Thanksgiving brings up fond memories of sweet yams and homemade jams, of many chairs and gray hairs, of dainty prayers and warm layers.
However, for many, that is a distant reality, almost like a dream. Instead of waiting to feast on a roast dinner you and your family spent hours prepping for because of tradition, many wait in line for one plate of food a group of kind strangers prepared, having to wait in line out of necessity. That is the reality of many people in our local communities.
The Friday before Thanksgiving Day, Team La Mirada accompanied individuals and families in line to take home boxes of free turkey and fruit and bread, amongst other items. Another line led to church members serving up a dinner of hot dogs.
This is the Thanksgiving tradition for many, both for those serving and for those receiving.
Sophomore cinema and media arts major and co-team leader Samantha Winslow, who has been coming to serve with the rest of her team for a few weeks now, shared her highlights of meeting new people, being able to develop strong relationships and to talk about Jesus with loving members of the local community.
If you've ever served or visited Grace Evangelical Free Church during their regularly-hosted food banks, one can't help but notice that lines are efficient, with routinely procedures and rehearsed lines leading the tens of hundreds of people that come for free food.
However, there is always a pause. This happens at the end of the line in the parking lots, with groups of Biola students and community members holdings hands, huddled to pray. It is a moment of community, of relationships deepening, of seeds sprouting.
"There's a few gals I've gotten to see a few times...we become a part of their family, we're walking with them and experiencing a little bit of life with them...we get to see a lot of recurring people...I hope at the end of this experience, we'll have met the majority of people who come," said Winslow.
Winslow says that there is also an undeniable familial aspect to frequently and consistently serving. The Gospel is told through various avenues, and food is one of them. Winslow mentioned how she witnessed multiple people getting saved after the Gospel was told through food.
At the food bank, there is a process of walking with someone physically, spending time getting to know neighbors, experiencing a piece of life and meeting the physical need for sustenance. It is a glimpse of the Gospel: Jesus' ability to meet both the physical and the spiritual need.
When you are home with your family and friends, enjoying the comfort and familiarity of traditions and turkey, pray for those who are experiencing something quite different. Remember that gratitude is a disposition of the recognition of the hope we have in Jesus. And remember to express thankfulness beyond the day itself, as it often times demands to be an external manifestation of an internal conviction.
If you would like to join Samantha and the rest of Team La Mirada at Grace EV Free Food Bank, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!