A Thief in the Night
By "we," I mean the faith community I serve.
Shortly after 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning, October 11th, a person dressed in a big sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, and a mask over their nose and mouth, broke two basement windows, entered the church, and stole at least 50 pounds of meat, buns, canned fruit, large containers of sugar and flour, cases of pickles, and a whole lot of other food (and a nice video projector that was on-loan from a volunteer who does not have a lot of money, but does have a very big heart).
Most of the food had recently been purchased from Feeding South Dakota, to give away through free, monthly, community meals we had just started in September, and weekly Muffin Mondays (our Circle of Friends group bakes and gives away muffins to school kids every Monday) over the next several months. That food was packed up—and I mean PACKED...the misguided individual took everything they could cram—into their beat-up four-door sedan.
The person stealing the food was fortunate that we had left a dolly cart out in the kitchen to make it easier to move things.
We know all this because we have video cameras around the building. It happened from 4 a.m. - 5 a.m. this past Tuesday morning. The footage has been shared with police.
We would love it if the person who took all this would turn themself in to law enforcement. I know it's a long shot. We would love to talk to that person and invite them to serve in our kitchen, instead of serving time. We would like them to know what it's like to be serving with friends, to be served by friends, and to know the reward of serving the greater community. We want this person to know what Hope looks like.
For those of you who read this, but haven't been to worship lately at Open Heart UMC (if ever), it is not a large, nor wealthy, congregation.
As of late, we have anywhere from 30-50 persons in worship most Sundays. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the people are connected through our Circle of Friends Ministry (adults with physical and/or cognitive challenges). I am able to serve at Open Heart UMC as a full-time pastor largely because of special grants and other funding that is temporarily filling some gaps.
What was stolen wasn't just food. What was broken wasn't just windows. It was a sense of community and purpose, that has since been replaced by skepticism and fear. It's going to take time for a few of my friends to get back what they have lost.
And... ironically, we really, really, care about people being fed.
We know that life is a challenge for many in Rapid City, so we do what we can with the resources we have. We partner with Feeding South Dakota to use our parking lot for a drive-through food distribution on the first Wednesday each month at 2:30 pm. We have a number of folks from Open Heart who volunteer to help with that, besides all the other amazing volunteers from the community.
We have a Free Little Pantry (thank you to Cub Scout Pack #74, who built it several years ago) out in front of our church, which we encourage both people from Open Heart UMC, and people from around town, to stock with goods... NOTE: If people donate food they get from Feeding SD, it can go in the Free Little Pantry, but we can't buy food from FSD and put it in there... It's against the partnership agreement.
And, as previously noted in this post, after talking about it on and off for the last couple of years, while feeling limited by the pandemic, we FINALLY, just last month, relaunched a once-a-month, free community meal at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday. We decided to offer it on a Tuesday because many other churches offer something similar on Wednesdays, and we wanted to try and fill a gap for families in the neighborhood.
Then this happened... The team decided to go forward with the meal that night, but this really shook things up.
We don't know what next year will bring. We pray. We work to try and connect with the community. We believe Christ's transforming, unconditional love is for every person on the planet, and we want to share that. We know that some people may never have known, or may have forgotten, what a caring community looks like. We are all flawed human beings capable of good things.
We believe that Jesus calls us ALL to the table, and asks us to do the best we can to help each other in this messy, broken world. We really hope the person who stole the food will decide they want to pull a seat up to the table and join us. There is room.
Blessed to serve my community, so filled with God's Grace. I look forward to Grace healing these recent wounds.... All are welcome to join us.
~ Pastor Michele
Photo by David Clode of Unsplash.
My heart breaks as I read this and I stand with you in prayer. We know even Jesus prayed for a thief. May His grace flow onto the Circle of Friends to become again a Circle of Trust. Bless you all for your work, your kindness, your forgiveness.
Our shelves maybe empty. But our Hearts are always open to the Love given to us by our community of faith