After about an hour, our first mother arrived at our door. She was one of the women who had contacted Emily a few weeks earlier . She had a three month old premature baby girl who could only digest a certain brand of formula- Emfamil AR. And because of government red tape or whatever you want to call it, her Wic voucher could not be used to purchase this particular brand of expensive, doctor recommended formula. You see, WV is a Similac state-meaning you can only use your vouchers for Similac formula products. Now I could go on and on about my opinion of this purchasing limitation (insert a few choice words) but that is beside the point. This baby needed this formula and so the church purchased it for her, from Amazon. This mother was so grateful. She even wanted to help pay for the formula... We loaded her up with diapers, wipes, A&D ointment and a few very tiny knitted hats along with the much needed formula with the promise of more next month. I can not count the number of times she said thank you.
For the next hour several other mothers and one grandmother filtered in each receiving much needed supplies, conversation and hugs of support. I was feeling so much better by this time-my spirits were lifted and I was glad to be there. And then around 10:30 or so she came in. I saw her get out of her car and slowly walk to our door--so thin and frail. She was an older woman in her late 60's early 70"s and I assumed that she was yet another grandmother doing her share to help raise her extended family. She walked up to the table and handed me a folded sheet of paper-- her hands shaking. She was not here for diapers. She was here looking for a food bank-- a food bank she thought we had. We are not however, a food bank...... My heart sank. I had to tell her that she had come to the wrong place. That we had diapers and wipes but no food. Emily sprang into action and told her about the Cridlin food pantry at Trinity. We offered her a seat while Emily ran upstairs to write down all the information she could find about Cridlin. That's when one of the most amazing conversations began. For the next hour and a half we all just sat and talked. She told us all about her three children, her health, her recent move back to the area, her many jobs in sales and real estate and her travels across the country and around the world. Linda Wilkinson told her about the various senior community programs offered in the area. We invited her to church, to join our community , to come to our Wednesday night dinners. And when it was time for her to leave we exchanged hugs, laughter and a few tears. All of us felt a deep connection. We watched her walk to her car and drive off--lamenting the fact that we had been unable to help her with her need for food....And yet I do feel sure that we did provide her with some feeling of community, human love, connection and friendship. We had laughed and cried and connected in a truly meaningful way. The mutual feeding of soul and spirit had to count for something. We all worried about her and expressed our hope that we would see her again.
The search for food, clothing, shelter, diapers, wipes or formula must be an exhausting task let alone the search for human connection and understanding. It takes courage to come to a place, no matter how welcoming that place is, to ask for help. That's why I am so inspired to offer as much as we can for these families. Perhaps we need to consider keeping some non-perishable food items on hand so that no one leaves empty handed ever again. Was our friend able to find the help she needed at Cridlin? Will she get the medical help she needs? Will I ever meet her again? These questions and many more have haunted me for the past week. I think of these families all the time. I've imagined shelves upon shelves of items to give to the families we serve. I want to do more.
I share these stories with you in hopes that you will understand a little bit more about what we offer on the third Tuesday of every month. We welcome anybody who would like to volunteer. And we would gladly accept any donations you would be willing to give. I don't want to nickle and dime you--budgets are tight, I understand. There is so much need in this world that it is hard to know where your money is most needed and most effective. But I truly believe that the Gabriel Project here at St. John's is one of our most important Outreach ministries. And for those of you who contributed so incredibly to our baby shower-- THANK YOU!!! All of your gifts were appreciated more than you could ever imagine.
We are all called to do God's work in the world--Gabriels Project is the perfect way to do just that.