Like many good rituals in the Old Testament, our day began with animal sacrifice. Well, that’s not completely true. The sacrifice had already happened. Our day began with the detritus, which is a fifty dollar word for the puke-making stench of rotting residue.
See, we get food items that are too large for distribution. The case in this point was a 40 pound block of frozen chicken legs. They had thawed in the kitchen cooler so we could rebag them. But the bag leaked and the blood ran into the drip pan below, right next to the hot air blower. And it stayed there. For days.
Highest honors to Cat and Kathy for working the morning hours in that wretchedness. Of course, we did what we could, but they could barely breathe. I emptied the pan. We wiped and toweled. Someone went for bleach. Then they couldn’t breathe for a new reason.
And this turned out to be the least consequential problem of our day.
In team meeting, I told our vols that I had prayed all week that 120, the number of folks we served last week, would not be the new normal. My voice cracked when I said I was also hoping that 120 would not be followed by 30s and 40s keeping our average from shifting. We’re throwing a party here! I confessed it hurts my feelings when people don’t come.
About 37 clients stood in the line when we opened the door. The temperature was already well into the 80s and these precious folks were more pleasant and mutually caring than I would have expected. This is the most enjoyable part of my serving day, when I’m face to face with individuals. I love joking with them. To the “Mikes” I say, “Great name!” and to the men who give me a birthdate in the 40s I can get suddenly serious, lean in, and say, “Brother. That was a long time ago.” They always chuckle and nod their heads, sometimes adding, “Yeah, it was.”
The Storehouse looked absolutely amazing when we opened…way better than it smelled. We received our monthly delivery of purchased food from the Arkansas Food Bank the previous Monday. Over three tons came into the house. We shored up our variety since the Feed the Need contribution is basically depleted.
We had so much produce! Grapes for everyone! Tomatoes! And we had fruit, and apple juice in half-cup cartons. And that last one for everyone too. And there was milk for everyone as well.
At least, that’s what we thought.
The highlight of the cold food room was butternut squash. I feared clients might not know what to do with that, so we printed up a simple recipe and made them available. We gave away every one. I over-heard Maria telling a client, who was going to pass on the squash, that we had a recipe. She agreed to take one. Here’s a picture of that moment:
We have every imaginable kind of client come to the Storehouse. And some of them don’t know how to behave when they are in our house. At times, that’s rooted in addiction. Others, it’s just mental illness. I don’t know about our previous directors, but I haven’t fired a client yet. I came close today.
He had just finished shopping in the hygiene room when a brand new female client came in. In the 30 seconds they were both in the room, he peppered her with several questions, including “How old are you” and “Do you have a boyfriend.”
She finished in hygiene before he finished in the dry food room. I held her at the door, explaining that I didn’t want her in the room while he was in there. She said, “That was scary.”
He continued shopping. Two other clients came out of hygiene, waiting patiently in the hall. “We’re dealing with a situation,” filtered in whispers back through the line.
I asked the cold food room to be ready to take the male client right in when he stepped into the hall. Then I asked the female to circle back into the hygiene room. He passed by, then all the clients waiting entered the dry food room.
The male left the Storehouse with groceries. He wanted to carry them to his car, so we got him some larger bags, also donated by Walgreens.
When the female was ready to leave, I walked with her to her car. I didn’t think we’d see the male, but I wasn’t sure and also wanted to explain to her what I wrote above about clients and behavior and our deep desire to serve them all.
What I didn’t say was what the Holy Spirit was pressing on me as I went back into the Storehouse. Jesus loves that guy. And he deserves to get to hang out with a group of people that love Jesus. He deserves to hear prayers for him, and he desperately needs them. And he needs food.
And in the end, we all won. We served these two, and everyone was safe.
But we didn’t just serve these two.
Before eleven, we were deep in the third page. That’s code we use to quickly express our registrations. Three completed pages is 75. Somewhere in the twelve o’clock hour we started page 5. Yup, over 100 people had crossed the threshold. In the end, we registered 119, but had only served 99. At some point, our cold food room was nearly bare except for milk and frozen meat.
Then one of our volunteers asked to shop. An even 100.
In two weeks we’ve served 220 families, representing over 750 people in those households.
I keep asking Jesus what’s going on, but I haven’t heard much back.
And I think it’s because He knows I’m just trying to take control of this thing. I want a forecast so I can plan and strategize and employ what I think is “best.” Deep down, I want to own this thing. But like all the other stuff I want that I don’t have, it would crush me. And Jesus knows.
So what I’m going to do is continue receiving the food and funds you keep giving our clients, show up, and spend my energy serving clients who don’t know how to behave, who need protection from others, and those who, until they arrived, didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
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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