Have you ever thought about how you or your church or organization can help someone in need in these times of economic uncertainty? I have recently prayed about this question.
As money gets tighter and tighter and more and more of our friends and neighbors struggle to make ends meet, I have asked the Lord what can we do as a church to help those who are struggling.
We do have a small food pantry at the church that has been able to bless a couple of people over this past winter, but it doesn't seem enough. And what about those people who are too proud to even ask for our help? And there are many. I know because the only way to get the extra food to the people who really needed it this past winter was to anonymously drop it off at their doorstep when they weren't home. And since they would never ask for help, I had to try to figure out who needed help the most.
If only there were a better way of helping them. I asked God to give me a way to help people that would not offend them or their sense of independence. Rural Americans and older folks are proud and self-reliant and used to doing for themselves _ a lesson well-learned during past hard times. They have rightly earned this pride. It seems that the most needy of our friends and neighbors are usually the most reluctant to accept our help. This is especially true in the church. So what can we do for these people, Lord? I asked.
And God answered with the words "Loaves and fishes, my son, loaves and fishes."
Loaves and fishes? What does that mean? It sounded so cryptic. I needed more.
Then the Lord called to my remembrance something my wife and I used to do back home on Long Island. Every year for the last six years that we lived there, we would host at our home a summer get-together that would attract from 50 to 75 people from various ministries at the large church we attended. We provided the place and maybe some soft drinks and such, and the guests all brought dishes to share. It was a great time of fellowship among the brethren. We also invited our friends and neighbors and relatives as well and many of them came. What started out in the beginning as a gathering of church friends became a yearly neighborhood outreach. The people who attended the get-together basically all hosted each other; we just provided the place. We had live praise and worship music, and all the guests had a wonderful time. There were even people who got saved at these informal affairs. Our only pay aside from the joy it would bring to us for doing it was that after we collected up the leftovers, we had enough food to eat for maybe two weeks and no cooking! The story of the loaves and fishes! The 12 baskets of leftovers that provided sustenance to the little boy who provided the initial food (John 6:1-13)!
My God, I thought! What a wonderful idea! What if we did this as a ministry! Once or twice a month we could have the most needy person in our church or community host a fellowship meal. They would only provide the place of meeting; the guests would bring the food and leave all the leftovers to feed that family after they have gone!
Just think of the possibilities it could provide for ministering to people. Several days before the planned event, volunteers could arrive to help "prepare" for the feast by helping to clean the house and yard for the host family. We could play edifying music at the affair and avail ourselves to pray for any who might need it.
The host family could invite friends and neighbors, just as we did, and they could experience what a godly get-together is like, and actually see the true love of God in action (John 21:15-17 and John 13:34-35). Then we would leave all the leftovers for the family to live on afterward. The beauty of the idea is that even the host family contributes by allowing the use of their home, so no hurt pride, just the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This idea would work for community organizations as well as churches. I hope and pray that you, dear friends, will take this idea and run with it as far as you can. I know we will. May God bless you all!
Questions on how to get a Loaves and Fishes ministry started in your church and comments can be submitted to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the church at 543 Ramey Road, New Berlin, NY 13411
The Rev. Brian Moore is pastor of Rock Built Church in New Berlin.