October 21, 2013

Searching the Obvious

The rain finds me on the streets of Fort Worth. With no umbrella 

I search for signs that will lead me to the shelter. Why does it always rain on days like today? I turn the corner and stop. This is not a shelter. This is a house!

* * *

My friend Hellen started a project with church friends: a shelter. The 5-month-old shelter is where people in the area who are homeless come three times a day for a hot meal. Most of the people who visit the shelter are not always “homeless,” but they still need help, such as single mothers, veterans, runaway teenagers—anyone who needs a hot meal.

Hellen tells me the idea for the shelter kept her up for years. She knew there was a need. One night, about 3:00 in the morning, she simply got out of bed, knelt, prayed, and asked God for guidance. She was certain that if God had placed this idea in her mind, He would bless the project.

A week later I am running through rainy streets, having accepted Hellen’s invitation to participate in a meal service at the shelter. I didn’t expect the shelter to be a house. I open the door and am greeted by the wonderful aroma of food: potatoes, broccoli casserole, fresh baked bread, fruit, and stew. I instantly feel the warmth. This is the right place.

* * *

An apron and hairnet later, I am assigned to hand out beverages: a variety of juices, milk, and water. Hellen introduces me to the volunteers and to the main chef, Moses, who is at the shelter every day. My station is next to Moses’ six burners all stocked with big pots of stew. As people walk up, Moses gives them a choice of stew, asks about their day, and makes them laugh. He knows everyone by name.

As the busy evening shift moves along, I take a good look at the transformed, single-level home, now serving as a dining area with tables, flower vases, and plastic silverware wrapped in paper napkins. The only walls in the room divide the dining area from the kitchen. Everyone sitting at the tables is eating, talking; they are family.

Just then from the corner of my eye I see Moses leave and walk through the double doors into the kitchen. Is he all right? I glance at the entrance where Hellen is greeting more guests. More people arrive.I walk over to Moses’ station and peek into the pots, each less than half full. Do we have enough food? I look at the food stations and the number of people coming in. There’s not enough food.

Taking advantage of a lull in the food line, I head toward the kitchen. Maybe Moses needs help bringing out more food. I quietly push the door open. Moses is kneeling in the corner, unaware of my presence. He is praying: “God, we need the miracle of loaves and fishes to feed Your children . . .” I humbly listen to the powerful, sincere words as the hungry and tired are held up in prayer.

I quietly return to my post. The serving line is long, yet the food trays arrive at my station with full plates of food and bowls of warm stew for the rainy evening. Why have we not run out of food?

Three hours later the room is empty. I am in disbelief at the trays of leftovers packed for tomorrow’s meals. How can there be leftovers? I walk out with Hellen and Moses. Walking through the mild rain, I can’t help asking: “Does the shelter sometimes run low on food?” Moses glances at me, smiles, and says: “No, ma’am, always a gracious plenty.”

The obvious is clear to me. Moses’ prayer in the kitchen was answered. God heard the prayers of a retired chef. God made sure that none of His children went hungry. I am aware that I was in the presence of a miracle, of an answered prayer. Suddenly I am grateful for the rain, as my eyes well up with tears of gratitude and realization. All I can think is: How great Thou art.