First of all, I’m honored to be allowed to contribute to the Angel Food Ministries blog. I want to shed a little light on how I became involved with Angel Food and how it’s changed me and my family, as well as our church.
I’m self-employed and times started getting hard, my income was up and down and budgeting household expenses was becoming more and more difficult without set income. Like many Americans, one of the first places we cut expenses was food. No steaks, no fancy meals, no eating out. We ate chicken or ground beef with every meal. One weekend around December 2007, we visited my grandparents in Oakdale, Louisiana, and God started to put his plan in motion.
We had heard my grandparents talk about the food they had been buying from Angel Food in the past, but I never really paid attention to it, they were living on a fixed income, so I assumed it was a “food pantry” or “commodities” that they were talking about. We thought our income level was too high to qualify for any help, and we honestly had never tried to apply for any help anywhere. We knew there were others that needed help much more than we did, so we chose to just tough it out and trust in God to fill in the gaps as he saw fit. I have to admit, at times it was difficult, and I couldn’t understand why God was allowing us to suffer.
While we were all sitting in the living room talking, I happened to see the Angel Food Ministries menu flier from the host site there in Oakdale, Christ Church. That was the first Angel Food menu I ever laid eyes on, and I was amazed! All of that for only thirty dollars? No way! So, like the good little private investigator I am, I started my research into Angel Food Ministries, there just had to be a catch, and I was going to find it. First, visit the website, then order the food. I’d find the catch, I was sure of it.
Well, there was no catch…I failed to find my target…something that very rarely happens, I consider myself a top-notch investigator. The truth can’t hide from me. And neither can most people, but that’s an entirely different topic, I digress…
Our first order was placed in December 2007 through The Rock Church in Zachary, Louisiana, the closest host site to our home, although it was about thirty minutes away. We barely made the deadline for December, so only a week or so wait. I was honestly worried that I had wasted thirty dollars on food that was going to be low quality.
So, it’s distribution day and I drive over to The Rock Church to pick up our one box we ordered as a “test run”. When I walked in their distribution room, I was amazed. There were about thirty, give or take a few, volunteers filling boxes, checking receipts, carrying food out for people, and what looked like a hundred other tasks. All of these people were spending their Saturday to do something for the community. I was touched, to say the least.
I turned my receipt in and got my box of food. The quality looked good from what I could see, but I was still a bit skeptical. I didn’t need anyone to carry my box out for me, so I put it in the trust SUV and headed back home. We fixed something out of it that night for dinner. I’m sorry, but that was over a year ago, and I can’t for the life of me remember what we ate. Whatever it was, it was enough to prove to me that the food was high quality! I remember commenting to my wife, “I sure wish someone would start a host site closer to our area.” Famous last words, indeed!
Soon after that, God turned up the heat a bit and started tugging at me. My church has a true passion for outreach and volunteering, so why couldn’t we do this? But my hang-up was, “God, I’m not a minister, I don’t do outreach, I don’t want to do this, I’ll help, but I don’t want to oversee it.”
After trying to convince God that I knew better (why do we always try to start that fight, anyway?), he proved to me that I didn’t. I couldn’t sleep well at night because it was always on my mind. I finally gave in and called The Rock Church and offered to volunteer at their next distribution. Like any good volunteer-based group would do, they graciously accepted. I bit the bullet and got there to help around six in the morning on distribution day. I helped to unload the truck, carry out boxes of food, and watch their entire process, plugging in as needed.
I have a knack for over-organization, so my wheels were already spinning. Topping that, though, was the family I saw at distribution that day where the children were so excited over the food they were getting in their box. Now we were almost broke, financially, but my children never got that excited over food, I had a good cry on the way home thinking about those children. That was the deal-maker for me. I was now an Angel Food advocate and would participate in the program as a volunteer, whether my church wanted to be a host site or not.
I put a Power Point presentation together that included an Angel Food promo video and pictures of the food in one of our food boxes. The pastor and deacons were all for it. But the church had to vote on it at the next business meeting. Passed with flying colors! Did I mention that my church has a true heart for outreach and volunteering?
Since Angel Food, our church membership has become even better at thinking outside the box. We are not your “typical” Southern Baptist church. My pastor, deacons, and fellow members are amazing. We’ve had a few families join the church since they started ordering food boxes, but it’s not the “joining” that’s important, it’s getting to see a child who you first met through Angel Food get baptized on a Sunday morning! God is so good!
And well, here we are, April 2009, and Live Oak Baptist Church has been an Angel Food host site for a year. What an amazing ride! I still can’t figure out who has been effected the most, the community or me and my family. It’s a neck and neck race, I can tell you. I have an amazing wife who jumped in with me who takes orders for the next month, a thirteen year old son that helps carry boxes to cars, my eight year old daughter is the “Magazine Princess”, and my four year old daughter is the life of the party – she’s everywhere at once!
So many changes have happened with me and my family over this year. Participating in the Angel Food outreach has drawn me closer to my family, closer to my church family, and closer to God. There is a feeling that can’t be described when distribution is over…if I had to put it into words, it’d be somewhere between exhaustion and elation. But, wow! Every month, around 200 families come through our doors to pick up their food boxes.
I used to be scared to talk about God’s love to anyone. Now, it just flows when needed. I make sure to come into contact with every person that picks up during distribution. I’ve already learned most of the regulars’ names, heard some heart-wrenching stories, cried with some, prayed with some, and I love them all, dearly.
So, what does Angel Food mean to my church, to me and to my family? It means hope, yes, but most of all, it means love. True love for our brothers and sisters who are hurting.
If you are reading this and have never ordered Angel Food, or if you are hurting financially, and need to catch a break somewhere, please search for a host site in your area. You can find host sites using the search by ZIP code feature at http://www.angelfoodministries.com.
May God Bless you all,
David A. Pender, Angel Food Coordinator
Live Oak Baptist Church
Denham Springs, LA