“I am going to serve food at the San Leon Park on Tuesday. I am bringing my kids and inviting other friends along as well… Want to join?”
I didn’t have to think long about my friend’s invitation. Never one to shy away from opportunities to show my kids how to love and serve, and if I’m being completely honest, opportunities to show them how “lucky and privileged” they are, this seemed like a perfect thing to do on a Tuesday morning. And so, one very HOT day in August, my tribe joined my friends’ tribes to joyfully serve.
We drive up and I am immediately overwhelmed by the number of people under the large pavilion, and the large semi truck trailer plastered with “Galveston County Food Bank” that waits for them. There is a row of neatly lined white tables on both sides of the trailer, and a much, much larger line of people with numbers waiting to be served. There are also lots of little kids on a mission trip eager to help pass out food.
Upon arriving, we are asked to grab a wagon and accompany guests through the line and to their car as their number is called. I grabbed a wagon and proceeded to accompany my first guest. As we walked past each table, generous amounts of food ranging from meat, to fruit and veggies, to bread and cereal were loaded into the wagon. I remember asking my first guest how long they had been waiting under the pavilion, and her response was, “7:30am.” Did I mention it was HOT? Did I mention that I didn’t stroll in until 9:30am or a little after, and that the food wasn’t served until 10:00am? I couldn’t even imagine waiting two-and-a-half hours in the heat for a wagon full of food, let alone have such an attitude of thankfulness and joy when food was loaded in the car.
As time and guests passed (and all but one of my children faded into the comfort of the A/C in the car), I began to listen to conversations and reflect on some of the comments that I had heard. One lady stated that she loved these Tuesdays and that it felt like a huge family reunion under that pavilion as they got together with others in the community. Another lady showed genuine concern for another resident who was deaf, and wanted to ensure that he knew when it was time to go. I realized that I had not heard one real complaint from anyone that had been waiting now for well over three hours, and there were plenty of smiles and genuine responses of gratitude as car after car was loaded with groceries.
Behind the smiles, however, there was also brokenness and pain. One guest was still smiling as he shared his story because his gratitude outweighed the pain. There was another, however, whose smile faded as she relayed her current situation and how she ended up under that red pavilion. I remember asking her if I could pray for her, and tears began to stream down her cheeks as she told me her story. She mentioned that she had been to church one time, but felt God trying to say something to her. How sweet it was to be able to share the hope that we have in Jesus, to tell her the good news, and to be able to pray not only for her physical situation but her spiritual situation as well!
Over 200 families were served food that day, but they received a much greater gift. They experienced the love of God and the gift of community and friendship. I, on the other hand, left feeling good about serving. As God so frequently does, He led me to begin reading a book to better understand poverty, and in so doing, gently convicted me about “feeling good.”
Remember that statement at the beginning where I said that I wanted to show my kids how “lucky and privileged” they were? I realized that I had a superiority complex. It felt good to go in and be able to help someone else, but the source of feeling good was pride and not God… it was materialism as opposed to thankfulness to the One who provides. That source of feeling good caused me to look at those people who had waited in that long line for hours to get a wagon full of food and somehow feel better than them on a subconscious level. I took pride in somehow feeling that I had caused my “privileged” state, not that God had entrusted me with His resources and it was not something I had actually earned or deserved. Not only that, part of why I am “privileged” is because of injustice that occurred to other people groups in the past. Ouch.
Yes, food is a blessing and a good gift from God, and I am beyond grateful for that blessing. I am not, however, more valuable to God or more loved by Him because of it. I knew that, thought I believed it, and would have confessed that with my mouth, but praise God that He searches us, knows us, and loves us enough to reveal the hidden things in our hearts.
After repenting of my pride, seeing my “privilege” for what it really is, and allowing God to root out sin that I previously wasn’t aware was there, I returned the following month with a new way to filter my experiences. Once again, there were over 200 families served. It was beautiful to see that some of the volunteers serving that day were also families that received the food! It was truly community loving and serving community. As I was walking one gentleman to his car, he exclaimed that he was so moved by our generosity, he now mows his neighbor’s lawn. In his words, he felt inspired by the generosity shown to him through the food fair. And, again, I encountered broken moments where I was able to share the good news of Jesus with someone hurting from broken relationships, pray with her, and invite her to get engaged with a gospel community.
I left being amazed by God and what He is doing in the lives of others. What a privilege and honor it is to go in our own brokenness and share God’s grace and love with those who are broken too. What a privilege and honor to be a tiny part of what He is doing in the community, to share in that community, and use the time that He has given me to honor Him in relationships that I hope to build there. The food fair in San Leon is much more than food given to those in need. It is a reflection of God’s love and glory, and is life-giving to those who see it.