“What’s your ministry?” Someone asked me this question a few years ago. The question came as just part of casual conversation at a Bible study group in my neighborhood. “My ministry? Ummm...do I have one?” I thought. This really got me thinking about the expectation that as a part of the body of Christ, I should of course be learning in Bible study, but that I should also be serving in a ministry.
Not long after that, our church began partnering with the Chesterfield Food bank to oversee a food distribution at one of the local schools. My family and I decided to join in with our small group to volunteer one Saturday. I had no idea what to expect. Was I going to be serving hot lunches? I pictured myself with a hairnet and gloves behind a serving line, cafeteria style. What kind of people will I see? Will I know anyone? Just how much out of my comfort zone am I going to be?
My husband and I, and our three kids, arrived at the school around 8am. Other families from our church came as well. I was surprised to see that one family even brought their three year old and five year old to help serve. Outside of the school building, a long line of families who needed food was beginning to form, although the doors didn’t open for clients until 9am. I learned that some of them had arrived around 7am, well before me. “Can there be that many hungry people in Chesterfield?” I thought to myself.
Shortly after, a big box truck from the food bank pulled up. A fork lift began unloading pallets of food into the hallway and along one outside corridor of the school. There were pallets of bagged salad, loads and loads of all varieties and forms of bread, berries, apples, potatoes, some boxed food and pastries. I learned that there was also meat that was distributed from the truck. One man began working on estimating how many of each type of food we had and then dividing it by the average number of families we would serve that day to see what one portion would be. Once he completed these calculations, all the volunteers were instructed to begin counting and bagging certain foods.
“Put 15 apples in each bag,” he said. Ok, easy enough. I can do this. My family and I began counting and bagging apples. I enjoyed talking with the other volunteers as we worked. I noticed the 3 and 5 year old youngsters helping organize the endless amounts of bread on a wire shelf. I made special note that even 3 year olds can “have a ministry”.
Later, all the volunteers were called to circle up. We were given a few directions about how the rest of the morning would go. We prayed together, asking that God would bless our time and the people we came to serve. There was laughter. I could sense a feeling of camaraderie among the volunteers. These people had a bond; a single purpose. They had experienced things together, yet I didn’t feel out of place; instead I felt included. Looking back at the line of people now flowing into the gym and registering at the computers, I knew that I was now a part a something bigger than myself. Even if it was to just help out one family that was hungry, I would have been blessed—and here were 110 families!
As clients visited a nice refreshment table and their kids visited a little craft and coloring table, everyone began settling into rows of seats in the gym. A speaker came in front of the crowd. He engaged the audience in some light hearted banter and then gave a short talk, which included the gospel message and a prayer at the end. “Hmmmm...so we’re feeding people here, but we’re also FEEDING people here,” I thought.
After the message, we began filling carts with the instructed portions of food. I gave out apples with my children. My husband did the brawny business of working on the meat truck. Some volunteers walked with clients to their cars and helped unload food. When the last family had been served we all helped clean up. There were hugs and beginnings of some new friendships.
That day held many lessons and answers to questions. First, there were no hairnets! There was a lot of fun and a sense of belonging! As to the kind of people I would see, well, I saw people who love Jesus. I saw people who don’t know Jesus. I saw people created in God’s image, but don’t know it yet. I saw people of many races and different religions. I saw all ages. I saw kids that play and mamas and daddies that try to take care of their children. I saw people who need love and people who were in need. I saw some sad people and some joyful people.
It has been a few years now since that first day, and the food bank has become a regular part of my life. In fact, I feel called to it as a ministry, and when I am there I do not want to be anywhere else! There have been relationships formed with both clients and volunteers and I have learned many other “food bank responsibilities” along the way. I have seen people find their niche in ministry and use their special gifts and talents for Jesus.
God has called us each to be ministers. He equips us to bear much fruit. Is He calling you to the ministry of the Food Bank? Join us on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 8-11am at Reams Road Elementary, 10141 Reams Road. All ages welcome. No experience or hairnets necessary! If you still have questions, give me a call. Cynthia Hart, 804-247-8744