I remember the summer days of years past spent in Vacation Bible School where I listened to such great stories as Jonah and the whale and Jesus healing the sick. These miracles made sense to my young mind; my mom could heal anything it seemed and I had watched Popeye survive an entire episode in the belly of a whale.
But there was one miracle I could never figure out – Jesus feeding thousands of hungry people with only a few fish and loaves of bread. That one was impossible, I concluded.
It was many years later when I came to understand that the purpose of miracles was to give evidence of God’s great love and power, and to inspire non-believers to become in awe of Him and then desire to follow Him. Of course, then, it finally made sense how Jesus could feed the multitude from almost nothing and still have leftovers. It was an act of love, but also an example of what God can do in your life when you turn to Him.
I was recently reminded of the miracle of Jesus dividing the fish and bread. It was the day I spent a few hours working with Davida Baker and her volunteers at Project Kids Eat.
When I walked into the school cafeteria I found a half-dozen men and women packing food. One group filled one gallon zip-lock bags with fruit, milk, cereal and Jell-o while the others packed small containers of spaghetti and wrapped bread sticks in tinfoil. I noticed a small boy helping his mom and dad fill the zip-lock bags. Altogether the labor was for today’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast for one hundred-fifty homeless school-aged children temporarily living in extended stay hotels.
Davida gave me a tour of the operation. I saw boxes and boxes of prepared breakfast biscuits and lunch sandwiches, countless boxes of cereal and cases of Jell-o, fruit, milk and juice. This inventory would be the two meals per day Project Kids Eat would offer the children Monday – Friday for the eight weeks of summer vacation.
But the food isn’t all that Project Kids Eat is about. Davida also showed me boxes of books, crafts, tee-shirts and toiletries which have been donated and are in turn given to the same children the group feeds. “These are things they need but which can’t be bought with food stamps,” she explained.
It seems that eight years ago Davida meet a homeless women with three hungry sons to feed. Davida began giving the woman food, and just as the fish and loaves of bread multiplied, so too did the number of people who needed food and the number of people who were willing to volunteer to prepare, package and deliver the meals, all under Davida’s guidance.
“We are going to three hotels today,” Davida told me, and then instructed me to begin helping to fill the cars that would make the deliveries. As we rolled carts piled high with bags of food from the cafeteria to the parking lot I asked the mom of the young boy why she had brought him along.
“I want him to have a heart for service,” she said. “I want him to learn to care for others from a very early age.” The boy’s name is Garrett; he is four years old. I deduced from the nearly constant smile on his face that he is taking this lesson and his parents’ example to heart.
I rode with Davida. Shortly we pulled into the parking lot of an extended stay hotel where I saw dozens of children ranging in age from toddlers to teens sitting on the curb. We were expected. When we stopped, opened the back door of the van and the smell of spaghetti wafted out, the children began to form an orderly line. They knew the routine. Hug Davida first and then take a bag of food, one for each child. After the food was distributed, several children returned to the van and looked through the boxes for a book or two. All the children were appreciative and polite, and more than a few shouted “See you tomorrow” as we drove away.
“Yes, we are feeding hungry children,” Davida remarked, “but we are also hugging them, loving them, reassuring and affirming them. That’s the part that means the most to me,” she said. “I just hope that little bit of kindness goes a long way.”
A few bags of food remained in the van. Before I could ask her what would become of it, Davida pulled into a trailer park. “There are a few elderly people living here,” she explained, “as well as a few families that can barely make ends meet.” We made three stops before heading back to the cafeteria empty-handed.
Again I was reminded of Jesus feeding the masses. No, Davida and her team of volunteers are not performing miracles, but one can’t argue the fact that they are demonstrating God’s love through their daily acts of kindness and service.
Yes, Davida, I believe it goes a long, long way. It certainly did for me.