In Jeremiah 18 1-10 We read about the Potter's house, but today Miracles still occur every day when we, Listen and Obey the call of God's direction.This is such a story.
Recently I re-connected with someone I knew years ago from our small Methodist church. When this church was absorbed by a much larger church, we all went our separate ways and lost touch with many of our old church friends.By accident, but some have said, it was not an accident it was meant to be, I met an old friend in an unlikely place, the election polls. Barbara was actually a transfer to our working team and had never worked this precinct before. What a provident day that turned out to be!
Ten years ago Barbara and her husband George, a retired psychiatric nurse joined a small Disciples of Christ Church in Clearwater, Florida. This church has only 230 people as members, but what this small band of devoted people have accomplished is mind boggling.!
Barbara and George have a mission and a Passion that "no one should go hungry", for over 10 years they followed that direction, funding with their own monies, by feeding the homeless on the street in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is a long story of many successes and I imagine some failures. Even Barbara's devastating diagnosis of MS did not change their plans.Many times the plan was interrupted when health issues interfered but these are mighty warriors who refuse to be deterred. Barb had been asked to give a talk about what she was doing to a group of woman from other churches who were instrumental in starting similar projects in their community. This time of sharing was a time of inspiration and the rest is the beginning of a collaboration of Barbara's passion and her Pastors devotion to doing work for Jesus. As Pastor Donna said to me, this is not about us as individuals this is about Jesus! Amen to that!
Pastor Donna Oberkreser is a remarkable leader of her church,. When presented with an idea that follows the Church's doctrine and goals she finds a way to make it happen. Through her networking contacts she was able to connect Barbara and George Bridgeman to "Feeding America Tampa Bay" . Feeding America is the largest relief organization in the country and currently provides food to feed 400,000- people in the W. central Florida area. The donations come from all local grocery stores, Publix, Winn Dixie, Panera bread, CVS drug stores and too many more for me to continue mentioning. When the idea of a neighborhood food pantry was presented to the planning committee of the church they were on board and were willing to provide funds from their resources within the church to fund this program. Barbara was elected outreach chairman and "Feeding the Neighbors" was born. February 2013 and the first give away day took place. The only advertising was a sign in the front yard of the church. 37 people came to receive that day and there were 10 volunters..
It sounds so easy, but behind the scene there were many hands helping and participating in this. All health standards must be met and they are stringent. Picking up the food is no easy task. Barbara has a budget, but I know for a fact there are times she adds to that when needed. Planning meetings, reports and sacrifice of personal time. She is a natural leader and that entails, spreading the word, soliciting help from every source , while still participating in other ministries. Food is purchased, church donations, clothing donations, and household donations now have become part of this program.
Today this outreach "Feeding the Neighbors" gives food one Saturday a month to over 100 people with a total of approximately 350 family members. Last month there were 35 volunteers including 3 children. What a wonderful vehicle to show and teach our children what it is to love and help others. Many of the volunteers are not even members of this church, but they also see the needs and have the passion to follow God's direction and who could ever refuse Barbara when asked to answer that call-- not me!
How sad that this is even necessary, but in this Tampa Bay community the churches have put their servant's hearts together and are feeding God's children! Mr. Dude and I are so blessed to be able to participate in this program and it has led to so many other missions that we hope will enrich the lives of others. There are so many stories we hear as people come through the line to choose freely what they want and need. We do not choose for them, they fill their own boxes and we are often asked to pray on the spot. Amazing how quickly this takes place, Volunteers instantly come to pray for those who ask, the other people waiting seem to find solace in this as well. It is a magical thing that takes place!
In this new Year 2015, it is with great sadness that I report that the needs of the homeless and hungry are growing in larger numbers almost daily. On the plus side I can also report that God's people are reporting for duty and answering the call . We are the clay being formed daily by the Master potter. We must always remember why we are participating in the care of others and who it is really for. We, who follow Jesus and his teachings know that is what is commanded of us, and we are blessed in turn. I would tell anyone Volunteer just once and you will be Hooked! I have met some extraordinary people, a gentleman over 90, cancer survivors, people who them selves have been homeless at one time, nurses who have other missions vital to veterans, business men and women who are away most of a week, but come faithfully on Saturday, and some who have the very same needs as the ones they are helping. The door is always open for those who want to help. This is in part, the story of only one mission of the Central Christian Church of Clearwater Florida, If you look you will find a place you can serve in your community! Thank you for listening to my heart today.