I’ve come to grips with the fact that I live in the physical world and make changes in it with my body. These changes take some effort; I collect food, manage volunteers, oversee a small grocery store, and serve clients once a week. I have a huge influence over a minuscule part of the physical world in which we live.
And I’ll just admit, no lie, when I began this work, I tried to do it in my flesh. I fretted about much of it and was really controlling. And because I couldn’t control everything, like the amount of food we had to give away, I wrestled with resentments. That’s not true. I gave in to resentments. And at times, wallowed.
But, that was over a year ago. I sometimes wonder if Jesus put me in this role first, to show me the ridiculous fear and pity I hold next to my heart, and then, to grow me out of that. And, I’ve grown…a little. Now, as often as I can, I do this work in the Spirit. I believe God is in control of this whole thing. Energy and wisdom are from him. He sees it all, mistakes and everything, and he’s using its entirety for his glory, his story, his purposes.
However, a year’s worth of growth was put to the test last Thursday night.
The Storehouse has been blessed with an amazing crew of volunteers, a few of whom have been with us since the first day we served. And we keep adding to the group all the time. They love without limit and often serve after the dial on their energy meter is pointing to the bottom part of the E.
Some of our regular volunteers don’t serve with us in the evenings. Their schedules just won’t allow it. I knew going in last night that we’d be low so I made some contacts with a few volunteers who can't serve regularly and others who are just evening volunteers. We’d have a completely new admin crew; that’s the door, the hostess and check-in volunteers who operate computers. And, we’d only be able to serve 2 clients at a time in the cold-food room, which would dictate the pace of the entire process, but we’d make it.
Candy had agreed to come for just a while and train our new computer users. They are very sharp; they’d pick it up in no time.
Then, two volunteers texted to say work responsibilities would keep them from serving. Another would be with us, but late.
Jesus, have you still got this?
In team meeting, we strategized about item limits and roles and how we’d handle the evening with the folks we had.
I began registering clients a little late. We must have had 40 at the door when we opened.
Another ten quickly showed up.
Candy came and explained she would actually have to work the computer with clients before she’d remember enough to train another.
We had registered 62 clients in our first 32 minutes.
The DHS employee didn’t come which made our “Hey, we’re accepting SNAP applications,” sign a little misleading.
A client read the sign about applying for a job at Goodwill. My laptop was still in the truck.
A volunteer from the cold food room came to tell me they only had three people volunteering there so serving was awkward and disjointed. They could shop two people and check out one, or check out two and shop one. It was Dysfunction Junction.
And the restroom was out of toilet paper.
Just hold on a minute. If I were reading this blog, I would think I’d made that last one up. You know, thrown it in for dramatic effect. But it’s true.
And all while I was logging these difficulties, our volunteers were serving clients. The registration volunteers had figured out those computers. Candy, who had planned to go home, agreed to stay as long as we needed her. The cold food room volunteer finished her work-shift and joined us. Anita, who had said she couldn’t make it due to a conflict showed and served.
Then Bri and Jordan arrived.
On October 31, an evening serve day, our volunteers will be the ladies from the Central Baptist College softball team. One of theirs, Bri, interned with us last year. She and her coach, Jordan, came by to see what an evening serve looks like. Bri had to leave, but Jordan stayed until we closed, allowing us to serve three clients together in the cold food room.
Bri actually got my laptop out of the truck before she left. I set it up and a client applied for a job.
And I put a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.
And to my earlier question, Jesus answered, “Yes.” Now, in my imagination, it’s yes, of course. Or yes, what were you thinking. And on the bad days, I attribute to him, “Yes, of course, what were you thinking, you doofus.” But he’s never like that. He’s a gentle shepherd.
We went on to serve 77, for a four week total of 373. We’ve never served so many in a four-week month. This number nearly reaches our five-week totals. We thought our numbers might go down when school started. The Lord had other plans. We served 75 new clients this month, over twenty percent. Another record.
I can’t remember how many times I said, “I’m glad you’re here,” to clients. At some point, I wondered if that was inappropriate. It can almost sound like I’m saying I’m happy their need is so great it has driven them to us. That’s not true, of course.
I think I say it because I sometimes wonder if clients are glad they are in the Storehouse. The fact they “need” is obvious, if they’re in the house; but how do they feel about that?
I’ve been at the desk when clients, whose lives had previously been as stable as mine, who never once in a lifetime would have thought they’d experience the need for help with their groceries, break down in tears while they explained the circumstances of their current situation.
An illness, a broken relationship, a vehicle accident, a dishonest friend, a work accident. All of them, different verses of the same song. They express shame and guilt. And sometimes they hate. They hate their circumstances. They hate themselves for being in them.
So, I want them to know that I’m glad they came to us. I’m glad we can help, we can give, we can pray, and share the love of Jesus.
When a person has lost all influence over the circumstances of their physical world, I’m glad there’s a Storehouse, with volunteers who love Jesus.
And I want them to know.
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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