In just over three years doing ministry in Lovington, NM, I have helped serve around 30 times in a local mobile food distribution to the poor in our community. Once a month a refrigerated semi truck full of produce, meat, bread, and other random snacks arrives at our church.
There are usually around 100 people standing in line to receive this food. As I arrive to church, many of these people have already been standing in line for a couple hours. I proceed to get out of my white Yukon and head straight to my office. I glance over and see them standing and sitting there in anticipation for what kinds of foods they might get to enjoy later that night and for the rest of the month. Rarely do I think anything of it. I’ve been doing this for three years and I usually see the same people every month.
Three years! Same people! But No names!
I’ve gotten to know no one! Serving the poor and less fortunate is a part of the fabric of our church. It’s a part of our identity. Yet this identity has almost become stolen. I’ve been on the criminal side of identity theft. It’s like I have become an actor in a tv show putting on a role for a couple hours, only to go back to my ‘real’ identity afterwards. In the process I have looked past the real identities of the people we are serving, seeing them not as people created Imago Dei with real names and real stories, but as people with problems. It’s also easy for me to have a bad attitude when I don’t think some people should be receiving this free food. Instead of my heart breaking for whatever these people have experienced, my heart turns cold and hard anticipating the end of this two hours so that I can leave and order some fresh gluten free pizza from Dominos.
In the mean time, these people who I have chosen not to get to know at all are trying to figure out how to make this food last another 30 days so they can come back next month without empty stomachs. All the while I’m eating my 6th slice of Dominos Pacific Veggie pizza.
Something needs to change! For me, this will mean getting to know at least a few people I have seen month after month for 3 years. I’m guessing In getting to know some of the least of these, I will truly be getting to know Jesus on a deeper level. The Gospel of Matthew states it like this:
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:37-40