Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”
But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”
“All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.
Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.
(Matthew 14:15-21 “The Message”)
Just over two weeks ago I was approached by a member of our congregation with the idea of becoming a distribution point for government-funded food commodities for the needy in Webster County. This opportunity seemed to fit perfectly with our mission statement, and the excitement of seeing a ministry opportunity grew quickly. But that excitement was not (is not) without its fair share of doubts, uncertainty and fear. Over these past days my emotions have run from one extreme to the other. In many ways I have felt as though I was one of those disciples to whom Jesus said, “You give them supper.”
“Jesus, we can’t possibly feed all these people!” My questions, our questions, were primarily about the logistics of it all. How would this work, do we have the room, the facilities, the volunteers, the finances to make this a reality? As I asked those questions, I remembered the truth of the passage a little later in Matthew’s gospel that reminds us all we need to move mountains is faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).
So, with much prayer, several meetings and countless phone calls and text messages, the church board met to decide the issue Sunday evening (9/8/13). After presenting the project, including the 12-15 people who have volunteered to help on each distribution date over the next year, and having some very helpful discussion throughout the room, it came time for a vote. The decision was unanimous. We will be a distribution site for commodities through Ozarks Food Harvest.
I, for one, am very excited. But, I’m still a bit nervous as well. This is a big undertaking. I believe with all of my heart that we are being called by God to this ministry, but there is a step, if not a leap, of faith to try to serve 200+ needy families. To me it is a similar feeling to what I experienced when Jennie and I were married. Excited about the potential, and at the same time nervous about doing something new.
There have been moments in this journey, already, where I have felt overwhelmed, as though the waves of details would simply surround and drown me. I anticipate those feelings are not completely behind me. I have found, however, great comfort in those times when I feel overcome by the scope of this project. I try to take a moment and remember the story shortly after the feeding of the 5,000, where Jesus sends the disciples ahead in a boat. Then late in the night Jesus comes to them walking across the water. Then Peter joins him and walks on water as well, if only for a moment.
I find two things comforting in that story. First, Jesus is there to rescue Peter as he sinks under the surface of the waves. But, more importantly, Peter is not overwhelmed while he is focused on Jesus. As we fix our gaze on Christ and seek to follow God’s call to ministry, we can proceed with confidence, knowing that the One who spoke the world into being is the same One whose voice is calling us ever forward in ministry. Thanks be to God for this new ministry opportunity. May we fix our gaze on Christ and respond to his call, “You give them supper.”