Home of Wheaton Bible Church's Quarterly Magazine
by Eileen Carapia
“It has been said that a person can live forty days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, but only four seconds without hope. Hope restores faith to a life that has been robbed of dignity. Hope replaces a past of hunger, brokenness, and despair with a bright future of opportunity. It is hope that Children’s Hunger Fund seeks to restore.” —from the Children’s Hunger Fund website
Although we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, there are thousands of people in the areas surrounding our church campus who eat virtually the same thing every day and may only have enough food for two or three days at a time.
“We believe that God has called us to be His hands and feet, His presence, in our neighborhoods, DuPage County, and around the world,” said Local Impact Pastor Chris McElwee. “And we believe that our church can and should do something about the hungry among us. That’s why we decided, to start a food ministry as a part of our Local Impact efforts, working in partnership with the regional headquarters of the Children’s Hunger Fund.”
The hands and feet of this operation are volunteers from our congregation who deliver boxes of food staples to families and individuals who have contacted our church indicating a need. The Wheaton Bible Church Hunger Team meets a physical need of our neighbors, but more importantly it provides spiritual food and hope. Distributing food—and restoring hope. And in the process, many of our volunteers have found their own lives changed—precisely what God did in the lives of volunteers Judi and Tim Gillison.
Here is how Judi describes their Hunger Team experience:
JUDI AND TIM MEET LOUANN
One of our family goals has been to serve in a volunteer capacity on an ongoing basis here at Wheaton Bible Church or out in the community. Over the years, we have served in many different ways, but in the past our serving has always stayed well within our comfort zone.
My husband, Tim, and I had heard about the Hunger Team, but we avoided it “like the plague” because we both felt that kind of volunteering was way out of our comfort zone. Let me explain that we are generally a shy couple—not particularly social—who relish being in the background and go out of our way to avoid being in situations where we feel we have to be bold. But in September of 2009, Tim’s mom passed away suddenly, and we felt that the Lord was firmly telling us to deal with our grief by reaching out to someone in need. He led us once again to the Hunger Team, and even though we told Him we weren’t capable of serving in this way, we still felt His leading to sign up. We decided that we wanted to serve an older woman or couple.
We were assigned a single, maturing adult woman named LouAnn, and with great anxiety, I called her to set up a first meeting—only to find she had recently moved from Glendale Heights to Elmhurst. She asked me if we still wanted to bring her a food box even though we would have to drive twice as far. Hesitantly, I said ‘yes.’ And so we began delivering food to LouAnn every weekend.
At first, we were truly way out of our comfort zone, as was LouAnn. She graciously accepted the food box every week but seemed uncomfortable with what she may have perceived as charity. We would chat about the weather, our families, and our health—but over time, our conversations began to go to a new level of intimacy as we started sharing the deeper issues of our lives, including our faith.
Tim and I again ventured way out of our comfort zone and asked LouAnn if we could pray for her. She accepted our offer and seemed pleased. Then we asked if we could pray with her. Every time we took a step forward, LouAnn walked forward with us. Then, during one visit, she offered not only to pray with us, but also began to pray for us. We were moved beyond words.
We have now been “doing life” with LouAnn for eighteen months. We no longer bring her a food box, because we have found other ways to help. We started to think “outside the box” by purchasing perishables, and other food items she enjoys.
We have met several members of her family—and she has met ours. She has been to our home for dinner. We have walked through wonderful moments and some very difficult ones together. We consider LouAnn a part of our family and she calls us her friends and we feel privileged.
We have been humbled and overwhelmed by what God has taught us through the Hunger Team program and through our friendship with LouAnn. At first we thought God had asked us to do this for the blessing He could work in someone else’s life through us. But we have found that we are the ones who have been blessed—and deeply enriched—by this friendship that began with the delivery of one box of food.
SUE AND DONNA MEET SEBASTIAN
My hunger team partner, Sue, and I first met Sebastian during the summer of 2009. He and his wife at the time were living at the DuWayne Motel, across North Avenue from Wheaton Bible Church. They had lived in their car for five months the previous winter. His wife was in a management program at a fast food restaurant, but Sebastian had been laid off from a job in security the previous year.
He was tearful the first time we talked, citing a need for food and car repairs to keep their car running so his wife could get to work. We arrived with a box of food and had a nice first visit outside of their motel room the next day. We visited with him every few weeks for well over the next year, usually ending our time with prayer. We continue to talk regularly on the phone or have visits at the church on occasion.
Quite a lot has happened to Sebastian since we became friends that hot July day. The very next month after our initial meeting, Sebastian’s wife asked him for a divorce. He needed to move out and did so a short time later. He reconciled with his parents, whom he hadn’t spoken to in four years, and moved in with them in their one bedroom apartment. The reconciliation couldn’t have happened at a better time, since his mother was battling leukemia. After months of treatment and frequent admissions to the hospital, she went to be with the Lord on May 6, 2010. She confirmed to me just days before she died that Jesus was her Savior. What a joyous moment that was! Our church held a beautiful memorial service for her. Many family friends, as well as nurses from Central Dupage Hospital, were in attendance.
With financial help from our church, and a lot of studying, Sebastian was able to successfully receive his GED (General Equivalency Degree) in February, 2010. He continues to be unemployed, due to a back injury and thyroid cancer, and is again living at the DuWayne Motel with his dad. They are each other’s near-constant companions.
Today, both of these men have completed the Alpha course. Sebastian has participated in DivorceCare and the GPS class on Sunday mornings. He attends our church services regularly and was baptized on February 13, 2011!
He gave a powerful testimony and spoke of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior on Christmas Eve a few years ago. He has a tender heart for anyone in need, especially the homeless, because he knows firsthand the road they’re traveling. He desires to give back and demonstrates God’s love by volunteering at a food pantry.
It’s amazing what a box of food can do! WBC’S partnership with Children’s Hunger Fund enables us to meet much more than physical needs. I suspect that Sue and I will be friends with Sebastian for a very long time.
IS GOD CALLING YOU TO SERVE?
For more information, attend the next Hunger Team info meeting on Sunday, July 17, or contact Eileen Carapia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eileen Carapia and her husband Aron have attended both WBC and Iglesia del Pueblo since 2006. Eileen serves as administrative assistant to WBC’s Local Impact Ministry, assisting those with needs for food or legal aid, and connecting volunteers with opportunities to serve the community.