feeding the 5000 (or 50ish)

This Sunday, our missional community of seven families gathered for our weekly family dinner and “service.” We’re used to a good sized group of people; we have 13 adults and 12 children when we all get together. Planning enough food and space for that many people every week sounds like a task in itself. However, after Vacation Bible School was such a hit, there have been some neighborhood kids that just keep coming back. Our normal group of 25 turned into a group of almost 40. Now, in our own minds, space and food just had to stretch. This Sunday, though, was different.

When I arrived at the Shoemaker’s house, there were only about 20 of us there. I thought tonight was going to be as “normal” as any other Sunday. I was so wrong. The turns, the chaos, the panic, the revelations, and the blessings were about to hit us with an overwhelming force.

At first, a few people showed up at the front door: maybe 5, or 6 people. That was normal enough, and somewhat expected. After all, our Sunday nights just seemed to get a little bigger each time. But this time shocked us all. Children poured in through the front door. At first, we recognized them. Some were neighborhood kids that we’ve all interacted with at some point, whether on a Sunday or during VBS. Then the faces became more unfamiliar. Children and teens who we had never met, kids whose names were never known to us, came through the door and jumped in the line for food. By the time kids stopped showing up, there were probably 30 kids (not including our own children) all piled into two small rooms. And there were 13 adults. Let the chaos begin!

As for the food, we were all thinking the same thing: “There won’t be enough.” There couldn’t possibly be enough food to go around and feed all of these children! It simply wasn’t planned for, and couldn’t possibly have been anticipated. We fed the children first, just in case we ran out. I’m sure, like myself, some of the adults wondered if they would get to eat at all. Once the children were all fed, we could go assess the damage, and grab what was left over. I was one of the last adults to grab my plate of food. I expected there to be NOTHING left. And oh my goodness was I in for a shock. There was not only enough food for the remaining adults, but there was MORE THAN ENOUGH. We were able to eat our fill, and at the end of the night, there was even a bit of leftovers. The Lord provided. He took what little we had, and stretched it to feed the many. Now maybe this wasn’t seven loaves of bread, two fish, and over 5,000 people, but the Lord revealed something to us that day: HE will provide. I really felt my faith had been challenged for ever having a shadow of a doubt.

After everyone was finished eating, we began our lesson. We split up all the kids into groups. Each group had about eight kids, and the two adults per group were to talk about prayer with the kids, and pray with them individually and as a group. For me, this took me out of my comfort zone. I love kids and love to play with kids, but to pray with them, especially kids I didn’t know? Any other day I would have wanted to crawl into my shell and disappear. But this day was different. I had a confidence, I knew what to say, and I knew what kids hungered the most for the Lord. The feelings of uneasiness vanished, and the courageous response resonated throughout our missional community. Everyone stepped forward, and never took a second guess as to whether or not they could handle it. Our courage came from the Lord, and my, oh my, is He good at challenging us when we least expect it.

After everyone went home, the members of our missional community gathered to discuss the afternoon and end in prayer. A few things people talked about resonate in my mind today, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them for the past couple days.

Stretching: The Lord showed us this day that we need to have faith in His provisions, and that He will stretch whatever needs to be stretched for His glory. In this instance, food and space. I don’t remember ever feeling cramped or like there were too many people. I don’t know how we fit that many people in one area, or how we fed them all. I can honestly say, the Lord truly “stretched” what needed to be stretched.

Flexibility: We thought, as a whole, that we were flexible. We made it through VBS with 50 kids and 7-10 adults each day, right? We were challenged on our flexibility, and by His grace, and ONLY by His grace (I can assure you), we made it out alive.

And the stories. Some of the stories that the adults shared about the children were astonishing. One girl, who was anxious about the amount of people present STILL said that we just needed to invite more. Without ever considering her OWN feelings of stress or uncomfortability, she wanted to step forward, and step out on faith, for Jesus Christ.

This last Sunday may not have gone as planned. It may not have gone as smoothly as anticipated. It went better. We reached more children for Christ, and learned a few things along the way. As adults who have claimed to have faith and who want to serve the Lord, we were taught valuable lessons in faith, courage, and flexibility. I believe the blessings we received that day, amidst all the chaos, have inspired and impacted us in ways we didn’t anticipate when we showed up for our “normal” missional community that afternoon.

Truth delivered

 

There was once a bright sunny day.

The clouds had to stay away.

For a Community made their way

To a wonderful place to stay.

 

They set up their tasty food,

And then explained what to do.

Why you could only guess,

Passing out Bibles, Yes!

 

God set up a donation,

From a wonderful location,

Of the books they so loved,

To share with the young!

 

With a prayer to start the journey,

Of the Holy Spirit’s urging.

They knew hearts were ready;

 

So they split in to groups

And went out giving Truth

In the form of a book.

 

They were all able to find

The right houses. It was divine!

 

With a ring or a knock

They had the chance to talk

Of the fun exciting week.

That made the devil weak!

 

And of the life changing decision,

The young kids did mention!

They gave away Bibles,

One of God’s many inventions.

 

They remembered to share

Of the tasty food prepared.

And hoped they showed care

For the youngest ones there.

 

With a skip in their step,

They walked back with a pep.

For Courben did pray

Over the food on that day.

 

So now you know,

What God has sowed

Why you can only guess,

We have been so blessed!



He first loved us

He first loved us

Sometimes it’s easy to expect a return on investment for almost everything we do.  We buy a car, and we know they lose value instantly, but we research resale values because even though we’ve just purchased the car we’re already concerned about what return we can get on it later.  We do the same with houses, cell phones, sometimes clothes, and even sometimes our children.  All of this concern with ROI isn’t all that bad, in fact the Bible tells a story where 3 men are given a large sum of money, then the giver leaves and later comes back and checks to see what the 3 men did with their cash.  The one who gave expected the men to DO something with it, and he was concerned about how responsible they were with what they were given.  In other words, concern for return represents a posture of responsibility.

This week as we went OUT into the Wilson Ave neighborhood to give people Valentine cards and chocolates, this all was kind of in the back of my mind; this idea that we’re doing things, but we may not see movement for a long time, that the return on our investment may not be quickly realized or recognized.  But then, of course, God shows his grace.  It wasn’t that I was discouraged by these thoughts, but God is the perfect encourager.  People were glad to see us!  This isn’t different than the other times we’ve been out in the neighborhood, but different people were in their homes this time around and it was amazing to see their surprise.  There was something so wonderful on their faces as we went door to door.  Sure it was surprise, but more than that it looked like relief.  They seemed genuinely hopeful that we were there.  And it hit me, this is certainly a return on investment.  Now we’re definitely planning for long-term as well, but sometimes it sure it nice to receive in the short-term too!

The cool thing about this, I think, is that it must work similarly for Jesus, too.  I mean, look at 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”  See that there?  He FIRST loved us.  He made the initial investment, and He’s still investing in us.  I’m sure sometimes He’s please with us and that we bring Him joy.  I’m sure sometimes he feels a short-term return.  But I am also confident He’s planned for a long-term investment and a long-term return.  The difference for Christ though, is that He is planning for so much more; He’s planning for us to be fully returned and restored to Him.

It is truly a blessing to have the privilege of going out in the cold to share that He loved us first.

Happy Valentine’s Day!