On Saturday, the East Hill congregation had a food giveaway. While Saturday was technically the big day, this has been something that has been in the works for a while.
Our elders had the idea (which was an amazing one), and even looked at the stats as far as benevolent requests were concerned and found that this time of year people really seem to need some help. So, they decided that we would put together 500 (yes, that many) food boxes and give them away. Inside these boxes we had rice, beans, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, tuna, corn meal, sugar, peaches, tomato soup, spaghetti, mac and cheese, ham, cheese, eggs, hot dogs, milk, potatoes, and other things I know I am forgetting. By the time things were said and done, these boxes probably weighed 50+ lbs.
We had multiple nights of assembly--from the 500 boxes to the placement of all the supplies inside. We had members from EH submitting names and offering to take these food boxes to families in need. We had people handing out flyers and putting out signs. We had so many people praying for the effort, and really, that's what made the day so successful.
I could go on and on and on with stories from this past Saturday. Truly those of us who were working got more out of the day than those who were fed. But that isn't why I'm posting this. I'm not posting this for any accolades or praise. I'm not posting this so you'll think East Hill did some fantastic job. While our elders did have the amazing foresight to take on such a project, it wasn't about any of us at all. And that's why I want to write this post.
Last night, as Robert and I were walking back from his office toward the auditorium prior to services, we were met by a gentleman who didn't know where to go. He asked us where we normally met, because he'd never been to East Hill before. We told him he could follow us, and we introduced ourselves. We'd never seen this man before, and for our purposes today, I'll call him Mr. M. Well Mr. M went on to explain to us why exactly he was there, and that's the story I want you to hear.
Here's what he said:
On Friday morning, as he was working outside at his home, his bulldozer rolled over. Many of you have probably known of such accidents occurring. This man said that he should have been seriously injured, and yet he came away without a scratch. A couple of hours later, while still pretty shaken up about the morning he'd had, an unfamiliar truck rolled in to his driveway. As he recalled to me last evening, "I figured it was just a bill collector because I've been contacted by a few of those. I was just going to send him on his way because I didn't have anything to give him." But much to his surprise, it wasn't a bill collector at all.
A man from East Hill had been given this man's address to deliver a food box to, though given a different name. Mr. M told the man from East Hill that the person he was looking for had been killed in a car accident years earlier, but that he'd worked for him. So, instead of leaving the residence, the man from East Hill offered the food box to Mr. M.
"I tried to turn the box away," Mr. M told me. "I've always been a giver, you know. I didn't want to take something that someone else probably needed more." He would later tell me that he did need it, though, and that he hadn't had milk in about 4 weeks. He also said that to him, that box of food was worth "five million dollars!" and that'd we'd "put food on [his] table for probably two or three months...I'm really good at stretching my food out."
We told him over and over again that we were so glad that he'd taken the food box, and that we were so glad he'd decided to join us for worship. He said that before the man left his house, he'd invited him to come to worship with us, and "I just felt like I needed to come up here and say thank you to all of you. Can you please announce to everybody tonight that I'm just so thankful for all the things you've done, and that y'all just put food on my table."
As we were walking to the auditorium, I invited this man to sit by me, since he didn't know anyone there--not even the name of the man who'd given him the box (though we would figure it out later on). I am so glad that I did, because I got to hear so many East Hill members come up and speak to him. When he said thank you to one lady she said, "Well we just wanted to do what Christians are supposed to do, because we love God."
The reason that this is the story I'm wanting to pass along is this:
Taking the time to do things for people really matters. Taking the time to meet people's physical needs really matters. Jesus would often heal a person's physical infirmities before healing their spiritual infirmities, and I believe it's because He knew that they would be much more attentive and responsive. I witnessed tonight, firsthand, what a genuine love and concern for people can do -- the way it can touch a heart.
Sometimes it takes getting out of your comfort zone to make a difference. I know that I have been guilty so many times in the past of not actively seeking out ways to help other people. But if you could have seen the look on this man's face as he proudly shook every person's hand that came up to speak to him, you would want to go out and search for people to help. May we ever be looking for opportunities to serve the poor and the needy and the desolate, because their souls are worth the whole world---and they will never know we are interested in their eternal welfare if we are not first caring for their physical welfare.
Whether or not this story affects you, I needed to write it. I need it to be here so that I can look back--maybe months from now, maybe years from now--and remember Mr. M. I need to remember to search out those who are desperate. I need to speak to and invite those who may not look like "good soil". I need to love every single person that I meet enough to tell them about the gospel of Christ -- to invite them to sit by me, to shake their hand, and to listen to their story.