Filling Hungry Stomachs? Being Kind! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, March 21, 2014

help local food pantries

Filling Hungry Stomachs? Being Kind!

This month of March has five Saturdays. That means St. Peter’s UCC Church in Skokie is getting ready to prepare and serve a hot dinner for the Community Kitchen at A Just Harvest! Yes, every month with a fifth Saturday is St. Peter’s turn to serve. The pastor, Rev . Richard Lanford, along with the food coordinator Sue Bailey and the volunteer/server coordinator Beth Lanford, facilitate the ministry at the church to fill hungry stomachs in Chicago.

This partnership with A Just Harvest has been active for 30 years. Years ago, the congregation at St. Peter’s Church supplied a hot meal for the Kitchen once a month. Now, they still serve, but not as often. Every fifth Saturday. And what is served to these hungry people? A hot meal, including bread, cookies and something nourishing to drink. Recently, it’s been sloppy joes. Ground beef mixed with onions, celery, pepper, sweet relish, and a whole host of different spices. (Makes me hungry just thinking about it!)

But, just what is “A Just Harvest,” anyway?

This ministry gives people an additional resource against hunger. It’s located in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Formerly known as Good News Community Kitchen, A Just Harvest was founded by the Good News Community Church in Chicago and First Congregational Church of Wilmette. These two congregations began serving a weekly meal – each contributing food and volunteers. By 1991, A Just Harvest was serving dinner seven nights a week. They are partners with more than 35 religious congregations and community organizations.

A Just Harvest makes certain that—on most any night—as many as 200 people (mostly from the city of Chicago, but also from the Chicagoland area) are fed and get enough to eat. The most the volunteers have served on a particular night is 229! But those numbers don’t tell the full story. A Just Harvest is there, in Rogers Park, for people from all walks of life. Many and varied reasons exist for people to suddenly become homeless. This ministry is here for anyone from any walk of life. People can be confronted by choices: the choice between paying the rent, or putting food on the table. Or, paying for necessary medication, and getting enough to eat.

This ministry is also involved in various other kinds of good works. They provide things that homeless people or people who have lost their jobs really need! What about workers, who don’t make quite enough to carry them through until the next paycheck? (The ones whose jobs don’t pay enough to cover basic needs?) Plus, providing for children who are either in poverty, or almost to that poverty line, displays God’s provision and encouragement.

St. Peter’s congregation members and friends serve dinner, true. But they do a whole lot more, just by faithfully showing up. Thank God for faithful congregations like St. Peter’s! And, God bless A Just Harvest, their staff and clients, And may God bless the many good, kind gifts the ministry receives every day.

@chaplaineliza

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Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, March 14, 2014

Toronto cafe interior - watercolor by Wilfrid

Toronto cafe interior – watercolor by Wilfrid

Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

Imagine a place where young people are valued. Mentored. Taught not only what to do on the job, but how to manage life skills, as well. Imagine no longer—this place is for real, and it’s Curt’s Café, in Evanston, Illinois. This café and coffee shop in north Evanston has a mission to “equip at-risk youth (15 to 22 years old) with job and life skills through training, career coaching and mentoring.”

Worthy goals, you say? That’s not all. The training and support these young people receive help them to succeed in life, find worthwhile employment, and become active participants in their local community. These young men and women are not always the first choice for general employment, because of a brush with the legal system. Or, they haven’t had the opportunities that other youth often take for granted. Those are things that usually are a red flag to employers. However, the staff and director at Curt’s Café go out of their way to provide these young people (“at risk”) with fine opportunities. Careful training by food service professionals. Mentoring in positive, helpful life skills. Gainful employment.

I had the opportunity to talk today with Susan Trieschmann, Curt’s Café’s executive director. She said one of the most transformative things about working at the Café is watching the transformations happen in the lives of the young people. And she not only watches the youth working and training at the Café, but also watches the interactions of the patrons with the staff.  Susan marvels at the patience of the patrons, and talks about observing them “dig deep down and grab the patience from somewhere inside.”

She gave a recent example. A good-hearted recent hire at the Café was serving breakfast to a father and daughter. The young man messed the order up. He not only messed up, but he has issues with shyness. Messing up the order made his shyness even more apparent. Susan observed the daughter encouraging the staff member and letting him know that it was all right. People mess up. And that just happens sometimes.

Penny Doyle, fundraising manager for the Café, is touched by transformation, too. She watches the young women and men become more confident as they continue to grow in learning at the Café. Learning not only about the restaurant and food service business, but about life in general. She especially has gratitude for the incredible community support. Penny encourages anyone who would like to contact the Café to check out their Facebook page or contact them at www.curtscafe.org. And donations are a wonderful thing, as well!

The patrons, by and large, realize and fully support the mission of Curt’s Café; they have a great capacity for willing understanding. Even active encouragement!  Susan, who attends classes on a part-time basis at Catholic Theological Union, is fully committed to the mission of the Café. This ministry is a visible, tangible way for restorative justice to be lived out. Lived out locally, in our community, praise God.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 21, 2014

feeding the community

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry  (Feature Friday!)

Unemployment. Food stamps cut. Lack of jobs. (Sounds more and more like the daily newspaper or news website, doesn’t it?) Some people in some places already do something about it—like at the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank. The Food Bank has its beginnings in 1989. A group of people from Daisy United Methodist Church and Soddy United Methodist Church (from Soddy-Daisy, a small town about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) joined together. They started the Food Bank to feed about a dozen families.

From these humble beginnings, the Food Bank’s outreach and ministry to hungry families and individuals has grown; during 2013, 370 families per month received food. Six churches are now involved—including United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is now an ecumenical ministry for the larger community. Open twice a week on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, the Food Bank offers foods from the major food groups (including produce!) and on Mondays the regular services of a certified nutritionist associated with the University of Tennessee.

This feature wants to focus specifically on Daisy United Methodist Church and its pastor, C. Don Jones. He considers getting involved with the local community around his church to be an important part of his larger ministry. He leads by example and encourages his church members and friends to get involved, as well. Pastor Don has had a strong commitment to the Food Bank for years, working there on a regular basis. He’s one of eighty volunteers who serve 70% of the people in northern Hamilton County, Tennessee that the USDA describes as “Food Insecure.” Every distribution day begins with prayer for the clients and the workers. About 400 orders go out each month with an estimated 1600 people being fed.

But let Pastor Don speak for himself:

September 26, 2013: “Today at the food bank we served 37 families and jump started two vehicles. One family asked me (I was wearing my Daisy UMC “ask me” shirt) if we could help with their electric bill. I told her we could. Someone told the family, ‘we say bad things about him, but he’s a pretty decent guy.’” [about which Pastor Don received additional humorous ribbing on his Facebook page.]

October 31, 2013: “Today I am thankful for the ability to help at the Food Bank and to not need its services.”

November 7, 2013: “November 1st. Food Stamps are cut to pay for bailouts of financial sector, unnecessary wars, and new subsidies to the insurance industry. This week Soddy Daisy Food Bank serves 131 families. Eight were turned away today for lack of food. Hopefully they will have something Monday. Folks, this is wrong!”

February 6, 2014: “Food Bank day. I recall the words of Dom Helder Caldera. ‘When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food I am called a communist.’ His point was simple. No one wants to think about the issue.”

Few people want to think about the Food Bank (indeed, any food pantry!) until they need its services. Perhaps that’s a prudent reason to consider giving to a food pantry or related ministry near you? Give because we can. Give because people have needs. And most important, give because giving from a sincere and loving heart can be giving to the glory of God.

@chaplaineliza

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 7, 2014

community breakfast - ranier post

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

Hungry people are all over the place. Not just in the inner city, or in major metropolitan areas. My friend and fellow graduate from seminary, Grace, is now the youth director at River Falls United Methodist Church, in River Falls, Wisconsin. A little over halfway towards the northern border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Much closer to the western border with Minnesota and the Mississippi River. River Falls is a college town with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls only a few blocks from River Falls UMC. But other than that, the area for miles around is thinly populated. Small towns, farms, wooded patches, some hilly areas. Few large concentrations of people other than the town itself. Grace commented, “There are no services in any other town really. So many people come [to River Falls] for services. Everywhere else is rural.“

However few or many people live in this area, there are still very real, very human needs. Unemployment. Healthcare issues. Hunger. People struggling to make ends meet, and going without. As Grace said in response to my question about unemployment and under-employment, “It is [sad]. Poverty hides well.”

In the midst of this difficult situation, River Falls United Methodist Church does what it can. The church offers a community breakfast each second Saturday from 8 am to 10 am. Anyone can come. And people do attend. From near, from far—they come to be fed.

Moreover, the faith community at River Falls UMC is also a part of another ministry in town—the Tuesday Banquet that happens on the second and fourth Tuesdays at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. The folks from the UMC help with the cooking and clean-up. What a wonderful opportunity to work together, to cross denominational lines, and show ecumenical unity. This is truly the way to display the love of God—and not highlight the bickering and division between church groups.

I reflected as I read what Grace messaged to me: what a way to show the love of God in a very real (and filling!) way. I also though of the verse from Matthew 25:40, “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.” In this larger discourse, the words of Jesus can be stern, even frightening. In this specific verse, however, Jesus gives words of praise to His followers who did not even know they were serving God.

Yes, feeding the hungry is service to God just as much as a service to the hungry people. And River Falls UMC offers to feed the hungry not only physically, but spiritually as well. Satisfying hunger to fill an empty stomach ranks as a primary act of love, as far as I’m concerned. God bless the faithful folks at this church for such a loving, caring ministry of service.

@chaplaineliza

(photo credit – community breakfast, RainierPost.com)

Being Kind, Showing Love—To Myself!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, February 5, 2014

love for real

Being Kind, Showing Love—To Myself!

I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I suspect I’ll mention it again. I try to go to the gym on a regular basis. I see this as being a good steward of my physical self. I honestly do try to go to my local YMCA three times a week. This not only helps me physically, but also emotionally and psychologically, too. (I can point you towards applicable studies done by researchers at universities, and articles written up in peer-reviewed journals, if you’re wondering.)

The positive endorphins that bounce around my insides after a good round of cardio-vascular exercise ought to be enough to keep me coming back, time after time! But wait, there’s more! I not only get this positive feeling after exercise, but I also have the muscles in my core (or, torso) strengthened and toned, too. This helps me, in all kinds of ways. Now that I’m firmly in my fifties, I need every little bit of help I can get. If going to the YMCA three times a week helps me in all of these ways (and more, besides!), I would be just plain silly not to go.

I ran into Bill Geiger yesterday, the president of my local YMCA. He and I have a nodding acquaintance, and I hadn’t seen him for a number of weeks—not since December. I told him about this blog. I asked him whether he could think about positive, helpful acts of service at the Y, and let me know about them. He seemed really intrigued, and we stood there in the big exercise room and discussed acts of kindness for several minutes. He was quite approving, and urged me to continue with the blog.

Then—he got thoughtful for a moment, and told me about a pressing problem he has heard about, time and again. People working, acting, running—doing things for everyone else, but not thinking of themselves. Bill was quite concerned about this common tendency he had noticed, and lifted it up as a potential problem. I nodded, and agreed. Indeed, it is! Especially in our local community, where many people are outwardly-focused. Altruistic. God-centered. Mission-minded. (Whatever your preference.) Bill had to run, so we said good-bye. But Bill’s words stayed with me.

As I said at the beginning of this post, exercise is a marvelous way to deal with stress and worry, and a positive way to get the blood moving and heart pumping. Many gyms have exercise programs for most (if not all) levels, and some have personal trainers, massage therapists, and yoga and pilates instructors, too. (Check with a qualified medical professional before starting any physical program, though. Just to be sure it’s right for you.) However, there are additional ways of taking time for yourself. I’ve used prayer and meditation, listening to soft music, walking for pleasure, gardening, going to museums and zoos, meeting with friends, and a whole host of other helpful things to do. For self-care. For showing myself love and kindness. And God will be pleased that I’m not so stressed and worried, too.

What a wonderful reminder! I’ve got to thank Bill, next time I see him. And thank God for friends, too.

@chaplaineliza