One of the more interesting aspects of working at a faith-based non-profit organization is that it is never clear how God is going to work through people at the beginning of any task. Of course, we understand that God is with us and he works through us, but often times, he is not delivering stone tablets from heaven directing us what to do. Rather, what we are left with are dreams, visions and callings that can range from vivid to murky.
There was a lot of murkiness a few weeks ago when I was approached by someone on the church staff, Jason, with an idea of feed the hungry. Armed with nothing more than a website, Jason declared, “This is what God wants me to do. Help me make it happen.”
The video was the story of Allan Law. Allan is certainly not a household name here and probably not even in his hometown of Minneapolis, but his work is amazing. Seventeen years ago, Mr. Law retired from his job as a public school teacher and decided to help feed the hungry. His work basically involves making sandwiches out of his apartment and distributing them as he walks the streets of Minneapolis every night — yes, every night, in Minneapolis. In 17 years, he has distributed over 700,000 sandwiches. He gets literally no sleep, operates on a shoestring budget and has 17 freezers in his apartment to keep the sandwiches cold. Even though he isn’t faith-based, you can tell the spirit is in him.
So, this is what Jason wanted to do. He wanted to make sandwiches to feed the hungry. After a lot of brainstorming and discussions, Jason and I found a group already feeding the hungry and felt that Jason’s idea could latch on to something already established.
Collaborating under the watchful eyes of Captains Doug and Bethannie Dolder, Jason and his team, are currently distributing sandwiches along with the Salvation Army’s Summer Feeding Program.
For years, the Salvation Army has been feeding children in Piqua through their mobile canteen unit. Every Monday through Friday, a dedicated team of volunteers help meet the nutritional needs of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything to tide these kids over on Saturday and Sunday. Enter Jason’s idea.
Jason felt called to distribute sandwiches on Friday’s to at least try to tide the youngsters over on the weekend. A decision was made to provide two bologna sandwiches to each youngster that the Salvation Army served.
Armed with shoestring budget and a clear mission, the first round of sandwiches were distributed in late June. As we rode around parts of Piqua, Jason and I were both confronted with the stark reality of rural poverty. Jason confided in me that he was shocked by the breadth and depth of the poverty that exists, even in our own county.
Perhaps we are conditioned to believe that poverty is something that only exists in the urban areas of America. In fact, poverty exists everywhere. In every county, in every town, in every neighborhood. At each stop, Jason and I were welcomed with warm smiles and big “thank yous” from all the kids that were not only getting a hot lunch, but also a little something for the weekend.
After the first week, it would have been all too easy to say that it was a fun adventure. But as we saw the need, we saw that the need was too great to pass up. A commitment was made to do this every Friday for the rest of the summer.
Fortunately, we found allies. Our good friends at the Miami County Foundation provided us with a much needed donation and members of the community have come forward to help. Currently, we have a husband and wife team from Kettering that helps make and distribute the sandwiches.
It is amazing to see the amazing things God is still doing in our communities. That first video of a humble man in Minneapolis who passes out sandwiches to the homeless has inspired a new program that has involved dozens of people, hundreds of kids and at last count, 828 bologna sandwiches.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.