Sergio arrived at nine. I opened the door, greeted him, and then ran back inside to grab my bag and keys. Five minutes later we are bumping along the cobblestone streets with a van full of dried goods. Sergio sits in the passenger’s seat reviewing the list of names he has written down in his worn-out notebook. He doesn’t say much and I can the see the weight of worry in his eyes.
I met Sergio back in April when he came to our door looking for odd-jobs so he could earn a bit of money. Covid-19 had left him without a job. I let him sweep up the leaves of our ficus tree, which never seem to stop falling, and he kept coming back about every week after that. After I told him we had started delivering food parcels, he mentioned he had some friends who could use help as well.
This is our third time in this particular neighbourhood. It’s just under a half hour from our house and traffic is light this morning so we make it in good time. I park the Sienna on the street corner and we step into the light morning drizzle. The air is a bit cooler today and I’m glad I threw on a sweater this morning.
The first time we came to Loma Bonita we spent a good twenty minutes knocking on doors trying to find the people who had signed-up to receive a food parcel. This time, almost everyone is waiting on the corner.
We talk for a bit and wait for a few stragglers to show up. Once they do, about twenty-five people in total, I get my Bible from my shoulder bag and open it to Romans 8. I read the first eleven verses and speak in particular about verse eleven – about the power of “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead.” When the Spirit of Jesus lives in us we possess the one, true power in this world that can bring dead things to life. We can turn to all sorts of methods and men for power, but our lives will never experience deep and lasting change until we receive the power of Jesus Christ.
I’ve prepared the message beforehand and have broken it down into a few key points so I’m able to speak directly to the people, instead of reading off a paper. My Spanish still needs work, but it is sufficient for the occasion. I end with prayer, and then open the back door of the van. I survey the assortment of boxes and bags filled with rice, beans, granola, toothpaste, and more. I place a few of the boxes on the ground beside the van so I can easily reach them and then turn to Sergio and nod. He pulls out his wrinkled notebook again and begins calling off the names from his list. The first person steps toward us and hands us a Soriana grocery bag. Sergio and I work together filling the bags with the dozen-or-so items we’ve brought, and it doesn’t take long until the boxes are empty and the bags full.
Once the food is distributed I return to the front of the van and grab a box of books. I remind the people of the Bibles which are available for free, and then pull out a few children’s books. These are beautifully illustrated books with biblical themes such as the birth of Jesus and God’s plan for the world. I’m selling the books at a discounted price, because I don’t want people just taking it because it’s free; I want them to feel like they own it. Three of the moms indicate they would like to buy one and hurry off to their house to retrieve the money. One of the ladies, when she returns, invites Sergio and me to her house for coffee. Of course we accept.
After saying goodbye to everyone, we cross the street and follow the señora and her children into the house. They seat us at a rickety table and set to work boiling the water and preparing the coffee and tea. I notice an older boy slip out the front door and he later returns with a bag of “pan dulce” – sweet bread. The lady sets a mug of coffee in front of me and urges me to take some of the bread. I oblige and then she asks if I also want to try the lemongrass tea. I tell her I haven’t tried it before, so she turns back to the stove and pours me a cup. We spend an hour sitting around the table, sipping coffee and tea, and working our way through the pan. The kids run around us and cast curious looks my way. I laugh when I tell everyone I have four kids of my own and see their reaction. I pull out my phone and show them the pictures to prove it. They think I’m too young. We talk about the new school year and the struggles with virtual learning – I can only imagine the stress it adds to the parents. These are people who are struggling to find employment and put food on the table. Some of them are single moms trying to make do with the resources they have. Several of the people that came today have disabilities and don’t receive much assistance. Life is hard, and lately it’s been even harder.
I’m thankful God brought me here today to speak the gospel into their lives.
It’s a shade past eleven o’clock now and Sergio and I still have to make one more delivery across town. I take one final gulp of my cold tea and thank our hosts for their generosity. As I push back my chair and head for the door, I assure them we will be back again. I don’t know how long we will continue delivering food parcels, but these days we’re just taking things month to month. So, we’ll see, and we’ll see what God does with it all as well. I’ve heard God does his best work with small things – I hope that’s true.