Meals on Wheels 2.0
A story of a woman in a wheelchair going the distance to feed others.
“And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’" - Luke 3:10-11
Jesus recognized the needs of others. He adopted them into his own responsibility, and met their needs at his own expense--even unto death. Sin pushes us to the mirror opposite of Christ: to pursue or rest in our own advantage at the expense of others. The Kingdom of God promulgates for its inhabitants an ethic which actively fights back the evil and harm in our world to restore those in need--regardless of what we might think they have “earned” or “deserve” from our worldly, systemic qualifications. In doing so, we do not act as the savior of others, but we rather act out of our own salvation, granted through the mercy of the only One with the power to save.
Empowered by and obedient to this Kingdom ethic, The Acts Network began to serve community meals every Monday evening at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport in 2017. First we listened, and we recognized some of the needs of that part of our city: provision and community. Ever since, Monday Dinner has been a place where we have seen people fed and community relationships flourish.
However, as with many ministries, COVID-19 interrupted our rhythm at the Pajama Factory. We could no longer prepare meals in the manner we once did, and we could no longer meet together as a community as we had before. We adapted. We found a way to continue meeting the need for provision that community had, and we prayed and trusted God would provide opportunities to meet the need of community relationship. And He did.
We began making meals in “to-go” bags and we set up a table every Monday in the parking lot of the Pajama factory so that the community could come and get the food they needed safely. It was only two weeks into our “to-go” format of
Monday Dinner that we began seeing the people who come begin to look out for one another and consider each other in ways perhaps even more prevalent than when we were able to gather every Monday before COVID. They began to call each other, wait around near the food table to say hi from a distance to others, and they even began to ensure that everybody got a meal, whether people could make it to the Pajama Factory or not.
A wheelchair-bound woman we shall refer to as Nadia was the first to deliver meals to others. She comes early, a big smile on her face and her large delivery bag on her lap.
“Time to go to work, Ben!” Nadia boomed in her gregarious manner.
Even the hum of her power chair sounded happy. For her first “run,” she loads seven meals--the max capacity of her delivery bag. Up and down her street, her neighbors wait expectantly for their deliveries; everyone knows Monday at five
means a visit from Nadia. One recipient has several small children at home, one is recovering from her chemo-treatments, and one family never came to Monday Dinner, but started getting deliveries anyway. Her second delivery run often includes a few other neighbors on the next block over and anyone she can find walking on the streets who will take a dinner. Her third and final delivery goes to her own household.
Soon after Nadia’s “Meals on Wheels” started, others began taking an extra meal for their neighbors, or even bringing their neighbors along. Last week, one of our regulars took a meal across the parking lot to the lady selling fireworks because “she looked hungry.” On the day where we ran out of meals and still had a man in need, our artist, veteran, double-amputee, Peter, gave up his only meal to that stranger.
When we “love thy neighbor,” it oftentimes proves to be contagious. This is why Jesus sent out the disciples to go to all nations rather than to give them a plan to attract all nations to them. Contagious love spreads to where the people are. We, too, must find those places and people who are waiting for their communities to be transformed by the covenantal love God shares with us.