Okay, I have a confession to make. It’s nothing juicy or salacious. However, it is important.
But first, I want to tell you about bags.
We employ the used shopping bags from Kroger, Walmart, and any other store in which donors of bags have shopped. We received a gajillion (correct spelling, look it up), on Feed the Need day, but bags are also donated throughout the year, primarily by Storehouse volunteers.
We use these bags mostly in our hygiene room, to hold clients’ choices there, and also in the cold food room (we’re trying this new name for the hottest room in the Storehouse, what do you think?) to bag cold items destined to condensate. We probably average 3.7 used bags per client per serve day. (And another ten new ones per client, donated by Walgreens.)
We receive these bags from donors in a state you can probably imagine. Seventy-nine bags wadded up, crammed into a single bag, the handles having been pretzelized (come on, we make verbs out of nouns all the time, like hammering and our favorite, google it) to close the top.
So, the bags have to be snapped. To snap bags, one grabs the handles, uses the arm as a bullwhip, which causes the bag to take on a little air and return to a shape similar to its original. Once several snapped bags hang from a snapper’s hand, the air is squeezed from them all and they are nestled among others in a paper grocery sack, which maintains its shape regardless of how many bags it holds, handles out, for easy single selection.
The weekend after I became the Storehouse director, I snapped over 1200 bags. And now I just snap them as they come in, although I haven’t worked through all the FTN bags. I’d like to say I spend all that time praying over the donor who put items for our clients in those bags, or for the clients who will take home items in those bags, and that does happen, but mostly I just watch television with my wife. With the volume unusually high, of course, cause I’m snapping bags.
It was one of those weeks; one of those nights; one of those serves.
For only the second time, the Storehouse served in the evening last night. We’d prepared for 90, as we always do, but registered 59 and served 51.
I’ve already sent that data to the Arkansas Food Bank. When they learned we were serving some evenings, they were desperate for data. What they want to know is if we encounter someone in the evening, who has come for the first time, who works, and who cannot receive food from a pantry from 8 am to 5 pm.
In case you’re wondering too, three clients answered the first two yes, I’m new and I work. Of those, two said they couldn’t attend a daytime pantry. And we didn’t serve last night just because of them, but it sure felt great to serve them.
All week we’d been hearing of the river cresting, of potential flooding, you know, somewhere else. Then volunteers began contacting me. They couldn’t make it due to rising waters. Three volunteers who did come last night left early. The main road to their neighborhood had already been closed and they needed to leave before the alternate route they’d used to get to us was closed before they could get home.
I’m sticky. I’ll explain why in a minute.
I stepped out with the clipboard, to begin registering our clients for the day, at 9:15; exactly as we’d planned.
Before that, we’d been in team meeting, 9:00 to 9:15, also exactly as we’d planned.
As that meeting ended, I shared how disconnected I felt to today’s serve. I’d been in professional development the last two days. Ten hours of my working week had been spent there, and I just didn’t feel ready for the day.
Deborah, a long-time volunteer, with a big heart and a deep faith encouraged me. “That just means you have to have confidence in Jesus for this.”
I said her reward for speaking up was that she had to lead us in prayer for the day. She gladly agreed. We stood and took each other’s hands. As I bowed my head, I heard someone in the circle say, “I love it when she prays.”
And before all that, I was in my office, trying to get something printed. Technology is probably the most fragile thing in our entire operation, but when it won’t do what it has promised it will do, I go a little nutty. I eventually abandoned the print task.
And by 9:15 I was greeting clients in the line.
This is one of my favorite things at the Storehouse. My spirit comes alive when I get to greet and welcome guests. And this was our new plan. We would not release the registration clipboard to our clients. We’d cut our team meeting short. And someone from our team would begin registration outside.
Here's one of the first things ministry will teach a person: If you give your life to Jesus, He'll take it.
And it's not like a job where He conducts and interview and tells you what He'd like you to do and where you get to indicate your preferences and the things you absolutely won't do like a prospective maid might say I don't dust or do laundry.
If you give Him your life, He'll take it.
And because He knows perfectly and completely what are the purposes and practices of His Kingdom and exactly how we all fit into that, and especially what we can do to maximize His glory, He doesn't ask us what we'd like to do.
It just happens.
Today, I was going to step out into the waiting crowd this morning when the sign-up clipboard went out. I figured if I was out there while folks were signing up, we'd deal with less jostling; less I was here first.
He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Of course, that’s the end of the story in John’s gospel. It began with blindness, and a question about the antecedent sin that caused the blindness. Was it his? Was it his parents’? Then this person, who he can’t see, puts mud made of dirt and spit on his eyes. “Go wash,” the stranger says, “and show yourself to the priest.”
This guy could not see Jesus. He might have recognized his voice, but he’d never seen him. Later, after all the religious name calling and back biting, you know, after he’s been kicked out of church, Jesus finds him. And Jesus reveals who he really is. And the guy believed him. And the guy worshipped.
Today’s serve was not for the faint of heart.
There is something in most human hearts that decides rain is bad and sunshine is good. There’s probably studies that show most people smiling when it’s sunny and frowning when it’s rainy. But here’s what probably no study shows:
When the weather is cold and rainy, people think primarily of the negative impacts that is having on others. Even in my position, it’s rare when my first though is how the weather is impacting homeless people. Or folks whose only transportation is a bike. The ones whose housing is a rickety shed or a condemned trailer. Or those with shoes barely held together, riddled with holes.
My first thought is usually about how the weather is negatively impacting me.
There are two things we’ve never done at the Storehouse: We’ve never delivered food to clients, and we’ve never offered transportation to or from our Storehouse.
Cindy and I have just stepped out of the theater where we watched a showing of the new movie Shazam. It’s the story of a foster kid who gets super powers and activates them by saying the title of the movie. Which, incidentally, was what Jim Neighbors would say when his character on The Andy Griffith Show fifty years ago, Gomer Pyle, was confused. Let me tell you, a lot has changed.
And I wish I could say that I’m writing this with a super-power aura over me, but, well, a lot haschanged. I’m old, and my body responds to stress and effort with fatigue. And so does my mind. And there’s been an extra bit of both this week in the Storehouse.
Way back in December, I asked our staff if we could prepare for the Storehouse to include an evening serve. We decided to wait until after Feed the Need to see what our food resources would look like. Have I mentioned that we received 5,000 more pounds this year than last? And have I said thank you?
And last night it happened.
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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