That very first day I stood in the serving line for the Bread of Life we were serving a Wednesday meal out under the pecan trees. I stood that fall evening at the beginning of the line passing out the plastic serving ware—you know the kind that have all the white utensils, a salt and pepper packet and a little napkin. I had never served—not in this way. Oh, I have served all of my life but only to my peers. To men and women who looked like me and shopped where I shopped and took their children to the same school. You know, it was a kind of mutuality in service.
This was different.
Our home church, Windsor Village UMC, was where I began to feel a hunger. It was like nothing I had known before. At night, my husband and I would lie in bed talking about this very deep hunger that was growing in each of us. We were feeling a call to serve and somehow it felt that the call was in the inner city. Out of what seemed like thin air our Pastor, Kirbyjon Caldwell, called my husband and asked him to check out the St. John’s property downtown. The rest is history.
The line began to form and I smiled just as if standing in my kitchen at home serving my guests. I took to my post and prepared to offer the first plastic ware and I heard God whisper, “That could be your father.” I passed out the second set of plastic ware and heard, “That could be your brother.” (Never mind that I don’t have a brother—at least none has surfaced as of yet!) But, I got the message. I passed out the next one and heard, “That could be your mother.” As if that were not close enough to home, I heard the Spirit say, “That could be you.”
As I see it we are all dealt a few dominoes. When we line them all up knocking one of them over will cause a ripple affect. Most of us have a variety of stopgap measures that keep us from having all of our dominoes collapse. Having a solid education is a domino. Access to a supportive family and friends, full-time employment, healthcare, mental health support, retirement funds, housing, healthy credit and manageable debt these are just some of the dominoes that are aligned in most of our lives.
Serving at mealtime has taught me that we are all hungry for something. Some of us are hungry for a fresh start, a good hot meal, companionship, status as a good volunteer, some are hungry to find themselves after their dominoes have all tumbled. Some of us are hungry for a life that counts for more than just a stack of receipts gathered by a lifetime of accumulating stuff that never satisfies.
Lent has always been a time of reflection for me. Lent is a time to remember the hope that Jesus offered when he rode in on the never-ridden donkey, that had been borrowed for the Master. When Jesus rode in the people there were hungry as well. Hungry for a government that would recognize and release their burdens, hungry for a leader whose passion was to liberate them, hungry for a life that would be worth living and Jesus’ promise of the Kingdom of God drew hungry crowds who longed to be filled.
The lines of those served by Bread of Life remind me constantly that hunger prevails and that while we offer food , and various types of support, we all still hunger on both sides of the serving line.
We hunger to be loved and totally accepted, valued and deemed valueable. We long to be admired or approved of, we hunger to be free of our limiting ways of being present. We hunger to be free of labels cooked up out of classism, racism, sexism, and fear and out of our emotional and mental traumas.
We, too, are hungry.
Lent reminds me that I don’t have a clue when Jesus will return. He just might come as one whose dominoes have left him vulnerable, hungry and waiting to be served in Bread of Life’s line.
My prayer is that I don’t miss seeing Him as the bread of my life.
From one beggar to another,
I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it!
Juanita Campbell Rasmus is an inspirational speaker, motivational teacher, author, and founding board member of the Bread of Life Homeless Project. Juanita and her husband Rudy co-pastor Saint John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.