Have you ever heard the story about the deer on the island? It’s an interesting lesson in abundance and scarcity, two economic terms about which I know precious little.
There was this land mass, upon which scads of deer grazed, that eventually suffered an epic weather event causing part of it to be completely surrounded by water; and island. And, as there were no natural predators and plenty of vegetation, they survived and populated the space where they lived.
As the population grew, the deer ate more of the vegetation and eventually there was not enough to support the size of the herd.
Whereupon, the deer population began a period of attrition.
Whereupon, the vegetation began to increase.
Which caused an increase in the deer population, until such time as the vegetation could no longer support it.
And on and on.
At the Storehouse, we’re trying to determine if July is an outlier, which is a statistics term about which I know even precious littler. Or if it’s the new normal. We served 120, and then 100. And last night we served 85, when our previous highest evening serve had been 64. In fact, not long ago, 85 was a great daytime serve when we had four hours instead of three.
And I’m on my face at the foot of the cross, asking Jesus some pretty critical questions, the greatest of which is possibly, what is our tipping point? What will be the thing or things that cause client attrition? Will clients quit coming because…
They had to wait too long?
The variety of food, or its quality, wasn’t what it once was?
The place just seemed too crowded?
There just wasn’t enough food?
And when I get into this position, some interesting things happen. For instance, it’s pretty difficult to be aware of anything around me. Here, you’ll see what I mean. Stop reading this blog and lay down on the floor. Face down. Put your nose right on the floorboards, or the tile, or the carpet. See how hard it is to know anything going on around you except that tiny piece of floor an inch or so away from your face?
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure Jesus wants me in this position occasionally literally, but most often metaphorically, so He can be the totality of my awareness and attention. And right here, right now, I can feel his reassuring hand on my back and hear his voice proclaim, again, that this is His, and He is the All and Everything of the Storehouse.
Nothing is happening here because of me, or our volunteers, but rather because of Him, and through us.
There is a reason so many people have come to the pantry these past three weeks. I mean, we served 305 clients, representing over 1000 people, and 57 were new to the Storehouse. The obvious reason is the food. We’ve got lots of choices and our clients get to make their choices themselves. Even when our variety suffers, our choices don’t.
But the truth is, while we’re serving there is always something else going on. Last night, I realized that if I were to summarize the entire Storehouse with a single word, that word would be JOY.
Do you remember when you were a student? Didn’t you endure some classrooms where the teachers treated you and your classmates as the irritating reason they had to come to work? And weren’t they just a little bitter about that?
But there were other classrooms where the teacher gushed energy and delight because you were there. They were on a journey, and they were grateful you were on the journey with them.
The Storehouse is like one of those classrooms. And our clients know it, feel it, when they enter the building. Not only do they engage in joyful experience with our volunteers, they witness our volunteers enjoying each other. You have notice, of course, that JOY is the root of enjoyment? Yes?
You know, when Jesus was alive, He could draw a crowd. Like, well, thousands. But He wasn’t alone. He had this band of folks who were obviously tight. One day, he preaches to about 4,000 people, but when they sit down for dinner, He communicates with 12. And those 12 distribute a miracle and collect the leftovers afterwards. It was obvious they were special. They knew Him.
And eventually, this gang of folks who knew him could do some remarkable things. He sent them out once with the ability to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. On a different occasion, He sent them out and when they returned, they said to Him with astonishment, “even the demons submit to us in your name."
And the folks who came around Jesus must have realized that these folks who knew Him were different. There was something about them. Their lives were being changed. They were under the influence of grace.
And this is what is so remarkable about our Storehouse. Our volunteers know Him. Their lives are being changed, and they are under the influence of grace. They love and laugh with our clients. They weep with them and hold them as they weep with broken hearts. And they serve, and serve.
They tire, just like the original disciples did, although I’ve not yet had to say to anyone, “Couldn’t you stay awake for just one hour?!”
But they keep serving.
This month, we served three days. Our pantry was open for a total of 11 hours. But the volume of clients was so great, they served at least another four hours over that. Just last night we closed the door at 7:30. I walked our last volunteer to her car at 8:45.
Our clients come from all different backgrounds and walks, but who they are in their lives outside the pantry means relatively nothing to our volunteers. That’s because who they are once they enter the Storehouse is everything. They are guests at our party of grace, and our volunteers hold them in grace the entire time they’re with us.
And here, with my nose at the foot of the cross, Jesus assures me that if this is the reason they keep coming, then they’ll keep coming.
And He’ll take care of the rest.
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".
Join our blog mailing list