Picture this. Your church fellowship hall filled to capacity. There are people everywhere. And enough food to feed hundreds – maybe even thousands. People sharing conversation with others at their table. Eating as much as they possibly can.
Sounds like a typical church function, right?
Now imagine this – those hundreds of people call the street their home. This is the one real meal they eat each day. Any other food they have comes from dumpsters.
It’s a vastly different picture, isn’t it?
As I read through 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I can’t help but think of the thousands of people who go every day without food. Not just in far away lands – but here, in my own backyard. Hundreds of people in my own city of Atlanta don’t know where their next meal will come from.
It makes me feel incredibly silly for all those times I gaze into a full pantry or refrigerator and proclaim: “We have nothing to eat!” The truth is, I have no idea what it means to really be hungry.
I’m reminded of that humble fact every time I drive by my church around lunchtime on a weekday. For years the Lutheran Community Food Ministry at Redeemer has provided a daily meal to the homeless in Midtown Atlanta. Hundreds of people come every day for a warm meal, friendly smiles, and a cool place to rest. Around 9:30am people start lining up outside our church, which finds itself in the heart of Midtown. Sometimes the line circles around the block before the doors open around 11:00.
I had a chance to serve with this ministry some time ago. As the people filed in to take their plates, I couldn’t help but wonder if lunch the day before was the last time they ate. What do they do on the weekends? How on earth do they survive?
It’s a humbling experience to serve food to the homeless. We didn’t just serve a meal that day – we served compassion. Mercy. Grace. Love.
It’s so easy to take my full pantry for granted. There’s always food to choose from. Sure, there may not be exactly what I’m hoping for, but there is not a day when I have only one option. I’ve never had to dig through the dumpster. Never had to wonder where my next meal would come from. Never had to go to bed with an empty tummy.
Our food ministry makes me appreciate every bite I take. Seeing those people lined up makes me want to spring to action. To answer God’s call to feed the hungry. I wish I could offer an endless amount of food for those who have none. But since I can’t, I’ll do what I can.
I’ll give the food in my pantry that I really don’t want to eat.
I’ll buy extra groceries and give them to the mother and child standing outside the post office.
I’ll sign up to serve lunch to the homeless more than once every other year.
I’ll pray for those who find themselves digging in the dumpster for leftover table scraps.
I’ll write a check to help support the ministries that feed those who need it most.
Our food ministry is not unique. Every city has something like it. Every city, big or small, has people who go to bed hungry.
And every city has people like you and me. People who have more than they need. People who can share a smile, serve a meal, and offer up a tiny glimpse of God’s love and grace. Won’t you join me in answering God’s call?