When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14: 15-16
It was very short notice, but the call went out just about week ago, “The local super-market is redeeming Greenbax for turkeys. Let us all take our stamps that we have been saving and feed the hungry in our neighborhood for Thanksgiving.” Once a month, our little church supplies groceries for approximately thirty families, so in order to pull this off we would need to collect enough Greenbax for thirty turkeys, that’s one hundred fifty books, and not all of us shop where they give stamps. Yet the call had been issued and the response was given; “We will do this.” Yet, there were only two days to make it happen.
Emails were sent and received at a frantic rate. One family pledged two turkeys, then came another pledge, and another and so on. One woman sent a message wondering, “Will the store redeem stamps from 1980? I just found enough for three turkeys.” Yes they will, and yes they did. Soon we were up to eleven; one third of the way there, then fourteen, sixteen, nineteen. By mid-afternoon on Thursday the project had reached the point of no return. No matter how many turkeys were pledged, the church and pastor would see to it that all thirty families would have turkey this Thanksgiving.
The church office was closed on Friday and with this the emails and text messages seemed to evaporate. I am always amazed at what our congregation can do, especially when it comes to reaching out to our community, but this time it seemed as though we bit off a little more than we could chew. At last count before the lull in messaging we appeared to be stuck on twenty-one turkeys.
When the phone rang the woman on the other end had an idea. She had been out shopping and the store manager agreed to make a donation. All she would need is a request on church letterhead. I sent it, and the donation was made. Anticipating the answer to our call for at least ten more turkeys, the store gave one. Now, being fair, it was short notice and the assistant manager made an on the spot decision. With more notice he would have done more and we are grateful for the donation. With this turkey, another family would have a feast at Thanksgiving.
Saturday morning brought much anticipation, more anxiousness, and even more concern that we would have enough turkeys to supply our thirty families. When I got to the church I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somehow, word got out and there were forty-two families in line an hour before we would begin our distribution. Not wanting to hear the news of a shortfall, I stayed outside and visited with some of the folks waiting in line. Once inside I asked if the people on the sidewalk knew about the turkeys. They did, but God had something in store for all of us. Going over the totals of messages received and turkeys pledged, we had exactly forty-two turkeys and one ham. In addition to the turkey, one family brought along over thirty-five pounds of fresh sweet potatoes and another brought boxes filled with loaves of bread in several varieties.
One by one folks came into our parish hall to receive their usual monthly bag of groceries. Each also received a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner, along with at least two large sweet potatoes and a loaf of fresh bread. One by one they entered. One by one their carts and arms were filled with good food in order to help feed their families. Most who come month after month have very little, so they are grateful for the gift and blessing. This morning there are forty –seven families savoring the aroma of turkeys roasting in their ovens. Yes, I said forty-seven, more folks showed up at the last minute so we purchased five more turkeys.
I am ever thankful for the people of my congregation. They care so much for those whom God puts in their midst. They sense God’s call to be as Christ for the needy in our community, and they are so willing to share that which God has so graciously provided. As we continue in our ministry together, we can’t help but look to the most needful in our neighborhood and hear the voice of Jesus as he says to us, “You give them something to eat.” Indeed, with God’s help we shall.