Brendan, one of the brothers in our congregation, mentioned to me recently that Jesus fed 5,000 people and 4,000 people on two separate occasions (it’s actually more than that, because those numbers do not seem to reflect the women and children in attendance), and Jesus did not differentiate between those who “needed” and those who could go out and get their own food. Jesus thanked Father, distributed the food, and everyone was fed. So when we give out boxes of food or flats of eggs, we certainly want to get them in the hands of the most needy among us. But the pressure is not so much on us that we have to interview each person and make a judgment call on the needs-based information presented. This was a helpful thought, since there are many people who ask for food boxes and many people who willingly receive food boxes, but the needs vary from extremely urgent to not-so-much.
Are you hungry? You can probably go into the refrigerator or pantry or freezer and get something to eat. And if that’s not there you probably can go to the store or restaurant to buy something. I have never gone hungry in my life, except for those times when I have intentionally fasted. So I think of those right around us who are facing food insecurity and food scarcity, and I pray that we can offer physical food when possible. I also pray for spiritual re-birth for those who receive this food. I practiced some Spanish lines that speak of Jesus Christ and him crucified, and implored the Spanish-speaking day laborers at Home Depot to give their hearts to Jesus as we gave out food to them last Friday. There is a much deeper need than food here—there are souls that are resisting the call of God on their lives, and there are souls that are yearning to know more of their Creator. The food that fills the hungry with the Bread of Life is food that we need to present to those around us. This is soul-satisfying food that leads to eternal life.
Brother Stan is bringing food boxes on Tuesday to the Baychester women and children’s shelter, and to the Eden shelter. As an additional opportunity, the director has said that after this Covid-19 crisis blows over she believes we could host Bible studies at these shelters. We have prayed for the Baychester shelter for nearly a year, and this opportunity has just appeared.
I still believe that the day-laborers and those in the undocumented immigrant community have been affected the most financially here in our city. Next on the list are the small business owners who either could not apply for the small business relief or did not apply it. As the city slowly opens back up, there is still an undercurrent of food insecurity all over. A Blessings of Hope driver who delivered CAM boxes to us on Saturday told us of a food distribution ministry in Long Island to whom he had delivered food boxes. They said that, prior to Covid-19, they were serving about 85 people on the day they gave out food. Now, they are getting over 400 people showing up on those days. Life in Christ Mennonite Church in Queens handed out 800 boxes of food on Saturday, May 16th. They have over 800 contacts who have reached out to them for help, requesting food. Pastor Felix, in Mt. Vernon, has served over 400 families in the past seven weeks as they come through his line for food from the Blessings of Hope boxes. He opens the boxes and distributes food to the people into their bags, this way he can serve more people on the day he gives out food. Our distribution at Edenwald has gone from 20 boxes to 40 boxes to 60 boxes to 85 boxes. We do not do as many deliveries during the week; people are encouraged to come by our house and get a box of food if they contact us with a food need.
Today, weather permitting, we will set up outside of our church space on E. 224th Street and distribute boxes of food to the local community. I look forward to these kind of interactions. This evening at 4:00 p.m., Brother Ike and I hope to set up near his house in Mt. Vernon and offer food boxes to people in his community. May God work in his church and through his church in this time. Food pantries are considered essential services.
As the weeks pass, the intensity of the Covid-19 crisis here in NYC seems to diminish, and we look forward to going out and meeting with people a little more. Last week, the governor opened up religious gatherings to 10 people, and on Friday President Trump made that announcement stating that churches are Essential Services. I knew all along that churches are Essential Services, so that announcement did not come as a surprise. That said, here in NYC it was very wise to stop in-person meetings at churches for those weeks from late March through the end of April. Even now, when I am aching to get back to face-to-face meetings, I recognize that we are all on a journey in this season. Some people will be ready to get back to meet, and some need some more time. An interesting side note—I have talked with several of my African-American pastor friends and none of them are pushing to re-open their churches against the governor’s orders. I think they all recognize that this virus has taken an especially significant toll on the black community, and they are in no rush to try to circumvent local and state protocol. One church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church located about 1 mile from our house, lost 21 members to Covid-19. I’m sure a church leader facing that kind of mortality rate in his congregation is going to take a wider look at this situation. This is not just about what is allowed by law, but what is safe and wise for the congregation. On that note, I’m seeing about a 60/40 percentage in terms of the law. 60% says to start meeting again (Constitution and President) but 40% (Governor and Mayor) says to hold off on religious meetings with more than 10 people. My percentages are arbitrary and based on mental gymnastics only, so don’t hold me to them. It just shows that in this case, each church is going to have to ask “What is best for us to do?”
This morning, Sandy took a walk with our friend who had a near-death experience with Covid-19 and is slowly recovering. She contacted Sandy this morning and said she has nightmares of her experiences with this sickness, and since she is back from rehab she is still not able to walk well. Pray for us as we relate with this friend. She believes (and we agree) that God saved her from this sickness. So now what would He have for her?
Are you hungry? Take of the Bread of Life, eat, and give away this Bread of Life to others who hunger. Are you thirsty? Drink of the Living Water, and you will thirst no more.