One of our “signature ministries” at WFPC is a wide-ranging interest in hunger. Worldwide, yes, via support of PC(USA) ministries and programs such as RISE Against Hunger and Heifer International, but with a huge emphasis on local initiatives and the growing reality of “Food Insecurity” in our own community.
- This past week our church hosted an ecumenical gathering designed to lay out a vision for the possibility of our community opening a “pay-what-you-can restaurant” (in the spirit of Raleigh’s most excellent A Place at The Table café).
- Sunday morning we highlighted our Backpack Buddies ministry, that serves three local schools, sending backpacks of non-perishable foods home with at-risk children and their families 50 weekends out of the year.
- Sunday afternoon I went downtown Raleigh to spend a couple of hours with 130 hungry (many homeless) people. We served a hot meal, listened, offered clothing and sanitary supplies, and sent our friends on their way with another day of non-perishable food. Including those who cooked and prepped, well over 40 WFPC folk were involved.
Serving a Crowd in 95-degree heat!
In my experience, this was the largest crowd we have ever served. Not only that but it was ridiculously hot – 95-degrees and humid too.
My assignment is always “guest relations.” Simply put, I meet and greet, help people to their table, sit and visit, listen a lot, and invest whatever energy is needed in crowd control. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the numbers, but I had to expend a lot of energy in facilitating peace! But it was all good – simple redirection worked every time!
My other job is to do the “Welcome, devotion, and blessing.”
This is especially a challenge speaking in the open air, with so many people in line and then twenty-plus volunteers participating too.
Several people wanted a copy of my words, so here they are. May they be an inspiration and a comfort for your Monday morning – DEREK
My Devotional and Prayer:
“Welcome! My name is Derek. We are from Wake Forest Presbyterian Church and it is our privilege to serve you this afternoon.
“One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus and his friends are in that boat in the storm. The disciples are all whimpering like scaredy-cats but Jesus sleeps through the whole mess.
“What are you worried about?” Jesus says when they finally wake him up. “Where is your faith?”
“Some people think Jesus was telling his friends, ‘If you had believed better there wouldn’t have been a storm…’ – or that they should have let him sleep and commanded the waves themselves. But I don’t think so.
“I believe the point is that Jesus was with them all, right in the middle of their storm – and that should have been enough. I think Jesus only calmed the storm because they didn’t have enough faith to ride through it.
“The Bible doesn’t teach us that life will be easy if only we have enough faith and believe right. People who tell you that are usually selling something.
“What the Bible does offer is story after story about people going through the most difficult times and discovering that God is right there with them. Not a detour around trouble, but peace and comfort and presence in the middle of the trouble.
“Like Psalm 23. ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me, Lord…’
“So earlier today I re-wrote Psalm 23 for all of us this afternoon. Here it is, my words for you. Let’s make it our blessing before dinner:”
• Jesus is like a shepherd to me. He smooths out places where I can lay down and rest. Jesus is a long cold glass of water; he’s like a cool, clear stream and he leaves me refreshed.
• Because he guides me, I find the right path. Even when I am lost, when things look especially rough, and when life feels like a dismal swamp… I am not afraid! Why? Because I know that God is with me.
• God has his hand on my shoulder, and the presence of my Creator gives me peace.
• When I find myself surrounded by enemies God sets a table in my honor, he treats me like royalty, and he makes it known that I am his beloved child. Seriously, friends, my cup is overflowing with blessings.
• Fact is, Goodness and Love follow me around like we are some kind of team.
• No matter where I am and what tricky circumstance comes along, for me that place is the house of God. Amen! – Psalm 23 paraphrase – Derek Maul