A Parable of Abundance and The Realities of Scarcity

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On Saturday morning, I took 20 bags of food to deliver to day laborers at the Vila’s parking lot. This particular parking lot is where many Central and South American men gather hoping to get work for a day. Each Christmas, on Christmas day we have a breakfast and worship service with the guys who come here to wait. We are also distributing food bags from our food pantry once a month now. This Saturday, I was expecting two Latina women from our ministry to join me. We are working hard to build a sense of our shared mission and ministry and to involve our children with the broader community we are a part of. Ana and Juana hauled their little ones out of bed early to come and help me.

Unfortunately, the two ladies were riding together and had some car trouble so they arrived at Vila’s a little late. As soon as I showed up, the men sort-of swarmed my car. I am never mobbed but there is always an edge of desperation that could make things quite scary if they got out of hand. I decided I needed to get started handing out the bags. It was the usual noisy, friendly push and shove of greetings, demands, appreciation I work with when I am with these guys. Then the two women and their four little children came up to my car. The men went so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. One of the men who was next in line to get his bag said, “Madrecita, let me help gather the food back up from all of us–the families, those little children, need it more than we.” When I explained that the families were here to help and visit with them, I watched a bunch of really rough and tough guys greet those four little children and their moms with a kind of respectfulness that was simply beautiful to witness. Unfortunately, there were considerably more men than bags this time around so the next thing that happened was the guys gathered together and divvied up the contents of the bags. As far as I could tell, no one left without something to eat.

The reign of God, what is it like? Maybe something like a parking lot full of day laborers on a hot summer morning.

The realities of ministry–what are they like?

We serve our community in an old building with old stuff. This summer the dishwasher and the stove in our kitchen broke down. We feed about 65 people a day during our intensive reading camp so both of those pieces of equipment simply must work. Then this last Wednesday, right before lunchtime, there was a small explosion that started a fire behind our refrigerator. It was serious enough we had to call the fire department. Turns out, the fridge had a short-circuit and that too was not a repair that we could postpone. Nor could we postpone the stove hood test that needs to happen every 12 years but has been getting delayed annually since 2009. This year, the Fire Marshall finally declared the period of grace over and we just had to do it. Another significant hit to our fragile budget. The mamas of the boys and girls who participate in our summer program make the lunches for our community each day; it is a labor of love and they cook fabulously well. Today, when I went in to greet them, one said, “Reverenda, the air conditioner in the kitchen is not working and we have sweat running off our backs and down our legs it is so hot.” After all these other unexpected expenses, trying to figure out how to afford an conditioner fills me with dismay. And this, this is exactly what the paradox of scarcity and abundance is like in ministry.

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