And I was suddenly so grateful for my role in the Storehouse!
Of course, she and Jesus are talking about the blessing of healing power. And the children and dogs are Jews and Gentiles. And the crumbs? I’m not positive about this. Isn’t a crumb on the floor something of quality that was served to the diners, but is no longer needed?
This morning, I didn’t think it was much of a stretch to see these two groups of people, in this day and age, as those who, for some reason, enjoy an abundance of blessings and those who don’t. And the crumbs are the part of that abundance that is no longer needed by the blessed.
Could it be that one of our responsibilities as Christ followers is crumb management?
Our crumbs in the Storehouse include extra energy, overflowing joy, spare patience, and an abundance of prayers. And, of course, food. An average of 38 pounds per client. I’m especially grateful to all of you, who give to our clients without counting the cost.
And there are so many in our community who don’t enjoy an abundance of blessings. And in the Storehouse, there is no restriction whatsoever on any of them. Their skin color, country of origin, native language, level of education, none of it matters. They might have active warrants. Doesn’t matter.
Our clients want you to know they said thank you. The say thank you all the time. We hear it. But they are thanking you.
In this morning’s team meeting, I shared with our volunteers the lavish evidence of the grace of Jesus over the Storehouse. Let’s start with the box truck. We haven’t had one since July. We received a grant from the Arkansas Food Bank in October and while we were excited about the grant we knew it wouldn't be enough for a good truck. We've been holding on to the grant waiting on Jesus to multiply the loaves and fishes. During Feed the Need, Matt Grissom let us borrow his box truck. Last week we had a crazy idea and asked him if he wanted to sell it. God works in wonderful ways. Within a 24 hour period, Matt said yes, gave us a great price and a special donor more than matched the Food Bank Grant.
And guess how I know it’s in great shape. I took it to our friend, Steve Hardin, at Hardin Automotive. I just asked that he look at belts and fluids and brakes and such. When I went to pick it up, he said it was in great condition. Then he handed me the keys and asked for nothing in return.
Last week, our sister organization from which we get sliced bread and produce called to say that their receipt of those items had been really low. They had none to share with us this week. My heart sank. Then I got the call that Kroger had a pick up on Sunday. No bread, but produce. And dairy. And meat.
Our commercial freezer needed a new fan and Chandler Tipton replaced it last Wednesday. The next day at the end of serve, the temp was in the 50s. We moved the meat to a working freezer and called Chandler. He came out this week and cleaned the coils. He didn’t ask for payment. He said he should have done it last week when he put in the fan.
We have to include ingredients in any item we bag. So, when we break up a box of 18 pop tarts, we put a printed copy of ingredients in the bag. So, we need a printer. Just last week, the Food Bank notified us that certain Dollar General stores were giving away printers to member agencies of the Food Bank. There were two participating stores in Conway. I figured I’d discover that the word might not have trickled down to the local manager. I got all my documentation in order, to prove my claim, before I stepped into the Dollar General on Hogan. I asked the manager if he’d been aware of the offer. “Yeah, the printer is over there. Just take it.”
Last week, when temps were so high in the cold room, a volunteer suggested that a window A/C unit was probably the only solution for heating problem in the room. We had donated dollars to apply to supplies. A friend, who has helped us out on many projects did the electrical connections. It took one day. Our volunteer says the window unit will probably be in place for serve next week.
And speaking of next week, we’ll serve for the first time in the evening. We’ll open the door at 4:30 and close at 7:30. I’m so excited about this event I can hardly wait. I first mentioned this idea to our staff in December.
Well, we can’t do it unless Feed the Need is a huge success.
We received 5,000 more pounds of food than last year.
Well, we can’t do it without necessary volunteers.
Several new volunteers contacted me with a willingness to serve.
So, it’s going to happen.
Because we swim in the grace of Jesus.
And then I had an idea. I asked in staff meeting if we could film our clients saying thanks. That’s what’s happening in the picture. Laura is filming a client offering her gratitude for what she’s received in the Storehouse today.
And gosh, a lot of people received in the Storehouse today. We registered 98 and served 95. We estimate 1581 pounds of food left our dry room today. And this number helps answer one of the most asked questions after Feed the Need. “How long will the food last?”
Quick division yields 15. That’s fifteen serving days. About one third of our year. And there’s more than one way to look at that. I choose to see it as fifteen serving days ahead of us with food I previously had no idea how we would distribute.
Each Thursday, after the last clients have been served and prayed for, after the left behind food that won’t last for another week has been weighed out and taken, after the forms have been collected, the lights turned out, and the doors locked, I enter data for the day into a spreadsheet.
We track a lot of numbers, for ourselves, and some numbers for the Arkansas Food Bank. Two numbers important to us both, are new clients and how many new individuals those new clients represent.
New clients fill out an application where they list, among other details, the people currently in their household, and I look through the new application forms to gather necessary data. Today, my eyes fell on a heartbreaking form. The people in our client’s household are one granddaughter, and five great-grandchildren.
Did you know, nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to census figures. Their ranks are increasing. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009.
In 2016, in Arkansas, 61,230 (8.7%) children were living with grandparents. And the grandparents are an interesting study. Almost a fourth live in poverty. And over thirty percent have a disability. If you’re interested in learning more about grandparents raising grandchildren in Arkansas, check out:
And the truth is, I really don’t know anything about our client, apart from her having six hungry bellies in her house, and that she’s 73 years old. The Bible doesn’t say much about grandparents and grandchildren, but it does speak about widows and orphans. And this house just seems like it’s mighty close to qualifying.
And today, with your generous help, we cared for widows and orphans. We heard their hearts and prayed over their broken places. We held their hurt in our smiles and handshakes. In a word, we loved them.
On my way home, I spotted one of our clients as I walked to the truck. He’s in his 20s, homeless, and shopped with us today. And he was smoking. And the first thought from the black place in my heart was that we’d done the proverbial back flip to serve him so he’d be able to save his money for smokes.
Of course, the truth is, I don’t know a thing about the circumstances around his smoking this afternoon. Maybe he bummed a smoke. Maybe he picked up a butt from the ground. Maybe he stole some.
But suddenly I’m off on a judgment tangent trying to wade through who is and who isn’t being frivolous with their resources. Who is and isn’t deserving of our goodness. A seventy-three year old grandmother with six more mouths at her table is a slam dunk. A twenty something fella who looks like he could work is not.
Then Jesus reminds me of my part. I’m to operate a food pantry and love the people who show up there. All of them. And I have the desire to do that, but if Philippians 2:13 is to be believed, I can’t take credit for the strength or courage to do my part. Or even for the desire to do it.
I left today hoping that our grandmother and our young man would come back next month, if they need us. And that they’d know they are loved by us, because we are all loved by Jesus.
And I asked Jesus to take care of them both.
When our Storehouse began, we didn’t have fridge space, and we didn’t do any local food pickups. We counted everything through the dry room, as we do now, but just guessed in the cold room. Everyone got an item from the fridge, another from the freezer, and large families took 2 of each.
Now we pick up bread and sweets from Panera, prepared food from Hendrix, pizza from the Pizza Ranch and Larry’s Pizza, pastries from Ed’s Bakery, Julies Sweet Shoppe, and Patti Cakes, dairy and produce from Kroger, sandwiches from Kum & Go, sliced bread and produce from Soul Food Café Mission, and rice from Ralston Family Farms.
Part of the reason I mention all those places is so you might patronize them sometime and maybe even thank them for donating to us. And by the way, the Sunday Brunch at Hendrix is incalculably good!
Since we weigh all these items in, and weigh what of them is left over before we take those items to a sister agency, we can know just how much of our picked up food we’re giving away each week. And the average for the first three months this year?
Drum roll, please….
We’ve given away an average of 1100 pounds of picked up food each week. On top of the 1600 or so pounds that leaves our dry room.
Are you as amazed by what Jesus is doing here as I am?
And speaking of what Jesus is doing, Feed the Need is Sunday. Have I mentioned that?
A literal army of store employees, volunteers, and shoppers are going to make this city-wide food donation event happen. And this year, I can add the phrase, rain or shine. Of course, we pray for sunshine, but we pray more earnestly for God’s will and work and purpose to be achieved in all of us.
Bobby, a relentless Second Baptist Church member and Storehouse volunteer, was once again today in the crawl space underneath the warehouse shoring up floor joists. We’ve prayed about that too, that God would hold our warehouse together as we prepare to put a record amount of food in it since that space became our warehouse.
This year’s Feed the Need has seen growth from five stores to eight. Which means eight support churches, eight trucks, drivers, more boxes, pallets, tape, signs… preparation has been like birthing a buffalo. Not that I would know anything about birthing. Or buffaloes, for that matter. It’s been like sucking peanut butter through a straw. Yeah, that’s more in my wheelhouse.
And I can speak for Laura here too, when I say that the grace of Jesus has shown up in people over and over. He has sent people with trucks, and boxes, and fork lifts. He’s sent people to ask, what can I do? He’s sent churches full of people who will shop and host store sites with volunteers, and help us unload our trucks. He’s sent store managers who said they’d be glad to participate.
And then there’s the small army of folks who have been lifting us up in prayer for I don’t even know how long.
Sunday will be the climax of a grace party that began months ago. I hope you get to participate in some way, whether it’s a prayer or a can of ravioli.
Today, we served 65 precious People that Jesus Loves. That’s the lowest first Thursday of the month total this year. Someone said it was probably the rain.
And speaking of Thursday serving, this month we serve for the first time ever on a Thursday evening. The last Thursday, April 25, we’ll open our door for the first time that day at 4:30. And we’re still looking for volunteers. If you think you could join us, please email me, email@example.com. There’s a process for volunteering, but it can be quick and easy. Please, let me know.
I don’t have a great story to tell from today’s serving. I worked almost entirely in Feed the Need prep. Our warehouse is gorgeously empty; exactly what we’d planned. I handled a lot of pallets and boxes, and I’m exhausted.
Last thing before I left the center, I sat down in Laura’s office and we shared with each other our Feed the Need movements for the next three days. Now I suddenly wish I’d prayed with her. I want and need to start doing that more. Just getting to the throne with another person.
And now, at 5:30, I’m at home on my couch, precisely where my day began, twelve hours ago. I sat here with a cup of coffee, worked through scheduled verses in my verse remembery program. I can’t memorize them; just remember them. Then it was today’s reading in my YouVersion Bible reading app.
And then I asked Jesus to just take this day, and get his glory and worship in spite of me. In spite of all my fears, and worries, and doubts. That he would be revealed and worshiped in the Storehouse.
That he would be the reason.
And he was.
And before you get all grossed out, I’ll be quick to add I’m quoting the Bible. Sort of. Jesus knew a thing about digestion. And he really should have. When the apostle John introduced Jesus to the world, he said, about him, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”
But it is in Matthew’s gospel that we read Jesus saying, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?”
And I don’t think we need to elaborate, or as my friend likes to say, “philosophize” on the word “expelled.”
So then, each week, with our wide smiles and warm hands, are we merely holding the hair of the nauseated?
But Jesus knew a thing about hunger too. Twice in his three-year earthly ministry he used his divine energy, to turn scarcity into abundance when he fed several thousand people with a few fish and a little bread. And he stood up to Pharisee lawyers when they tried to convict Jesus’ hungry disciples of working on a Sunday as they picked the grains from stalks of wheat.
And he was well acquainted with thirst. Having been left alone at the well while his disciples went to Kroger, Jesus encounters a woman whose job it is to slake thirst. Of course, they end up speaking about different kinds of thirst, but his message about spiritual thirst was predicated on his understanding of physical thirst. He knew she’d get it.
But in Kingdom value, there’s way more import to slinging food and drink than the inevitable expulsion would seem to indicate, and here’s how we know. I’d like to borrow this next part from my pastor, Shane, who spoke on this spot in the Bible a few weeks ago.
Jesus was explaining the way things are going to happen at the end and he said that folks will be split into two groups, and to make it easy for his audience he called them sheep and goats. And he didn’t mean GOAT, like we use now to refer to a person who is the Greatest Of All Time, like that could ever be anyone but Jesus. He meant the kind with horns that like to ram their heads into stuff.
So he’s differentiating these two groups and talks about all the kind things the sheep have done for him like providing food and drink when he was hungry and thirsty. And right here, my pastor mimicked a person in the crowd, who upon hearing this might have turned to the person next to him and said, “Hey, I just got here. When did I ever give this guy food or water? I’ve never even seen him before.”
And Jesus, knowing this person wasn’t alone in his thinking, answers the unasked question for everyone. “When you gave food or water, among other needed things, to the most marginalized and disadvantaged in our community, you didn’t just give it to them.
“You gave it to me.”
So, yeah, this is a lot more valuable than holding a puker’s hair, precious as that might be. And it doesn’t matter that all of what we give away each week will be in the water treatment plant by the time we serve the next week. When we give, we’re giving to Jesus.
And so are you.
Everything you give us, is given to our clients.
So your story, too, is that you feed hungry people.
We had a ridiculous day at the Storehouse today. A person from AETN doing a documentary on food insecurity, who has been following our pantry for a year, met me at Panera and filmed as I picked up food there, and at Hendrix, and Larry’s Pizza.
Then he came in and filmed our volunteers prepping for the day. He stayed with us through the team meeting and prayers. When the door opened, a couple of clients agreed to be filmed while they took their turn at the computer. And finally, a client with a little girl agreed to be filmed through the pantry from beginning to end.
What an incredible and awesome opportunity to tell the story of our clients and their needs. We are helping him tell the story he wants to tell. He is helping us tell ours.
We served 85 people on this last serve day of March. That’s the highest serve total on a last Thursday of the month since I became the director, apart from the Thursday before Christmas (89).
I spent most of my time in the warehouse. Feed the Need is coming. Have I mentioned that? We’re going to need as many open pallet bays in the warehouse as possible on the day. So we’re moving, shuffling, handling and rehandling items as quantities dwindle.
And speaking of, we’ve got one more serving day before that big day. I’ve prayed and hoped and wondered if we’d have enough food specifically for next week. And you know what? We’re going to make it. Primarily because of the grace of Jesus. And too, because of folks like you who just keep bringing necessary food times.
Thanks is not enough, but it’s all we’ve got.
I am the Storehouse Director and get the privilege of writing about the people that Jesus loves.
Contact Mike Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org for all things "Volunteer".
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