Gleaners Don’t QuitOthers, COVID-19 , Hunger
Contributed by: Fraser Valley Gleaners
The 2020/21 Covid 19 year has been something the whole universe has been talking about; a major upset in our country of Canada and around the world. It was disappointing to our volunteers at Fraser Valley Gleaners that our food processing plant would be closed for a while. Our staff tried to assure everyone who phoned the office, “No, we don’t know how long we will be closed.” “Yes, we will be open again!” “Please stay safe!”
Over the course of the closure of the plant last spring we tried to connect with as many of our seniors volunteers by phone or email to give them information as we received it from our Health Minister of BC. This was a big challenge for some, especially those who were widowed and/or had no family nearby. Their social and spiritual connections in our community were physically discontinued.
One faithful volunteer who was a retired pastor was feeling frustrated in his locked down seniors complex – he needed to connect with people, so asked if he could have a list of our volunteers. He phoned some of them, asking how they were coping with the rules and if they had family or friend support, how were they managing, did they need prayer? He prayed with them over the phone. Many of our volunteers were blessed by this act of concern and kindness.
Our food drying production was shut down for nine weeks – and when we did open our facility to our volunteers we had new protocols that everyone needed to abide by – wear facial masks, wash your hands, keep your social distance. No hugs, no handshakes, wash your hands, no large groups, no school tours, no students, wash your hands, no socializing before or after the work time, no social events and …. wash your hands.
How could we keep our Gleaner project of “Feeding people” going? People desperately needed food! How were we going to make soup mix with such a small group of volunteers? New protocols allowed us a maximum of 25 people volunteering on a daily basis – we were used to have a building bustling with 70 volunteers all cutting up vegetables for our dehydrated soup mix. How were we going to guide our volunteers into some normalcy?
We continued to ask God for wisdom and guidance to bring us through this uncharted time. It was almost overwhelming for our staff and volunteers, but we all worked together, navigating through the last few months – we realized the need for food for developing countries was now greater than ever; we needed to bring all our energy and put our hands together (metaphorically speaking, of course, because we needed to social distance). God kept providing produce to work on and our volunteers signed up on a daily schedule to come and process it. We had to establish a new normal. We managed to send 12.5 million soup mix servings to Burundi, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania, Cuba, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, Guatemala, Colombia and Paraguay.
We watch our small community of seniors get stronger and more focused on the project of feeding God’s people. They don’t quit! God’s presence is so evident in this place. Thank you Jesus, for giving us the chance to worship and serve in this ministry.