A trunk full of food and help.
I remember when she registered her family in the summer of 2015. When registering, we ask them one tough question: Are you experiencing or anticipate experiencing food shortages this summer? A question I hate to ask, but have to.
You see, it has taken me 10 plus years to grow comfortable (and I still feel hesitant at times) to share that FBF relies solely on prayers and God answering them. The concept often results in a look of befuddlement on the face of the person listening as if it is entirely crazy! Imagine the looks on the faces of business leaders and financial planners!!
By nature, I am a planner and an organizer. In law school, my favorite class was Taxation! I loved the structure and the challenge of working through its maze. Those tendencies towards structure and assurance still reside deeply in me. So, it was difficult, at first, to not have “funding” mapped out in advance for our outreaches.
But almost from the beginning, God has led us to being different from what is out there. Different in structure; different in goals. If we were to be about growing faith, then we had to work on facing what was inhibiting our own growth. Could we really see God’s amazing movement if our hands and plans were so busy trying to make the world move the way we wanted? God’s nudge and direction was to rely on Him for providing what we need, what they need. Each outreach, to this day, stretches our faith to trust God with what our hands can’t necessarily provide…
I hate asking the question because it feels intrusive. Yet, over the years and with experience, the question is absolute necessary. And for two very good reasons. First, our goal isn’t to just hand out food, but to hand it out where there is a desperate need. We have to screen because there are often different levels of need.
Second, we want to protect, as best as we can, what goes out by making sure that the need is as real as we can verify. Part of this stems from the fact that we know that God moves the hearts of every day people, both struggling and not struggling, to come alongside us and help others. There is no Wal-mart or Target pulling up to our doors with pallets of food. There are no letters being mailed out asking for donations. No grant applications being filled out with hopes that taxpayers dollars will come from the State or Federal government to bring our outreaches to life. Instead, we trust, pray and wait.
Over the years, we’ve watched God build an incredible network, a body of Christ, with many parts working together with what they have and what they are able to give. Sometimes it is a couple of cans; other times, it is a couple of bags of food. No matter to us, as we have learned to wait and watch as God builds the piles. Every contribution is one of value whatever the size.
I remember her words as she responded to my question. “I wish I didn’t have to register. I am already struggling the last week of the month.” Her voice trailed off as if she was in the grocery store. “I couldn’t buy milk and bread at the end of last month…and I know people stand there in line and think why I am buying that large jug of juice instead of something healthier. But when you have only a few dollars left, you have to figure out what goes further to feed everyone…it is not about healthy versus unhealthy. It is about what will last longer to feed my kids.”
She went on to explain that her husband was disabled and that she was working, trying her best to make ends meet. I could hear the frustration in her voice as she spoke of wanting things to be different but not finding a way out of where they were. I reassured her that her family was exactly who we were looking to help.
The summer went well except one delivery her husband didn’t show. We drove the bags over and dropped them off on the front porch, and she called to thank us.
This summer, last week, the same thing happened. I remember standing at the place where we deliver and being worried. I asked the volunteer who was riding with me to remind me to text her when I got to the next delivery, but when we arrived several of the families were already there. We got swept away in passing out bags, discussions, prayer requests, and hurrying to the next spot.
Once back home, there were additional meetings and an event that evening. I sat down much later and thought it was probably too late to contact her. I said a quick prayer asking God to nudge her heart if she needed the groceries. Early the next morning, a text appeared on my phone. It was her…
Hi Michelle it’s ____________. I’m sure the answer is no…”
The message went on to share that her husband had had a really bad day and she was wondering if the lunch stuff was still available. I could sense her frustration with the situation in her text. My heart broke for her. It is so hard to humble oneself, especially when someone else puts you in the position to have to ask another for help.
I texted back telling her that I did have the bags. I had had to get rid of the perishables (we passed them along to the other families), but offered to meet with the remaining bags. She was so happy. We set up a time and a place, and that I would be meeting her husband.
From her came these words:
Ok thank you so much! You have no idea how much this helps us, we’ve been very strapped for money and I was so upset we missed yesterday.”
They have one car, and he takes her back and forth to work. A mom trying her hardest to make her world a better place. A dad who is struggling with his own health issues. All sorts of things wrapped up in this situation.
So I texted:
I had a feeling and thought I should text you but became very busy at the deliveries and other meetings throughout the day. I am glad you texted. I’ll add in another set of bags from someone else who missed again. Hopefully, the bags will be a blessing! Thanks for reaching out!”
She promptly texted me back:
Dear God yes they will be and so are you! And thank you for reaching back I can’t even express my appreciation!”
Her words “reaching back” stuck out in my mind. We often have to be tough because there is a fine line in some situations between enabling and helping. Sometimes it is really hard to tell if there is even such a concern. Other times, it is more clear. Usually when someone misses, we leave it on them to reach out to us. And, yes, if they miss twice without contacting us, we do the tough thing and remove them from the program. Our goal is to provide food when it is lacking and, if it is truly lacking, they are usually there on the distribution day or call quickly to reschedule.
But this situation felt slightly different. This mom has communicated clearly that they were desperate for food, but she works on our distribution days. Her ability to pick up is reliant on her husband, who has struggled with being there at times. I could clearly hear her voice in her text, and I wanted her to know it was okay to reach out again. To reach forward even though we hadn’t reached back.
So I took a picture after loading the car. The one above…
I thought it might provide her some relief to actually see what was coming home for her family. I wanted her to have an idea as to what we were bringing, instead of spending the day at work wondering.
I hit send…
And headed to the car.
You’re the best! I’m in tears, this helps so much! Thank you so much again!!”
Arriving in the parking lot, I saw his car. What a tough spot to be in. Clearly unsure of what I thought, he got out with his shoulders downward as he looked at the pavement. I opened the trunk and began handing him the items with a smile. I asked how he was doing–that I had heard he had had a bad day. A bit surprised, he began to share a little about his back injury.
As I handed him more, explaining that we had been blessed with lots of goodies, I mentioned that I had hoped the bags helped. That I was glad his wife had contacted us. Not to my surprise, he shared that his wife had been so upset and was sure that there was no use calling. She had been beside herself all evening.
I told her to just call. That they seem like really nice people. What can it hurt to ask? Maybe they can still help.”
I looked at him and reassured him that he had given the right advice. As we finished, I told him that we would be praying for his back and that things–somehow and someway–get better. I shared that those answers are often not as quick as we would like but we would hold them in prayer until something changed.
A broken soul, a difficult situation. And as he opened his door, he said,
God bless you guys. God bless what you are doing. It really helps.”
At 4:12pm, a text arrived on my phone from her:
I just wanted to tell you the kids were so excited they had to show me all the stuff when I got home!”
A big smiley face punctuated the end.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to ponder whether God used that father’s bad day to bring them what they truly needed? We would have given them their normal set of bags had he made it. Because their delivery happened after all of the rest, we had extra. And it was very clear they needed help. Remember the kids were absolutely thrilled such that they made their mom look at everything as soon as she got home…a very real need, indeed.
Thanks be to God for a gentle reminder for how much what He designs is needed, and thank You God for growing my faith yet again in allowing us to see and be apart of Your work in this world. While structure is absolutely necessary, so is kindness, flexibility, grace and trust in Him and His ability to provide!
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:8-10