Believers in Jesus Church distributed food boxes again at the Edenwald Community Center on Tuesday. My last update had noted that our neighbor has a friend who was a part of the 90’s rock group Living Colour, and he was going to help us with crowd control. It turns out our neighbor couldn’t get any friends to commit. He sent me a text listing all the other housing projects around us and then said “but Edenwald? Everyone’s asking me if u and ur family are going over there armed with Bullet Proof clothing. " His next text went like this “I asked some of the roughest toughest thugs I know if they would mind helping giving out food with u guys and girls in Edenwald and they all said “Naw man I ain’t messin’ with Edenwald.” I have not seen the dark side of Edenwald yet, besides a few skirmishes two weeks ago. Each person is created in the image of God, so it is a privilege to extend dignity and grace even to groups who may be considered "less than." Joy, the community center’s director, spent about 1.5 hours getting all of them to sign in with their ID’s and gave them each a printed number. Some of them waited in line for over three hours. We passed out 60 boxes of food in less than 30 minutes. We have a portable speaker with a microphone, so I had the chance to preach a short gospel message while Joy was finishing up the list, and our daughter Corinne sang “Do You Know the Savior?” while Sandy and I accompanied her. It's hard to describe how rewarding these opportunities are to me.
I then was able to meet up with Silvia, the contact in Mt. Vernon who has been receiving food boxes at the Doles Center. Silvia is so excited about this food box ministry. She works at City Hall in Mt. Vernon, but she said “I have asked God for years to let me have a food pantry! I never thought I would get a chance to do something like this in this way!” Silvia has had to add two different phone lines since April 1 because of the high demand for food boxes in the senior center close to their location. Mt. Vernon is described by another of my friends who lives there as the forgotten stepchild of Westchester County. If you ever get the vision to explore the difference between Scarsdale and Mt. Vernon, it’s a fascinating study in contrasts. Two cities—two completely different socioeconomic spectrums. I met Silvia through my neighbor’s friend. When I told Silvia that the boxes will be winding down next week and after that it will be seven dollars a box, she actually seemed to get excited. “Wow, I can start fundraising for more boxes!” She was the first person in our network who actually seemed energized by the opportunity to purchase boxes to distribute.
Wednesday, we received a shipment of 1,000 boxes of food from CAM (Christian Aid Ministries). The boxes weigh 20 pounds, and include rice, beans, canned chicken, oil, flour, sugar, and Christian literature. These are good, solid staples. Some of the churches in The Bronx with whom we are partnering have already received some of those 1,000 boxes. Life in Christ in Queens and Followers of Jesus in Brooklyn have received CAM boxes as well.
Thursday, our friend in South Brooklyn received a van load of eggs from Westfield Farms in PA. He asked if we could take some. I think they had 750 dozen delivered to them. I drove down and loaded 26 boxes (390 dozen) of eggs in our van. Life in Christ Mennonite Church in Queens took 16 boxes, and we have already distributed our 150 dozen here in the Bronx. It was so good to see friends from Brooklyn and Queens, mask-to-mask (we don’t do face-to-face yet here). Food pantries are considered essential services in NY.
Friday, Brianna and I went to Home Depot at 4:00 p.m. with CAM Boxes and 37 dozen eggs. I parked the van in a kind of distant parking lot and walked over to four day laborers who were still standing there, hoping a contractor or homeowner would come by with work. “Necesita comida?” Si, si. These guys walked over, and somehow by the time we were finished we had given out boxes to 19 people, and we were done with our eggs. These guys want to work but there are no jobs for them right now. The day laborers are certainly facing tough times.
A man to whom I delivered a box yesterday used to be an Uber driver but when the customer base diminished from the lockdown his mileage went down, and his lease for his car increased. He had to return his car, so he has no vehicle at this point. He has been off work for over a month, and he has three children. He was very appreciative of the food, and he asked me questions from the Bible. It was a good interaction.
There are certainly needs all around us. If anyone is interested in donating to Blessings of Hope (www.blessingsofhope.com) for food boxes, you just put in the comments box “Food boxes for NYC” and you can specify the church to which you want the boxes to go. You can also give to Believers in Jesus Church through PayPal at email@example.com. Moving forward, we are hoping to have a delivery come to NYC every Thursday for the next few months. A forty pound box costs $7. It’s an amazing opportunity.
Remember the meals for healthcare workers that we began bringing in early April? I just pictured doing a few meals a week here and there. The Anabaptist Covid-19 Response team took that to a whole new level and had a team here for five weeks bringing thousands of pre-packaged box lunches to EMS workers and hospitals who were stretched thin during the Covid-19 crisis here in New York City.
Oh, and I want to give a short update on two of our friends. On Thursday, Sandy had a chance to talk for about an hour with our neighbor who had been on the ventilator with C-19 for about ten days. She has come out of this a changed woman. She’s more gentle, and she says that God saved her life. Sandy was so encouraged with the conversation. I spoke with a good friend Thursday evening who also was deathly sick with Covid. He said that on day 10 he was sure he was going to die, but he began rebuking Covid-19 and claiming the blood of Jesus, and it’s like his sickness lifted. He said that he learned a lesson in that time that we have a lot of authority in the name of Jesus. On the same day we had the chance to hear testimonies from two different persons whose C-19 sickness had actually served to strengthen their faith. Testimonies of God's goodness are better than an iced coffee in July.