I was working on a story for the next issue of LifeLines and went to visit a nearby congregation that houses a food pantry – Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, home of the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry. (Thanks to Pastor Rich Likeness and food pantry director Susan Papierski for opening their doors to so many people from their town and the surrounding area [and to me].)
The pantry was started by the congregation’s youth group years back, beginning with one closet and growing from there. Now the pantry takes up two big but crowded rooms, plus another for storage, plus some shelves in the hallway, plus . . .
I thought I recognized Jesus’ work when Pastor Rich talked about serving ice cream to food pantry customers in the fellowship hall so they wouldn’t have to wait alone out in the hallway while someone else finished their shopping.
I was sure of Jesus’ presence when Susan told about a woman making her first visit to the pantry. The woman was ashamed and appalled and kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m in a food pantry.” And Susan kept answering her, “I’m glad you’re here. You’re doing the right thing. I’m glad you came today.” She told her, “When things start coming back together again, let the food pantry be the last thing you change. That’s what it’s for, and I’m glad you’re here.”
That loving-kindness in service to a neighbor – a sister – in distress is clearly what Jesus was talking about when he told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The people of Grace Lutheran Church not only support the Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, they also give to ELCA World Hunger, complementing their generous local work to end hunger with generous giving to the church’s global hunger work. They’re among the many, many ELCA congregations that have a heart for people who are hungry, near or far, and act on that passion in creative and effective ways.
Thanks, Grace Lutheran Church of Glen Ellyn. You showed me Jesus at work in your midst, and reminded me that Jesus is at work whenever someone reaches out to a neighbor in their time of need, no matter if that neighbor is around the corner or on the other side of the world. Thanks.
Audrey Riley is a member of the fundraising staff of ELCA World Hunger.