By Hector Chavez
For over a decade our Bethany food ministry has been integral in reaching out to an invisible community. We have witnessed first hand the transformation that happens to individuals as they find a community, instead of just sustenance.
From the first day they walk through our doors to the first day they make the decision to serve alongside, we share our lives. From teaching folks how to pray, to celebrating accomplishments like attaining housing, sobriety, or a food handler license. We have wed couples, held wakes, been church, celebrated births and baptisms. God has been our constant through it all, reconciling relationships and bringing whole families to know him.
At the beginning of April, during the peak of unknowns that the pandemic brought I must admit that I questioned whether we as a ministry were needed. I saw large churches giving out boxes to families in need and an immediate decline in people coming through our doors. I went home that day discouraged but alas the phrase stay the course echoed in my head, what did it mean in the book of James (James 1 2-4) when he said that trials test our faith, in order to produce patience, that we should be joyful to flex our faith and persevere for what God has for us at the other end.
Well friends God's time is a funny thing because just the following week I got my answer. I have a brother, let's call him Roman who had been coming to our Food ministry off and on and show up without any shoes. Roman told me he had been mugged and being a diabetic couldn’t wait hours barefoot in large lines for fear of a cut and the subsequent infection. He left us wearing flip-flops two sizes too small but he managed. Following that day in April I had several encounters with people I had never met before come through our doors thankful to be welcomed. I inquired as to why they chose to come to our food ministry instead of getting food boxes from bigger distribution sites; their answers varied from wheelchairs overheating, to mental health struggles, to not wanting to take things they were not going to use. The valid reasons increased as temperatures reached their highs in June. Since April we have welcomed new people which make up a quarter of our attendees now and I was rewarded with the knowledge God dropped on me, which is that we as a food ministry fulfill a niche in our city. We are Bethany, a safe haven for the weary and a place to sit together at the feet of Jesus.
We are humbled to call First Presbyterian our new home and eager to work alongside one another and together see a glimpse of what the kingdom is like. With COVID guidelines in place we are currently at capacity for volunteers. However there will be opportunities to cook, bake, listen, worship, celebrate, pray, donate clothing, fix stuff, and clean once we get to where we can safely cook and share meals together. This union is not unlike making wine. It will take time, a copious amount of hand sanitation, and distillation in the form of communication. All done by hand, one handshake at a time. Thank you for enfolding us into your lives, it will be great making history together.