Helping Hands

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Last night there was an announcement at church about helping with the relief effort for Florida in the aftermath of hurricane michael[1]. Tim and I decided that we would go help out. So this morning we arrived at the designated warehouse used by Heart with Hands, a local relief organization. At the entrance was a sign-in table with name tags. After signing in, we were directed to a place in the middle of the warehouse, where toiletries were being sorted into bins marked men’s deodorant, family toothpaste, individual soap, etc.

After sorting toiletries we were assigned to open cartons of food donated by the large local grocery chain. Some of the cartons had smaller boxes inside, like boxes of granola bars, while others had canned good inside, like soup. Once opened, the foods were put into boxes or bins for distribution.

I spent the rest of the morning opening gummy fruit cartons, gummy fruit boxes, and putting the gummy fruit packets into a box. I also flattened the boxes and the cartons as I went along, even though there were people doing nothing but flattening boxes for hauling away. As I worked, I found myself next to a young girl who was wearing a Heart with Hands T-shirt. So I asked her about herself. Kimmy said that she is fifteen and homeschooled at her small town about an hour from Asheville. She told me many of the people there were people from her church. I told her that I’m a missionary, and we talked about missions. Kimmy and her family had gone on a mission trip to Costa Rica last year. She said that her church, though small, is a big supporter of missions. I said, “Mine, too!” It is so refreshing to hear about churches that have a missional focus.

Kimmy pointed out her mom and sister to me. They were working halfway across the warehouse from us—about 100 yards away. When we finished our tasks, Kimmy took me to where her mom and sister were, and we got to work helping them sort diapers into baby bins and pet food into another bin.

Just before lunch I joined Tim and others at the box assembly station. They were assembling boxes for distribution to individuals. The boxes were a little taller and bigger than a shoebox, and printed with pictures of people with encouraging sayings, and the Heart with Hands name and logo. Tim demonstrated for me how the boxes are assembled, and we put several together until a lunch break was called.

Tim and I had assumed that we would just go to a fast food joint down the road, but Kimmy’s mom had made us all hamburgers and spaghetti. It was nice to get a chance to sit down. I hadn’t realized how tired I was until I sat. After lunch we got back to work and finished assembling all the distribution boxes.

The truck that was supposed to bring some final items for the distribution boxes had been delayed. So we finished sorting some odds and ends, and I got to talk with a few other people there. After waiting about two hours, someone in charge decided that we should put the stuff that we could into the distribution boxes, and when the truck arrives, the last items could be added. So we constructed an assembly line and put into each box: 2 bottles of water, a can of soup, a can of spaghetti, a can of mini sausages, 2 granola bars, 2 gummy fruits, and various other items. The bins were lined up, and a group of volunteers stood behind the bin tables, restocking the bins as needed while the rest of us took a box at a time down the line, filling it as directed, and leaving it open on the last table, where other volunteers stacked them to await those final items.

As the boxes were filled and the day came to a close, volunteers began to trickle out as they had trickled in this morning. Finally, around five, Tim and I agreed that we had done all that we could do for one day. It’s been a physically exhausting day full of hard work, but also very rewarding. Whenever I thought I was too tired to go on, I thought of the people who would be receiving the boxes. That thought kept me going. I prayed throughout the day, since most of the jobs were not conducive to conversation.

My bed is going to feel so good tonight. And having a bed to sleep in is something to thank God for. It’s another prayer point for the hurricane refugees: a bed to sleep in. Jesus said:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world, (John 16:33).

This was their turn, another day it could be our turn. But thank God we don’t have to go through it alone. God is good!

[1] As many of you know, I refuse to capitalize organizations, objects, and events involved in witchcraft. I don’t know if there was witchcraft involved in this hurricane. Rather I refuse to dignify this destructive event with a capitalized proper name. I understand that it’s easier to remember hurricanes by names like this, rather than numbers, but there’s just something not right about anthropomorphizing a hurricane.

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