A year ago I wrote a blog post regarding the Advent Food Challenge that my congregation, Living Word Lutheran, was holding. We are once again holding this same challenge and in preparation I went back and re-read the post. I realized that what I had written was still very relevant and true… so once again I would like share some of those words and also to invite you all to join us in this ministry.
The food drive will benefit the Houston Food Bank who desperately needs to restock their shelves after an ammonia leak contaminated 1.8 million pounds of food. We are being asked to set aside a box and each day from Dec. 1 until Christmas Eve fill it with the item listed below. On Christmas Eve, boxes can be returned at one of our worship services (1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. or 11 p.m.). After Christmas they will be picked up by or delivered to the Houston Food Bank.
Feeding people has long been a passion and an integral component of my ministry. I think a lot of this is tied to my Syrian roots and the strong emphasis that my family always placed on food as a form of radical hospitality. In seminary I was the Food Pantry Coordinator at Gettysburg Seminary for a year and a half. Additionally I was also the Garden Steward. As such, I organized donations and ordered food items that were desperately needed by the seminary community as well as grew fresh food for this community’s consumption.
My motivations were not purely altruistic. Mid-way through my second year of seminary my marriage fell apart and I found myself a single-parent with almost no income. I worked 4 very part-time jobs (two of which I just mentioned) and did whatever I could to provide for my children while remaining a full-time student. It was really, really hard. Admitting you can’t make it on your own and need help is incredibly humbling and at times humiliating. I almost withdrew from Seminary because I wasn’t sure how I was going to make ends meet. The Food Pantry was not only my ministry, but was also my primary food source.
Often assumptions are made about “the kind of people” who need to utilize these organizations and services. I have found many to be very surprised to learn that food scarcity and food insecurity is a much wider and far reaching epidemic than most think. Very few people have any clue that just a few short years ago, I fed my children via the shelves of a food pantry.
I believe that when we engage in activities such as this Advent Challenge, we are engaging in a sacramental ministry. We are becoming Jesus to those who desperately need the nourishment that one receives from him.
Matthew 25 states: “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
This Advent I encourage and invite all of you to join me in this Advent Challenge. If you are no where near Katy, TX, that’s okay! I’m sure your local food justice organizations would welcome any donations you have to offer. Better yet – contact them and ask what needs they have. Organize a food drive via your local congregation or social group. Make it a family service opportunity and educate your children on food scarcity and food insecurity. Join me in providing for God’s family as we have been abundantly provided for ourselves. Coming from someone who has been there – sometimes donations such as these make all the difference in the world!