by Nancy Topping.
When you live by donations, God always provides. Sometimes he does so in most unusual ways….
Just before Christmas, I went on a shopping spree—one that came as a total surprise.
I had just come out of poustinia—24 hours of silence, fasting, prayer, and solitude. The first thing I heard was Trudy Moessner announcing in a trumpet-like voice: "We had the winning ticket!"
Soon the details were made known to me. Caroline Baker, one of our volunteers, had bought a raffle ticket, a Sobey’s Grocery Store "shopping spree," in our name. (Actually, it’s a supermarket.)
A woman with a generous heart, she wanted to give us the chance to win $1,000 worth of food. And we did!
What we had won was a "grocery grab." You get two minutes to put as much food as you can into a shopping cart—up to a thousand dollars worth.
That was, of course, great news, but it wasn’t as simple as it sounded. Someone would have to practice shoving food into a cart, and since you had to start the spree with a cart at the front of the store and run to the food aisles, that person would also have to go through a strenuous exercise program in order to be able to run as fast as possible.
Two minutes! That’s all the time you have!
Who would do this? I am the director of the house, and that evening, I spoke to each of the other five members of our Marian Centre family. They were all thrilled about the winning ticket, about the idea of the whole thing—but do it?
They thought I should.
At first, I was reluctant. But after a night’s sleep, I came to the conclusion that if God wanted me to do it, I’d better not do it reluctantly. I then proceeded to enjoy the whole experience.
The next day Caroline and I met with the owner of Sobey’s Grocery Store in East Regina and with members of the charitable organization called, "The High Noon Optimists Club," who had put on the raffle to raise money for youth initiatives in Regina.
Then Caroline and I planned out a strategy.
For the event, I wore a bright yellow T-shirt with the words, "Look out! I’m powered by God!"
Watched by media people; a "cheering squad" of Marian Centre staff, friends and volunteers; and Saturday morning shoppers, I charged down the aisle, making a beeline for the pork chops. (Fortunately, they were conveniently located in a straight line from the starting point.)
As I filled the cart, the cheering squad holding handmade signs were yelling, "Go, Nancy, go!"
I ran back to the front of the store, grabbed another shopping cart, and headed for the steak.
In the 45 years of running our soup kitchen, I don’t think we’ve ever served steak. This thought gave me momentum.
When they told me, "fifteen seconds left,"
someone called out, "You have room in the back of the buggy." And so I did! I continued pushing down the steaks, and before the whistle blew ending the event, I was able to completely fill the second cart.
When the cashier computed the total, I saw that the spree had been a great success. I had surpassed the $1,000 limit.
One of our volunteers, Lisa Polk, immediately offered to pay for the extra meat—about $200 worth as a donation to Marian Centre.
After that, Lisa said "Let’s say a short prayer."
So, just down from the cashiers, the cheering squad said a prayer thanking God for the gift of the food for the hungry who come to our soup kitchen, for the charity of all those who organized this event, and for the opportunity to witness to God’s love right there in the grocery store on a Saturday morning in December.
Media people from the city newspapers and TV station interviewed me, and that, too, was fun. Mainly they asked about my strategy.
I had thought about the interview ahead of time, thinking that God must have a plan for us winning besides having some feasts for the men who come to our soup kitchen. Perhaps God wanted me to give people a message.
So at the end of the interview, when I was asked, "Do you have anything more you want to say?" I seized the opportunity.
I said, "Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth, when Christ became a child, poor and helpless. We in Saskatchewan have a good economy now, and there’s a good amount of money in the province. We need to remember that many people are poor and suffering greatly. How about we care for the weakest in our midst?"
The next best thing to being at the event was seeing it on the TV news that evening and reading about it in the city newspapers.
The whole thing has been fun for those who come to our soup kitchen as well. They enjoyed hearing about it, joked about it, and talked about it, and during the long winter ahead, they knew they were going to be having some wonderfully festive meals.
One of the men gave me the nickname, "Two Minutes."
Reflecting on the event now, I see much love in the whole thing. Generosity is contagious, and it was that day. I think that’s what made it all so joyful.
We give glory to God for allowing all this to happen and for giving us this time of fun.
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