Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Loaves and the Fishes (or in our case-meatballs)...

Now for a story of incredible blessing...

We decided at the eleventh hour that the weather was going to be cruddy and it would be a good idea to keep everyone warm and safe and indoors. So we put together a hearty lunch: meatball sandwiches, rolls from Serpe's (we ordered four dozen from Malin's Deli),Uncrustables, cookies, bananas, apples, bottled water (we had many cases donated to us, kindly by Fox Rehab).

It was not a surprise that at the end of the day there was food leftover. There is ALWAYS food left over. (As an aside, I'd like to mention that we Americans have lost sight of how amazing that is, in fact, we often act as if it is a major inconvenience- so I'm going to say it again- for emphasis: THERE IS ALWAYS FOOD LEFT!) Okay, now back to the story...

So, as we were packing up this un-suprising, totally expected load of inconvenient food when our math skills kicked in. We were tired (really weary) and so we kind of looked at each other dumbfounded and had to talk through the process...

"Wait," said I, "you said you ordered four dozen rolls. We ate a lot of rolls, and the box clearly has lots of rolls missing, but there's gotta be more than four dozen rolls still here!"

"No, look-the paper taped right to the top says '4 dozen rolls' See?" Valerie replied.

"Lets count them as we bag 'em up," said I. And we began to bag them by the dozen in zipper bags.

When we were done, we had 5 dozen plus 2 rolls (62) when we had ordered 48 and used approximately 24. We looked at each other with wide-eyed glee and realized that we were experiencing our own personal "loaves and fish" miracle. Unbelievable! God is so good!

Then the guilt and fear began to peck away at us. We were in possession of more rolls than we had purchased. The question 'Should we return them?' very quickly was replaced by the question 'Could we return them?' and we quickly realized that we could not- they had been fresh-baked then placed in a box and covered only with plastic wrap. They were not in individual bags and they were most cetainly non-returnable. We began to process aloud our options....

Where can we take all this extra food?

It's 5 p.m. now, we realized, we won't be able to get it anywhere by dinnertime.

Out of the blue, Valerie exclaimed: "Emmaus House!"

"What?!" I asked...

"Emmaus House!" she said, again-as if that would clear things right up- then she added: "It's a safehouse house for women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence and it's right in Newark on Rt. 896."

"Sounds good to me! And if they offer, we can get a tax donation receipt for the food and we'll give it to the deli, since we can't return the rolls." said I, and our crazy half-baked scheme was hatched: She would take all the extra food down to the safehouse while I turned off the lights and locked up the church.

An hour later, I looked at my phone (still set on vibrate from earlier in the day) and saw three missed calls- all from Valerie. Without even bothering to listen to the voicemails, I called her back... A no longer weary voice exuberantly recounted this story:

She drove to where the safe-house had been. The structure was dark and looked lifeless. None-the-less, she knocked on the door, and after getting no answer, decided to call 411 to get the new number. Despite some initial hesitation from the operator, a number was supplied to Valerie and she subsequently dialed it. After explaining herself, Valerie heard an overjoyed voice tell her, "You have no idea how timely your call is!" Some further discussionensued, and Valerie got the new address and then headed her car in that direction. As she was hanging up the phone, Valerie heard the person on the other line, a resident of Emmaus House (who thought that the phone was disconnected) say: "You guys. We're going to have dinner tonight. Someone is bringing dinner over!"

After dropping off the groceries to the four families at Emmaus House (three trips from the car), and being the recipient of many, many heartfelt thanks, Valerie took the tax-receipt they gave her for the donation over to Malin's Deli.

It turns out that the deli had been robbed recently and that this robbery had hit the owner, Ken, pretty hard financially. As Valerie told him the story, she received the same quizzical look I had given her an hour earlier. Ken had never heard of this safehouse either, but he was intrigued. He wanted the address, but Valerie couldn't give him this protected information. She did show him the phone number on the top of the receipt and encouraged him to call with questions.

"Questions!" exclaimed Ken "I don't have questions...Do you know how much perfectly good food I throw out every night at closing? I want to start giving them that food."

Do you see the ripples that are flowing outward from this one thing? God is SOOO GOOD!

We are God's amazing lovingkindness and mercy.

We knew that by being obendeient and having the Faith and Health conference that God would richly bless us and others- but we had NO IDEA. We could not have even fathomed....

Thank you Heavenly Father! Thank You Jesus! Thank You Holy Spirit! Thank you Serpe's Bakery! Thank you Malin's Deli!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fete Accompli

You may or may not know, but I have spent the better part of the past three months planning a Faith and Health seminar. Having never done exactly this, it was quite a learning experience- not just about the ins and outs of event planning, I've done all that was quite a feat to put together this fete because of the dynamics that I encountered within the ministry community. Wow.

I have seen people claim their ministry turf and stalwartly (and stolidly) stand firm and refuse to allow anyone else the joy of participation and the honor of being able to bless others through the ministry. I've seen basically defunct and lifeless ministries kept alive and operating at their bare minimum just so that no one would really be interested in involvement and, hence no one would be interested in taking over said ministry. Fabulous strategy: keep a lame-duck ministry for yourself because it's function is merely to provide you with power and prestige...not to mention something rather impressive-looking on your resume. No ministering going on- but heck- one can't have everything...

This post probably seems a strange departure from my generally enthusiastic and encouraging writing style, but I feel compelled to make this point. What I have seen has been so ugly and so disheartening that the words, whether they sound jaded or not, must be said. I shared this experience, step for difficult step, with a woman who I now call a dear friend. Her perceptions mirror mine. We soon came to realize though, that the only thing we could change was us. We could not and would not force a person to step up to the plate, to fulfill the calling of their ministry. What we could do was to do our best for the glory of God and for the goal of blessing others. We decided to use our frustration to propel us forward to better personal behavior. I personally vowed to take a panoramic mental picture of the entire scenario and then vowed to myself to never, ever, ever do that to a ministry. If a ministry ever becomes more about me than those who are supposed to be ministered to- you all have my personal permission ahead of time to TAKE ME OUT! :) I'm so serious- humble me in whatever way you have to- do not let me get complacent in ministry or lukewarm. I ask you to keep me accountable, dear friends.

Now, back to the event- it went well- really well. You can read about it here if you're interested: But even better that that is our personal story of being overtly blessed by God in a tangible way that fueled our desire to tangibly bless others. More about that later....