We had our final EVENING serve in 2019 on Thursday. But that was not the only unique thing about that night. It was the fifth week to serve in the month. We had already provided food and hygiene for 400 families, 90 of those new to the pantry. It was also Halloween night, much colder than usual, and darker, since we’re a month closer to the Solstice.
But the most unique thing about that evening was that only four of our regular volunteers showed up. I had asked the rest to stay home not only because it was Halloween and they might have other obligations, but also because the girls’ softball team from Central Baptist College came and volunteered.
Here’s how that came about. A CBC student named Bri interned with us a couple semesters ago. She plays softball for CBC and wanted to get her team involved in what we do at the Ministry Center. A year later, she introduced me to her coach through email. A month ago, the two of them came to see what an evening serve looks like. Bri had to leave, but her coach was able to stay and we were so grateful. She stayed and volunteered that night bagging groceries, praying with clients, and loving on people. When it was over, she was hooked.
Last night, the entire team came. Three were in Dalmatian puppy costumes. They arrived earlier than normal, met the four regular volunteers and learned how we operate in the Storehouse. And the Holy Spirit came with them. They were smart and eager to learn. They all wanted to be as helpful as possible.
After tutorials, we got into our team meeting and I had my first wave of fear. We’ve had young volunteers, but we’d never had a volunteer crew of entirely young girls. They were all cute and charming. Some of our clients don’t know boundaries as well as others. How would I protect all these young women while they served our clients? It was clear I wouldn’t. I don’t protect our adult volunteers. Someone else has that job, and like I said, He came in with them.
I take that back. My first wave of fear showed up on Monday. What if no one comes? Was there a person left in Faulkner County that knows we have a pantry and hasn’t already been served? Would anyone come out on Halloween night in the cold and dark?
My fears were somewhat relieved when I was approached by one of our regular clients a few hours before we opened. He’s old and thin with a frail, squeaky voice. He asked if we were going to open at 4:30. When I said we were, he mentioned that he’d have to wait a few minutes. It was only 1:30, so I told him it would be a few hours. But he planned to come.
"Okay, we’ll have one client," I thought.
In team meeting, I wasn’t sure if we’d have more than one. I explained the entire reason we have a pantry at the Ministry Center is to get to love on and offer dignity to a marginalized population. I couldn’t tell by the looks on their faces if they understood what I was saying. We talked about grocery limits and being firm with clients even if their chins quivered. We talked about safety especially with the prayers because some clients like to touch and even hug a volunteer during or after prayers.
Then we stood, held hands, and I asked if someone would pray. One of the puppies prayed. She was also a volunteer who chose to pray with clients.
I went back to the cold food room several times to take pictures of our guests serving our clients. I was so amazed at their maturity and tenderness with our people. Especially the prayers. “Can I pray with you before you go? Is there something specific you’d like me to pray about?” I could tell they’d been trained by our volunteer Maria. As I listened to them pray, I heard them speaking the language of knowing Jesus.
It was obvious, in every volunteer/client interaction that these young women had understood exactly what I was talking about in team meeting. Each one offered love and dignity to our clients that night, just like we do every Thursday.
As it turned out, we had 39 clients. One of the last ones brought five or six children with her. They had the best time playing with our young volunteers.
After our last client was served, the volunteers pitched in to help count remaining items. They also boxed up the unchosen items, which was a huge amount, and weighed them out.
Finally it was time for the group picture. The definition of irony ? Our intern,Bri, wasn’t in the group; she’d had to work that night. As I snapped the last picture of the night, I felt the weight of what had happened in the Storehouse in the last three hours. Several of these girls live in different states. In four years, it’s possible that none of them will live in Conway. But they will take with them a vision and impression of our clients. They will have in their hearts exactly what it means to give food and dignity and grace to another person in the name of Jesus. That’s going wherever they are going.
Jordon, the coach of the team, said she’d like to do this every year in October. It’s also possible that we can set up a table at one of their home games and introduce ourselves to new friends at City of Colleges Park this spring.
All this because an intern fell in love with the Ministry Center last year.
Who knew? Well…I think we know.
I am the Storehouse Director and get the privilege of writing about the people that Jesus loves.
Contact Mike Rush at email@example.com for all things "Volunteer".
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