I have been told by more than one person that I’m “very practical.” I take it as a compliment (although sometimes it’s not intended as such).
Being so practical, I was pleased to spend 90 minutes this evening reading Marty Girardier’s How Shall We Feed Them? A Practical Guide for Organizing a Food Pantry.
Not only did it touch the practical side of my brain, it spoke to my spirit.
Girardier, who reorganized her church’s food pantry before moving to a smaller church and partnering with the larger church’s pantry, has learned by experience and dedication what it takes to make a success out of feeding the hungry, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the down-and-out – one bag of groceries at a time.
She knows it takes a hands-on approach to the practical matters of stocking the pantry, distributing bags of food, organizing volunteers and the 101 other things involved in such an undertaking. But there’s another hands-on task we’re called to. It starts by realizing that we, the church body, are the hands and arms of Jesus in the world. We have been called to take a very hands-on approach to ministering to a person’s spirit as well as his stomach.
An effective and spirit-filled food pantry volunteer is not merely someone who fills a bag with canned goods and ramen noodles; it is someone who isn’t afraid to stop what he’s doing and ask the unemployed dad or the woman with crying babies if she can pray with them. It’s someone who not only prays with that desperate person on the spot but remembers to pray for him long after the brief encounter is over. We are Jesus to a hurting world. Jesus didn’t just fill stomachs with food – he served as the Bread of Life so that we would never hunger again, and Living Water so that we would never thirst. In fact, He’s still doing that – to us and through us.
But back to the “practical” stuff (as if Bread and Water aren’t the most practical things in the world!).
Girardier offers all kinds of tips on organizing and maintaining a food pantry. I was minimally involved years ago with the food pantry at my previous church, and I hadn’t heard of some of these great ideas – ones that take the ministry to another level of caring. They even caused me to come up with a few of my own ideas.
- The ministry included encouraging cards in the bags of food that were prepared ahead of time. Sometimes the bags also included Christian magazines or other materials.
- At holiday time, the Sunday school children made Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s cards to include in the bags.
Each chapter ends with a “Stop and Pray!” section, followed by a segment called “A Storehouse Blessing” – a story shared by someone who was blessed by receiving from and/or giving to the food pantry.
The back of the book includes checklists, forms, a sample reminder postcard and other aids to getting and staying organized.
Scripture and biblical principals are abundant in this book, thus the part that “spoke to my spirit.” My two main spiritual gifts are giving and serving, and it seems that Girardier may share those God-bestowed gifts. This book blesses the giving and serving parts of my brain, not to mention my heart.
“Organizing the food pantry, distributing food, collecting food, writing encouraging cards, and stocking the shelves are pieces of a bigger plan God will use to show His love to those in need. Meeting a food recipient’s physical need is just the first step to showing God’s love.”
It’s not the government’s job to feed the needy. That job belongs to the body of Christ. He calls us to feed His sheep. Let’s do it.
If your church is thinking about starting or revitalizing a food pantry, please get a copy of How Shall We Feed Them? You might even want to buy a copy for every member of your team. It is available from the publisher, Pleasant Word (a division of WinePress), for $8.75.
Girardier also has a blog called Pantry of Praise. Check it out. You’ll be blessed.