At Christ Church we have many stories to tell, as we are part of a vibrant life in the Alexandria community. In outreach we encounter our brothers and sisters in need every week and we hold them up in various ways. Many parishioners don't realize that our weekly Lazarus Food Pantry by design is a complete act of faith. Each week we don't know how much food will be donated, we don't require that volunteers sign-up (but hope they will) and we don't know how many guests will come in need of food. Talk about a test of nerves! It is really an act of complete faith and each week it works out: there's always enough food, volunteers and guests. I realize in a world of doubt and negativity this weekly reminder of God’s grace helps anchor me to the deep truth that God is with us.
On a recent February morning we had no volunteer to go to the Capital Area Food Bank to pick up the food in Lorton, Virginia. I am the back up for this ministry and, truthfully, it is one of my least favorite things to do. I am not overly competitive when it comes to grabbing merchandise and I am not used to carrying 50 pound bags of potatoes. However, I put on my happy face and my athletic shoes and headed off to the warehouse, arriving at 7:45 a.m. Little did I know that on that particular day the food bank would have something they never have: fish, tons and tons of frozen fish, swordfish, salmon, flounder, trout, snapper, and monkfish. It was as if Simon Peter cast the net himself. I took several freezer bags and filled them with about 60 pieces, knowing that back at church I had a freezer of beef, pork, and chicken to offer for those who didn't want fish. To my great surprise, they also had watermelon, another atypical choice from the usual potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage that sustain us in the winter months. I grabbed as many as I could carry.
When I got to church with the loot for the pantry I saw that the table that holds the Trader Joe's donations was empty. I knew immediately something was off, and indeed, the volunteer had forgotten to do the pick-up the night before. I called Trader Joe’s and ate some humble pie, apologizing profusely and asked if we could please make a quick run this morning. At first he said no, it was too late, but after further begging on my part, he checked with his manager who said if we sent someone right away we could pick up our donations. A few minutes later our volunteer pulled up her car with double the amount of food we normally get, including the most beautiful loaves of bread, brioches, focaccia, rolls, bagels and baguettes. It also turned out that had bunches of perfectly fine flowers to give away because a new shipment was coming in. So when it looked like we were going to not have enough on that dreary Thursday in February we were, by God’s grace, able to offer our guests the staples of loaves and fishes and the sunshine and warmth of flowers and watermelon.