Over these past 4 months, I have been unbelievably grateful for First Street Methodist Mission for a variety of selfish reasons.
First Street Methodist Mission has remained open during the entire course of the pandemic and was one of the first ministries of the church to be able to turn the way it operated completely on its head to be able to serve people. With curbside grocery service, and aid to the homeless community through a makeshift service window, Linda and Bernie (and now Kathryn) have been flexible, adaptable, resilient and truly faithful stewards of the responsibility they have taken on to be focused on serving the most vulnerable in the community. The changes have also been met with big spike in demand, and, thankfully, in donations. In June, First Street Methodist Mission distributed 34 tons of food to people in the Fort Worth community in need, that’s 68,000 pounds of food.
I am obviously grateful to all of those who have so generously supported the mission financially, to Linda and Bernie, to the volunteers who have staffed it for so many years, and to God for putting all the right people in the right place.
Now, onto to the selfish reasons I’m grateful.
Selfish Reason One: One Clear Choice
In so much of the past four months I have felt anchorless, sort of adrift, because it’s been so unclear what it means to be a pastor to young people in the middle of this kind of upheaval. All of our structures and plans that I loved so dearly were built on foundational assumptions of a school year calendar, a weekly rhythm, and an ability to physically be together, that vanished in the course of a week in March.
Do I try to hold on to old patterns to maintain stability? Do I re-invent the wheel? Is it more faithful to hold a virtual meeting for the sake of consistency, or to give zoom-fatigued teenagers a break from the screens for a while? Do I meet up with kids in backyards for some face to face connection, or is that too much risk for the next 3 kids I visit? What about dropping things off at their houses? Does it really have to be contactless when all I want to do is see their faces?
In the course of a week, the answer of what I should do, of how to live out my calling well, became very unclear. But I did know one thing: Linda mentioned in a staff meeting just a week into the pandemic that she had to send the volunteers home, that they needed the staff’s help to actually distribute the food at the mission. I could do that.
The first selfish reason I am grateful is because in that moment there was one, clear, right choice I could make: volunteer. In a time of question marks and uncertainty, there was one clear, right answer. Associate Director of Youth Ministries, Matt Britt, and I jumped in pretty quickly, first once a week, then twice a week, starting with 2 or 3 hours a week, gradually creeping up to more like 12 to 15.
Selfish Reason Two: A Way to Help
The second selfish thing I was grateful for was something to do with my hands. As Mister Mark said in his children’s moment today, “helping can make us feel powerful when we think we’re powerless.” My pathway into youth ministry started with volunteering as a teenager, I have always treasured that part of the work. Being able to serve in a tangible way gives me peace and purpose. The ability to learn what you truly believe by touching and feeling it, learning through sweat what it means to give, to love, and to serve is a huge part of both the way I have grown as a Christian and how I lead young people.
Selfish Reason Three: A Way to Lead
That brings me to the third selfish thing: being able to serve at the mission has helped me to imagine one way true, impactful, youth ministry can happen in a pandemic. When we’re doing grocery service, the pace can be pretty hectic, and we can run out of supplies fast, and those things that need to be prepped and packed beforehand, like baby wipes, diapers, and pet food, can be the hardest things to keep stocked, because there’s just not time to take industrial size donated goods and separate them into individual bags to give out in the middle of it all. It was another clear, right decision: teenagers could do this.
For most of June, we had 8-10 teenagers a week (in groups of 2-3) coming in on Wednesdays and Thursdays to pack dog food, cat food, hygiene kits, baby wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products (they didn’t even giggle, ok I mean one did, but they were good about it). We packed crates and crates and crates of supplies, and I was so grateful to be able to pass along the blessing I had received, the chance to respond to the hurt in the world by doing something with your hands that actually helps. We’ve shifted back to contactless ministry for the time being, but we’re already prepping kits (such as 50lbs bags of dog food and boxes of ziplocks) to drop-off at youth families houses so they can continue to help from their homes.
I am grateful for First Street Methodist Mission for the way they are a lifeline for people in our community who are vulnerable, I am grateful for the way they point us back to tangible ways we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. I am also grateful for selfish reasons. I am grateful for them offering me one clear choice when so many aren’t clear, I am grateful for the chance to do something that actually helps when we can feel so helpless, and I am grateful for the example of how to do ministry with young people when they face the same questions I do. There is so much more I could say, but I wanted to offer this love letter to the ministry that has ministered to me in these past 4 months.
So to Linda, Bernie, Kathryn, the volunteers, the board, and all of you have donated: thank you.
Director of Youth Ministries