and asked her to translate my request.

She quickly agreed, responding, "Do you know who I talk to about volunteering here? You guys seem like you need help, and I'd like to help." I put her to work right away, getting my blanket guest a coat, as well as a little grandma who'd just arrived from Mexico with no Chicago-winter gear at all. Katrina will also be joining our ministry team. Who knew? God knew...
"Ask and it will be given to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you...How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7, 11b)

To me, this is all soul food...God's Word feeds his faithful. His faithful live out those words and are equipped and encouraged to serve up a little soul food to the world. It's a good thing, a God thing.

And the blanket lady's face, when she took her spot at the interview table wearing her new coat and carrying a new purse filled with goodies (thanks to the Women's Ministry outreach), was absolutely radiant, an ear to ear grin that said, "I know I am loved." Who knew? God knew!