Shepherd’s Lunch: A Heart for the Hungry
I’ve always had a heart for the underdog, the underprivileged and the outcasts of society. Our family has enjoyed serving the poor and homeless through the ministry of Shepherd’s Lunch since 2009. The simple act of serving a meal can speak volumes to those in need. When we first started attending, our kids were ages 7, 5, and 1. I would put Ruth in a high chair and she’d help put cookies on plates while Luke and Esther would help with bread. We now have 4 kids and a full schedule, so we don’t serve as often as we’d like to, but whenever we do, it is a blessing.
The Shepherd’s Lunch takes place at Munsey United Methodist Church in downtown Johnson City. Let me set the scene for you, so you can picture what a typical visit at the Shepherd’s Lunch is like: The room is a buzz with chatter. People are filing in to find a seat. There are rows of tables. First, we set up the food, plates, and trays. Everyone has an area to serve. Next, someone from church will pray and give a short devotional. Last, we serve the food and clean up! That’s it.
During our first few visits, we started off feeling a bit nervous and stayed glued to the food line. After a while, we began to recognize the regulars and vice versa. We became better acquainted with a few individuals and got to know more of their stories. One older woman named “Miss Bonnie” became a dear friend. She always updates us on her health and her family. We were so proud of her the day she informed us that she finally quit smoking! Some don’t want to chit chat and just want to eat and be left alone, but you never know what a smile and kind word given in Jesus’ Name can do! I’ve learned that when we step out in obedience to the Lord’s commands and have a servant’s heart, God changes us too. We go there to serve others and meet a need, but we end up leaving with a plateful of blessings ourselves!
Another regular attender greets me with a huge smile and an encouraging word. She’s a Christian woman just struggling to get by but she never complains and shares how God always meets her needs at just the right moment. I’m convicted of my grumbling and complaining over insignificant things. Ouch! One year, I was asked to give the devotional before the meal. Me? I didn’t want to talk in front of this room full of people. What would I say? But I’m so glad I submitted to the Holy Spirit’s prodding. I learned to depend on the Lord more and trust that God’s Word would not return void and would accomplish all that He wanted it to. Another year, we wanted to do something special for the attenders at Christmas time. So, we got a group of kids together and we baked cookies and decorated bags to put the cookies in. Everyone got a bag of cookies & treats, along with the candy cane story to take home that day! We even decorated the tables and put special Christmas paper placemats down at the tables before they arrived. The look on their faces and their verbal expressions of gratitude were their Christmas gift to us!
Many of these folks are in bondage to drugs and alcohol. Some have made poor decisions and are now living out the consequences. Some have been given a bad lot in life and are trying their best to press on. Elderly, middle aged, teens, young children, all ages and stages pass through the doors to be fed. My prayer is that they are not only fed physically but also spiritually as they hear God’s Word and see Jesus’ love in action among them. They are all made by our Creator and He loves each and every one! I often think of my sister, Julia, when I go to serve with the Shepherd’s Lunch. Sadly, I lost my sister to a drug overdose 5 years ago. She died at the age of 41. She had some negative influences in her life and made some bad decisions along the way. Julia found herself homeless at times and going to churches to get a free meal. As I lay my head on my pillow at night, I think of the folks at the Shepherd’s Lunch and say a prayer for them. While I’m inside in the comfort and shelter of my home, with A/C and heating, where are they? Perhaps sleeping at a park, under a bridge, or in their car? I’m reminded to be thankful and to not take for granted all the many blessings I have. I pray that those who find themselves in bondage and hopeless life situations ultimately find their hope in Christ. We can be a bright light to them! I hope to see YOU at the next Shepherd’s Lunch!
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matt. 25: 37-40