Two great projects today!
1. Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Church. (established 1850!!)
We spent the first part of our day cutting vegetables, cutting butter (?), pouring salad dressing and apple juice, and dishing out cups of fruit in preparations for a daily lunch that is served there. around 11 a.m., they threw open the doors to anybody in the city who wanted to come in and eat. All we asked of them was their first name, and that they return the tray they had been served on. The pictures above tell the story of a hard-working group of friends who had fun serving together, and serving the community of the Lower East Side. After the lunch was served and put away, they rolled out the shelves full of groceries for the food pantry ministry they also host. Our group lead the staff at Trinity to a record-setting day of helping people stock their pantries with food for their families. By the time it was over at 2 p.m., we were whooped! But we still had about 2 hours before our second project of the day started.
So we did what anybody else would do...
We went to Little Italy.
We enjoyed a great late-afternoon meal and saw a section of the city that was previously unknown to many of us. By 4:30, we were back on the job at our next project location:
2. New York City Rescue Mission. NYC Rescue Mission is the second oldest shelter in the world, and the oldest in the United States. Now THAT is knowledge we didn't have before we arrived there. More fascinating trivia? The building they are in used to house the Manhattan Project! These days they use it to feed hundreds of hungry and struggling folks from the streets of downtown New York. They also have 120 beds for men, and (since just a few years ago) about 30 beds for women in an overnight shelter they run. They also do job-services and addiction recovery ministries. But the reason we were there? More food preparation and service. What's that? More trivia you say? Okay. The head chef at the NYC Rescue Mission is an amazing guy named Pedro Rodriguez. You might recognize him from season 17 of the hit TV show Chopped. Here's a clip of him on the Rachael Ray show. Here, we served some of the most beautiful, well-prepared food to hundreds of people, some of whom had checked into the mission to stay for the night. We worked the food line, ran dishes, served dessert and drinks, and welcomed people with friendly faces.
All told, we served over 600 people today. As Abby put it - "more than half a thousand". It sure feels like it. It's the first day, and I am already beat. Many of us are tired and sore. Others are glimpsing tomorrow's soreness and not looking forward to it. But we are joyful in the new friends we have made, the work we have done, and the insights we have gained. We're only one day in, but we have lived our name - Christ the Servant - with passion and purpose today.
Tonight during the debriefing, I asked the group what insights they'd had about the day, and what they wanted you, our congregation to hear. Here are a couple of take-aways.
- Often when you go on a trip like this to bless others, you end up being the one who is blessed. We were offered God's blessings countless times today from people much more in need of a blessing than we. It was humbling.
- We hope that this experience will open our eyes further to the plight of the hungry poor in our own city, and move us toward those people and places that are serving them most passionately. We hope that those of you back home will give of your time and resources to WHAM, the Beacon, Star of Hope, Houston Food Bank, Katy Christian Ministries, or countless other local services that you don't have to travel to participate in.
- Our judgmental notions about what it means to be impoverished in this country are being challenged. I hope it will spill over into other areas of my life!
- Finally (and personally) we have been too busy to follow any of the TV coverage of the current political convention - a fact for which I am eternally grateful. I have filled my soul with something life-giving rather than life-draining and it has been for the better.
More news tomorrow, as we head over to the Lower West Side near Madison Square Garden to serve at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and some of us enter the lottery to win cheap tickets to the Tony Award-Winning smash hit musical Hamilton. Fingers crossed that if we win, we won't be too exhausted to attend.
Grace + Peace,
Elizabeth, Jonathan, Susan, Randy, Colleen, Tina, DJ, Marsha, Abby and J.T.