Penelope’s Pantry: a real life loaves and fish story
At our last Collide gathering for women we centered around the passage in Scripture where Jesus uses one lil’ boy’s lunch to feed thousands. We were hoping to get the message across to women that God can use what we already “have” to do amazing things. We don’t have to be like other people. Our story, our experiences, our giftings, our learning lessons and our resources can be used by God to impact this world. We don’t have to go out and get more degrees, or more talent or a new body. We don’t need to get more money, a new career or a new personality. God doesn’t need us to go out and get a better lunch. God can use what we already have to pull off something big.
In an effort to communicate this, our ministry team studied this passage of Scripture and then we brainstormed how we could teach this message. We invited women in different seasons and places in life who were using what they had to do amazing things to come and share their stories. And boy did we hear amazing stories! One woman used her passion and the ability to throw a garage sale and a concert to greatly benefit refugee families. One women used her cancer to start and grow what is now an international organization called Knitted Knockers that blesses women with breast cancer all over the world. And then we had lil’ Miss Penelope…
We interviewed seven year old Penelope on the front end of the night. Her and her kindergarten teacher, Tammy, came out on stage and Penelope shared her heart to feed hungry people. She shared how one day she came to school with hand written cards inviting all her classmates to bring food for her pantry. She had started a pantry to feed people who were in need of food. Her class rallied around her dream and her family built a pantry that is now visited regularly.
Penelope shared her story but what she didn’t know was that we had a big surprise in store for her at the end of the night, and this surprise was going to take an actual miracle. Penelope’s teacher took her out for ice cream with no idea what we had planned. Meanwhile, women brought bags of food when they checked in at registration. But then we felt led to invite women to get out their phones and “phone a friend.” I challenged women to text their spouses, their roommates, their teenage drivers and their friends, asking them to empty their pantries or go to a store and then drop off as much food as they could rally at the front steps of the church we were inside of.
Now you have to know, that as the invitation was coming out of my mouth, I was actually thinking “This might be a bad idea…What if no one does this? What if we have this big surprise at the end of the night for Penelope and there is hardly any food to surprise her with?” But we believe that the same God who used the lil’ boy and his lunch in Galilee thousands of years ago is alive and well and He can use us too, so we entered into a real life loaves and fish story.
Throughout the rest of the night as an artist painted an amazing painting, as the worship team led us in worship, as women shared their stories and as women stuffed Knitted Knockers to bless women with breast cancer, bags and bags of food kept showing up and were placed on the stage. I am told that at one point there was no room for cars to stop in front of the church because there were so many cars dropping off food. Roommates were stopping by, family vans were pulling up, even a motorcycle stopped in. It was amazing just watching this little miracle unfold.
At the end of the night, after hearing how God can use anyone to do amazing things, people who doubt their abilities, people who don’t feel ultra tight with the Big Man upstairs, people in pain, people who are old and people who are young….God used nearly 500 women to make one little girl’s dream of feeding hungry kids this summer come true. We invited Penelope back on stage blindfolded and we all yelled “surprise!” To her shock, Penelope stood in front of a sea of food! I am told that she was so overwhelmed and happy that as she walked up the aisle to find her mom, with tears in her eyes she said “I can’t believe they would do that. That’s so much food!”.
That same night two women were moved so much so that they decided to start their own pantries to feed the hungry. So not only did Penelope’s pantry multiple in size, but also in number. Now more and more people who need food will have a place to get it all because the God who multiplies loaves and fish multiplies what we have . May you personally be encouraged that God can use what you “have” to do amazing things.
If you want to get involved locally in feeding those in need or find yourself in need, here are a few of the places doing this important work:
-First Baptist Church: Every Tuesday, help provide the community members a healthy and yummy meal at First Baptist
-The Food Bank: If you need food and live in Bellingham or want to volunteer to help those who need food, check out the food bank.
-Shuksan Middle School: Hot meals are served 4 nights a week to children in our community and their accompanying adults. For more details, see their website.
-Penelope’s Pantry: If you want to donate food to Penelope’s pantry, the address is 208 S Washington, Everson 98247
Where in your community could God use what you “have” to do amazing things? Is there something you’ve already done with your lil’ “lunch”, or want to do, and would like to tell us about it? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!