This evening, I had the privilege of seeing something beautiful. I was at work (yes that's right, something beautiful, at work) but not in my normal capacity.
See the school district hires my company to provide service in the school kitchens, so when an organization wants to use those school kitchens outside of their normal function, they need someone from my company there to "supervise." To be totally honest, I did like no supervising. I answered a few questions, helped out when I was needed, and that was about it. They were grown, intelligent people, they didn't need a babysitter.
Anyhow, the group that was there tonight was from Outward Church, and they were there doing a massive amount of prep work for tomorrow, when the real show happens. They provide families with some cheer. This year, over 100 families are being blessed with a full turkey dinner, a bag of toys, a bag of useful things, a bag of Christmas decorations, and a Christmas tree to hang some of those decorations on.
Sounds fairly simple, right? Pretty much all of us can picture what a Thanksgiving meal looks like, and how. a decorated home shines. Now picture it times 100. Yeah.
And this is not the only day they've been working on this event. Aside from all of the planning involved, there was also a crew who drove out to Scio to collect some donated Christmas trees. They cut, loaded, and hauled over 100 trees in the pouring rain. And then they unloaded all of them at the school we were at today, and trimmed them up all pretty, flattened out the bottoms, and placed them in tree stands to be delivered in the morning. That's right. ALL of the goodies heading to these local families are being hand delivered by volunteers ON Thanksgiving Day. And then yesterday there was a group of people working to prepare the side dishes, and then today they were beautifying the trees and cooking turkeys and organizing everything so the delivery will go smoothly tomorrow.
It cost $70 to fund one family, and while a few things were donated from businesses the money was largely raised from within their church. Everyone knows what the economy is like right now, money is tight for a lot of people, and yet they gave to allow families of these elementary kids to have a brighter holiday. They gave money, resources, and time.
I didn't know what I was in for when I agreed to take this shift. My thought process was, "Sure I'll work, it'll help make up for all the days off recently" and then I got there and was so blown away by how much larger of a scale this thing actually was. It was beautiful.
I didn't hear a single person say they were tired or didn't want to be there or even hint at being grumpy. One guy even told me he had worked a 15hr day yesterday and when I said, "and then you've been here all day?!:" He replied with, "Yeah, but this isn't work, this is fun" (I feel like I should mention that he was covered in mud from Christmas trees)
I'm not trying to say that this church is better than another. #1, it isn't true, and #2, they probably wouldn't like me saying that =P But the attitude of joy and generosity that they projected was lovely. I think it is important to stress (as if I haven't done it enough) that this was not a fundraiser for the church. They weren't getting paid for being there, they in fact paid to be there.
I think there is a danger in church culture (or in really any culture) to get caught up in raising money for ourselves. To clarify, I don't think there is anything wrong with fundraisers, it is GOOD to build a budget. But when was the last time I actually did something with a group of my peers that benefited our community? That didn't charge them for a service? That was just a gift? I'm a little ashamed to admit that it's been a while.
I think that far too often our focus tends to be on how we are going to flourish and not often enough on how we can help others flourish. Even the good intentions of, "once we flourish then we can help others flourish better" can be a trap. Maybe we need to listen more and worry less. Maybe we need to be willing to move if God says move. To trust Him enough that maybe we use our withering budget on someone who doesn't have one at all and trust that God will always provide what we actually need. Again, I'm not saying that it's a bad thing to have a budget, and if God says to raise one, then I think we should do it. I just also think we should be listening. I know nothing about this church or these people or their budget, so I'm not trying to compare, I was just inspired by them tonight.
They will be in my prayers tomorrow, that hand delivering everything goes smoothly, and that hearts are affected and softened. And for energy for those dear volunteers, lots of energy.
Side note, one of the pastors at this church apparently knows my Uncle Levi because his wife met Levi while she was in YWAM in Hawaii while Levi was on staff there. Small world =P
In short, I'm thankful that even when I feel like I have little, I have a lot. I have far more than a good amount of the earth does, and I thank God SO much for that. I'm thankful for people like the ones I met tonight, who inspire and challenge me, even while being total strangers. I'm thankful for the family I have, the wonderful people God gave me to are beyond awesome. I'm thankful that tomorrow (er, later today) my home is going to be full of people I love, and who love me. I'm so thankful for my friends who hold me accountable, and for my church community that is always teaching me something. And I'm so thankful that God plucked me from a life of death, that He saved me from a life of hopelessness and fear and gave the choice of having one to work at and to cherish and to thrive in. And I'm thankful for yams and turkey.