Making the table bigger

I love Jesus. It always seems like I should start there. I especially love the Jesus that the Gospel writers talk about who is always eating. The “Son of man came eating and drinking” and Jesus actually gets called a “drunkard and a glutton” (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34) for partaking in so many feasts. But, he manages to eat with everyone. Every time one group imagines they have captured him, he makes the table bigger.

So it works out for me that I love Jesus and I love to eat. The act of gathering around the table with something yummy and lively conversation is second only to curling up with a good mystery novel. We eat a lot at Shepherd of the Valley. Food is a major part of our ministry. We not only run a food pantry because we recognize many of our neighbors face huge hurdles in keeping enough food on the table, but sometimes we have a surprise breakfast together. I pick up some bacon and eggs and everyone chips in to help in the kitchen and we all gather together to eat and catch up on how life is going. Those meals make us all a little more human, a little more like a family. Some of my best conversations and cribbage games have been in soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Several years ago, we noticed a population of hungry folks who surprised us: children. We saw that during school breaks, weekends, and the summer they were falling through the gaps and putting a tremendous amount of stress on parents and grandparents to provide extra meals. We found that even families who ate regularly had extra stress because other kids in the neighborhood were showing up around mealtime. Since childcare is a huge issue in Juneau along with housing, grandparents or friends end up feeding kids on an already tight budget.

There are several ways that the Food Resource Summit, a coalition of many of the food agencies in town, has responded. Aldersgate Methodist has partnered up with Glacier Valley Elementary to provide weekend food bags for children who struggle with food insecurity. Douglas Methodist and Northern Light United Church are partnering with Geneva Woods and the USDA to provide summer lunches from June 2 - August 15 from 11:30-1:00 on Monday - Friday. We are hoping to also have a site in Gruening Park for the summer, but that is still in the works.

This will be our third year for summer lunch at Shepherd of the Valley. Our first year, we served about 600 lunches and last year we served 1500 lunches. We will kick off the year with a bike rodeo on Sunday, June 8 from 4-6 pm. Families may stop by the church for free hot dogs, a bike course, helmets provided by Alaska Injury Prevention Programs and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, minor bike repairs with Juneau Freewheelers Bike Club, a bike swap with bikes donated by JPD, and lots of carnival games.

The summer lunch program will begin on Monday, June 9. Outside supervised recreation activities begin at 12:00, lunch is served from 12:30-1:30 followed by outside recreation until 2:00. We do not provide transportation, but we will provide walking/riding buddies to help younger kids get to the church safely. Every day also has a different activity. Mondays are science day, Tuesdays are gardening, Wednesdays are cooking, Thursdays are crafts, and Fridays are music and stories. We will have reader buddies available everyday with lots of books. If you are interested in more information or would like to volunteer, please call Shepherd of the Valley at 789-4093 or check out the website at sovlutheran.org. We will ask volunteers for information needed for a background check.

On the menu will be:

• Monday is sloppy joes/taco day.

• Tuesday is chicken casserole or baked chicken and mashed potato day.

• Wednesday is cooking day. We will do Asian, Italian, and Macaroni and Cheese. This is also the only day with dessert!

• Thursday is soup, bread and fruit day.

• Friday is grill your own sandwich day.

I love Jesus and I love gathering around tables with all his beloved children making sure that everyone is fed. I might not find all the conversations about taming horses and avoiding “Creeper” in Minecraft that exciting, but I love the smiles and the hugs and the full bellies.

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