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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Food Pantry

About two years ago, I noticed that the food pantry at my church was in need of food. In fact they put out a call because they were out of food. What makes this shocking is that my church has over 3,000 members. Now, I couldn't hardly believe that the membership was just not wanting to help. So, I started talking about it with my mother, she told me that she too had some concern about this. During the same week, we both had the urge within us to actively do something.

We approached the church administrator and spoke to him about how we might go about helping. He told us that there wasn't even a structured ministry for the food pantry. The janitorial staff took care of most of it, they used a small part of one of their storage closets. In fact, when we got to look at their operation, we found half a box of ramen noodles, a box of canned green beans, and half a flat of soup cans. It was hardly enough to take care of a few people. The janitors would take the food they had and box it up and that was handed out by the Secretary.

Mom and I both decided to to something to help. The church offered us a large closet all our own, and we began posting the needs in the bulletin. Soon one of the Sunday school classes bought up 900 dollars in food fitting the requirements we set out. In less than a week, we were able to fill boxes with 20 to 25 pounds of food. By that first week, we began to be able to hand out around 15 boxes each week.

We liked how they handled handing out the boxes, so we let them continue that part. Our job would be to manage the intake of donations, and putting the boxes together. Mom builds the boxes, writes down the list of needs, and makes sure to keep getting the word out. I handle the storage and filling the boxes.

 Around the time we started I learned that a friend of mine had had to ask for help from another organization in town. They were given a box of food, and it was almost completely ramen noodles. A fine food, but not the right stuff to make a meal every day for several days. Especially considering the fact that my friend had high blood pressure, and that meant she could not use the flavor packet for the noodles. I made up my mind that these boxes should be filled with diverse foods, not just a bunch of the same thing.
The idea of the boxes: The food we hand out is not to subsidize a persons needs over a long period of time. We are here to help people who are facing an emergency need, a sudden bill that is too much, a car repair that takes out your funds for the month, a broken leg that keeps you from working. Frankly, if you need constant need, we will send you to other organizations that are more equipped to help. We do have pop-top cans of meal worthy food for travelers that need a meal on the go, though there are not that many of those each month.

What goes in the boxes:
 One box tuna helper
two cans tuna
one jar peanut butter (small)
two sleeves crackers (saltines)
two box mac&cheese
two packs ramen noodles
one pound pasta noodles (angel hair is best)
four cans assorted vegetables
one regular or 2 small cans fruit
two cans soup
one can of beans
two small cans Vienna sausage
one pack corn muffin mix
three various snack type items
four sleeves powdered milk ( all 4 make one gallon)

Recently, we added a new item. The Lifeway Christian Bookstore in our city held a Bible drive for us. They collected over 400 bibles. We are able to put one bible per box. Now, we understand that Christians ask for help too, so we also add in a small flyer that says ''If you do not need this bible, please give it to someone who does." This is a ministry after all. We service the food need first, but the biblical needs are a part of it too. Our pastor has told us that the church will start to help make the Bibles available through the Gidieons.

The day that we were shown the pantry, the man pointed to a window in the room. He said, " just make sure we can get to that window, it's how we service the air conditioners on the roof." I laughed and looked at the six empty shelving units and said, " I pray for the day that I worry about blocking that window." Two weeks passed and we got a call from Bushes Beans, who happen to be located not too far from us. They offered us all kinds of cans of beans, and bags of dried beans ( And I mean HUGE bags of dried beans we had to bag up in smaller containers.) With the large lot brought in by the Sunday school class and all those beans, I was storing things all over the place. I had boxes filling the floor, and blocking the window. I stood back and muttered to myself, " Wow, gotta watch that window.....wait a minute." I realized then that God is a mighty, powerful, allpowerful god, who likes to show off. Since then, and up until today, we have yet to turn anyone away for lack of food. Even through the financial crisis in America and the massive jobless rate of my area we still have the food we need to help those that come to us. And the only item in the food box that is bought by the church itself is the powdered milk, an expensive item that  people don't often donate.

So, keep in mind that this sort of ministry only works when you help. We appreciate the person who gives one can as much as the class that donates 900 dollars in food. Next time you shop, consider adding an additional can of soup to your order, and then donate that to a food pantry in your church, or other place of help. And remember, this is not my ministry, its God's. I am merely the hand that He uses to continue His work. The glory belongs to Him, in all things.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bark: Uncovered

In the Bark story for the Clash: Rise of Heroes, the main character has an unusual experience. Upon having his physical examination by a robotic nurse, the nurse informs him that there has to be a documented photo of his biology, sans clothing. He reluctantly obliges. He was unaware that this robot nurse was reprogrammed to have the emotions of a hormonal teenage girl. The picture was not for the medical lab, but for her....enjoyment. I, of course, did not publish this picture with the release of the book, but I thought I might as well publish it. If you have dirty mind, click the link.

If you want to see the whole picture, click here

Monday, April 9, 2012

Springtime in East Tennessee

 Spring has arrived in East Tennessee. Okay, it didn't just arrive, this year it ran in so fast that we are still running down the road after it. Yes, winter was hardly anything around here and by mid march, we were enjoying the kind of days that usually don't show up until mid-April.

Look hard, there is a bee right in front of you in this pic.
I love spring. It is, by far, my favorite time of the year. I cannot put my finger on a single reason, there are many to choose from. I always loved seeing school end, I was a gardening type of kid, I adore being able to open the windows and let in sweet smelling breezes, everyone seems to be a little happier, winter is over. Not one, but all of these and more. It is especially unusual considering where I grew up. Coming from Oklahoma, you would think that Spring was the time of year that I should dread. Twisters, hail the size of grapefruit, lightening that could blow apart trees, and torrential rain. But, even with all the down sides to an Oklahoman spring, I still grew up loving them. Now, I live in East Tennessee. It is less likely that I will encounter a tornado here, and the hail could be used to make snow cones (most of the time, we can forget about the hail last year). East Tennessee is renowned for its wild flowers, its blooming trees, and the greenery. The mountains come alive in spring, blooming every shade of spring color. The dogwoods are so spectacular, and prevalent, that they have all sorts of festivals around them all over the place.

If you don't believe me, check these pics out. I took them only feet away from my house this year (with the exception of the image at the bottom), and this years pics are nothing compared to last years.

Here is a type of Bradford pear tree. This type likes to hang onto its berries. It is a contrast to see the dark, dead berries from last year, with blooms all around them.

Here are some regular Bradford pear flowers from a line of the trees growing at the back of our property.
These are cherry blossom trees, or sakura. They are special to me, as they grow in front of my sensei's house. The day I took this picture was only three days before she passed from cancer. I will treasure this image, remembering all the love and beauty she brought into this world.