Last Saturday my youngest daughter and I volunteered with our local church outreach, Mission of Hope. Now, you may have read a post about Mission of Hope previously on this blog; simply titled “Mission of Hope”
The previous post was written back in November 2014, and it was just after we had helped out with the food distribution at our local church for the first time.
Fast forward, and since then we have been helping out with both food distributions that our church does each month; one at our church “campus” in our hometown and one at a local middle school in a larger town east of where we live. Each month we have been so blessed to participate in helping out our neighbors who are in need.
This month we again plan to help out with the food distributions, but have added something new – there is another opportunity to volunteer, called “Under the Bridge.” This consists of a team from our church going to a section of town (the larger town, east of where we live) and setting up food tables to serve lunch under the bridge where there is a large homeless population. It was my youngest daughter’s idea for us to help this month – I am constantly amazed at the loving heart of this child. She loves to help people, and is always looking for ways to serve others.
She initiated the conversation last Friday morning, as she was getting ready for school. “Hey, mom – what would you think about us helping out tomorrow under the bridge?” was actually what she shouted that morning from the shower. I told her I would email and see if they needed our help, and find out when and were we were to meet up with the team.
An email did indeed confirm that our help would be appreciated, and we were given the details. So the next morning we meet up with the rest of the crew at our church “campus” to prepare the lunch we would serve that noon. Our church has built a small warehouse (across from the main church building) that is our food distribution/cooler/commercial kitchen for Mission of Hope, and that’s where we cooked and then loaded all the items we would need for that day’s effort. Folding tables and plastic chairs were already stacked in the back of the trailer that we hauled behind the church van. After the food prep, we loaded all the food (2 large servers of hot BBQ pork and 2 cases of hamburger buns for pulled pork sandwiches, large servers of cooked green beans, a large server of dill pickle spears, and 2 large servers of cherry/berry cobbler) into the back of the van, along with extra blankets and clothing to be given out as needed to our “guests.” Oh yeah, and two large containers of hot coffee, and one of fruit juice.
There were 10 of us volunteering that morning, and we headed out for the 30 minute drive to our destination. As we turned onto the street that lead to the area behind the bridge, the street was almost blocked by all our “guests” that had shown up in anticipation of our coming. We slowly threaded our way down the street and turned in to the area parallel to the highway, next to the bridge pillars. As soon as we exited the van, we had a group of “guests” lined up behind the van – ready hands to help unload tables and chairs, and help set up tables for us. I had expected to do more of the set up work ourselves, but these folks seemed grateful for a good, hot meal – and they wanted to help as much as possible. Our “lunchroom” was set up in very little time, and then we were ready to serve our “guests.”
And that’s what we told them – there was no serving line for them to walk through.
They would sit at the tables, and we would bring food to them. Many of them didn’t expect this, and lined up at the food tables, thinking they needed to get their own food. They were surprised when we told them, “Why don’t you go and sit down at a table. I’ll bring you a plate right away.” Then half of us got to work filling plates while the other half started to distribute those plates to our “guests.” There was a flurry of activity for about 1/2 hour, as people came and went. We powered through the BBQ pork and buns, green beans and cobbler – filled cups with coffee and juice – chatted with our “guests.”
Most were quiet, a few were boisterous and gregarious. A couple even got a little cranky with us over one thing or another. But all seemed grateful for the meal in the end. There were several that were probably in need of some type of medication, whether that would be physical or psychological. There is no denying that many of those homeless, at least in this particular city, are recently discharged from the state mental hospital. Oftentimes, these folks are discharged because they don’t pose a threat to themselves or anyone else, and they don’t need further treatment – but still need to manage their illness with medication. Sometimes their families are not willing to accept the burden of caring for them after they have been discharged, and so these folks are left to themselves or to rely on government programs and agencies. They are given assistance in returning to society and making sure that they are stable with their meds, but sometimes the burdens are too great and many end up on the street without homes or jobs.
As my daughter and I each sat and ate a hot pulled pork sandwich before cleaning up and loading everything back into the trailer, I asked her if she wanted to volunteer again next month when “Mission of Hope – Under the Bridge” came around again. Her answer was a resounding “YES” – she had been busy taking plates to people and refilling cups, and loved every minute of it. Being able to serve someone else who needed help made her feel useful, and she had a sense of purpose.
And I was proud to see that she didn’t shy away from any of our “guests” – she treated them all with dignity and respect, never pity or judgment.
So our calendar now has three Saturday mornings each month blocked out to help with Mission of Hope. How many middle school kids do you know that willingly give up three Saturdays each month to help give food to those in need?!?!
Can I just say how proud I am of my youngest daughter!