Last week I was serving the shoppers who come every 2nd and 3rd Tuesday of the month, when a whole group of our church people distribute free fresh fruit and produce in our church parking lot. It’s a great partnership with 2nd Harvest Food Bank here in Santa Cruz county!
We’ve been distributing food for about 2 years now. Of course we started our service to the community wanting to share our faith in addition to sharing healthy food, but all the people really wanted was the food. Then it went from getting food to telling us their names. Then it went from telling us their names to telling us about their favorite recipes and what they do to make ends meet. All of that took about a year! Then it went from telling us about their favorite recipes to saying “God bless you too” when I waved goodbye and said “God bless you.” Then it went from a blessing, to sharing a little bit of their life story. Then some of them began wanting to give something back by helping us distribute food. Then from helping us distribute food, we’ve only now been able to enter into real conversations with some of the people – almost exactly like the Apostle Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all people that I might by all possible means win some.”
Last week one of the men said while he picked up his grocery bags, “I’d love to help you guys distribute food. I really need to get more of God in my life.” You have to know this guy has been nice, but he’s definitely not been very talkative with us the entire time we’ve been handing out food. But after two years, that’s what he quickly admitted in passing. He needed help with his bags so I helped him to his car and I was able to share the Gospel with him, and encourage him to read the book of Luke and come to our church sometime. There was no immediate prayer of salvation for him, but it could be just over the horizon.
I share my experience because God has used this ministry to remind me – Mr. Get-Er-Done-Now – that most salvation stories are not immediate turnarounds. Most salvation stories involve simple, not-so-amazing, consistent presence in the lives of others over a very long period of time. As the Apostle Paul also said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
So be present, stay present for as long as it takes, and wait for someone to trust you enough to open up their life and give you a chance to share the hope you have within you!