Fri., Dec. 9, 2016
Luke 1:42: In a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
When I became a pastor, I remember writing an e-mail to someone from church. I wasn’t sure how to sign it. “Sincerely” seemed not personal enough. “Yours Truly” seemed stuffy. My fingers quickly typed “Blessings” followed by my name. For the last +16.5 years, I have signed every e-mail, card, letter, thank you note I’ve written with “Blessings.” It’s become my handle and a reminder of how blessed I am.
This fall, the word “blessings” has taken on a new meaning. Over a year ago, I became aware of the Blessings in a Backpack (BIAB) program. Volunteers put together food packages which are distributed to needy students on Friday. This provides food for kids to eat over the weekend.
The North Windsor UMC that I serve had a garage sale in summer 2015. $1,500 was donated to the DeForest BIAB program to feed 15 kids for one school year. With average weekly costs of $2.63/student, $100 feeds one student per school year.
Fast forward to spring 2016. For months, my heart felt the need to have a Poynette BIAB, where the other church I serve is located. The church was starting a remodel/addition project. How far could resources be spread? I and Ruth Ann visited the DeForest program. We helped pack 100+ bags and learned more about their program.
Last summer, the church decided to pursue the program. I’d solicited some volunteers to help with shopping, finances and volunteer recruitment. The local food pantry provided initial financial support with a $5,000 donation. I just needed the school on board.
After meeting with the school’s Director of Student Services, David, I felt momentum. After school board approval, David and I picked the last Friday in September to kick-off distribution. At a volunteer organizational meeting, I was overwhelmed when 10 showed up. Pat, our main shopper, and I wheeled two carts during the initial shopping trip. We planned menus while picking out food.
At the first packing day, over 20 volunteers came! The 13 bags were packed fast and delivered to the school. We were in business.
Today, volunteers will pack 45 food bags for kids who might not otherwise have to eat this weekend. They receive two breakfast items, two dinner items and four snacks. Local school counselors make calls, initiate parental consent and discreetly distribute bags. A school employee thanked us for the food packages. She described how one student was so happy to get the food, especially the cherry pop tart. A 15 cent cherry pop tart. The $2.63/student/weekend is less than the cheapest drink at Starbuck’s. Less than a coffee and a muffin at most convenience stores. Yet, it means some child will have food this weekend.
Blessings comes in many different ways. Elizabeth tells Mary how “blessed” she is when she arrives at her house. Mary is blessed as she carries the Messiah. Elizabeth feels blessed being in the presence of the Messiah’s mother. The baby is also a blessing.
I pray we all feel blessed in some way. One way to feel blessed is by blessing someone else. There are many, many ways to be a blessing and bless others. What is one program/ministry you can adopt this Advent and shower with blessings? Putting food into a box to Jesus’ birthday box is one way. Think of another way. I’m confident you will be blessed in the process.
Lord God, it is no mistake Elizabeth calls Mary “blessed.” Help us to see and count all the blessings in our lives this day. Place before us a clear opportunity to bless another person this Advent. Amen.
Today’s item for Jesus’ birthday box: box of cereal
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The local newspaper recently published an article on the Poynette BIAB program. Here’s the link to learn more about this program: