Saturday, June 09, 2007
I find it hard to explain what it is that we do here in Modesto. If I look at the practicals, meaning I pick up old bread a lot and go give it away to people so it won't get thrown out, that sounds kind of silly and, well, not really worth while. Bread is cheap. Pastries areunnecessary , not healthy. So, why? Why all this trouble worrying over a van, fuel, insurance, and volunteers? I mean, I know way too much about bread and the little nuances of what makes a banana box sturdier than others. So here's a snap shot of the in-betweens that make the fuss beautiful and grace.
Wednesdays we deliver boxes of groceries made up from our account at the food bank. Every week our office gets from 4 to 9 calls from families in need. Our food pantry is there for emergency, supplemental food relief. A typical box is made up of healthy staples like cereal, canned goods, pasta, sauce, meat and some treats. Keeping our food pantry stocked and in compliance takes a bit of our week but it so worth it! We have a very generous donor that has been funding our pantry and we love our relationship with our local food bank. These partnerships have blessed many families trying to get by.
After our boxes are delivered, we take our daily offering from O'Brian's Market to the South 99 trailer court. This is a small group of mobile homes on a dusty lot in no man's land between Ceres and Modesto off South 9th St. The people there are friendly and this community is very family oriented. The people are kind to us and each other. There are several Hispanic families. Most are working folks just trying to get by and they are very grateful for the bread. I get the feeling that they truly utilize it to help augment their grocery budget for the week. Every now and then we remind these folks through a pamphlet or something that we are Christians, we care for them and so does God. We offer prayer and encouragement but honestly, have yet to make a good solid connection. It's kind of hit and miss.
If we have enough food left over, we drive over to Shiva's Motel. We've been going there for at least 4 years. We drive a wonderful 15 passenger van with 2 of the benches out to fit in bread along with up to eight of us but usually just 4 or so. The Shiva has families, disables people and various people in transition and turmoil. We stay awhile, offering food, friendship, prayer and ideas. Usually, our Wednesday time at the Shiva is short as we go back there on Friday. At the moment, there are about 8 kids that live at this motel.
Imagine a small motel room, not well kept up with a tiny, sub-standard bathroom. There are no cooking facilities, the carpet is never cleaned andthere's just enough space for a small entry area and you can walk around a bed. There has been a family of 6 living there, in one room, for at least 3 or 4 years. They are caught in a cycle, very short sighted and just plain stuck surviving. We play with these kids, read bible stories, try to pass on some grace and peace. We help however we can when it seems like it will be truly beneficial. Even if someone is making bad choices, the kids aren't. We walk some fine lines. We make mistakes. Some days are outright frustrating. Some days we weep as we witness God at work.
After the Shiva, we drive over to Hatch Road to a small house with a tiny dirt yard. The back yard is bigger with some grass/weeds but it is also filled with trash, old branches, salvaged scrap and some old structures that used to house migrant workers. These have fallen into severe disrepair. You must walk this yard circumspectly as there is animal filth, diapers, trash and sharp things all about. This is a playground for the 8 or so children that call this lot home.
They know we are coming on Wednesdays. We met them at the Shiva motel. They had it better there. This is a tiny, 2 bedroom house and two trailers in the side yard. The traffic in and out of the house are all unconnected adults who I assume come to make connections to feed their addictions. The occupants of the house beside the children are a loosely group that do what they know how to survive. They tolerate us coming because they know the kids love it but it seems they'd just as soon not have us there. They are indifferent to the children, stuck in addictive behavior and rarely open up to us.
We spend about an hour here, playing games with the kids, engaging them with stories, personal time, games of make believe and recently, an art project. My co-workers, Jimmy and Aaron made a movie with them that I hope we can get on our website soon or make available in some way. We head home around five to sort out our feelings, do our best to leave the things we've seen in God's hands and try to be open to his direction of our team in engaging all these precious people with the goodness and grace he offers.
So, that is one afternoon of what I mean when I say, "we take donated bread to some low income communities in our city."
Please pray for us. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for continued ability to meet emergency needs and grace to not enable unwise behavior. Pray for favor in relationship at the South 99 Trailer Court. Pray for the people stuck at the Shiva. Pray for the kids and adults at the Hatch Road house. Pray we walk our lines in God's peace and strength. Thank you.