Above: Jason wife, Gina, and their oldest daughter Lauren, going over their position at the volunteer packaging station.
Just recently, our church announced a goal of packing 1,000,000 meals for refugees in Africa as a part of the Famine Relief Food Pack Event.
Our family quickly jumped on this opportunity, signing up for one of the many one-hour volunteer blocks.
If your goal is to package up over a million meals, you must have your act together. You can’t just have volunteers showing up guided only by a loose plan. The level of organization that our family experienced as we volunteered was a clear indicator that they most definitely had their act together. Volunteers were broken up into small groups and assigned to a station. Everyone at the station had a task, each task being no more important than the other. Yet, every task was critical and packaging the meals could not be done without everyone involved.
There were a few people assigned to putting together some of the ingredients, some bagging, some weighing, some sealing, and some assembling the sealed meal bags into larger boxes, ultimately to be shipped overseas. The result was a single sealed “Rice and Bean Meal Bag” that would cook within 20 minutes and contain vitamins and minerals essential for nutrition. Each box we packaged up contained a little over 210 meals. When our hour of volunteering was up, we had packaged up 10 total boxes, roughly 2100 meals.
What amazed me was how many tables were all working at the same time, obviously some at different paces than others. It was an extremely rewarding and humbling time. To give up an hour of your day and realize the number of lives that would be touched was something I will not soon forget.
As our time had come to an end, I took a small break to look around the room and see what everyone else was doing. I was caught off guard when to my right, at our table, was a young lady affected by Down Syndrome. I immediately wanted to go over and give her a high-five, but didn’t. I did not want to embarrass her or draw any extra attention to her. After all, she was there doing what every other was doing: serving.
Inside I was smiling. I was thankful she was a part of our team. After all, we were packing up meals quicker than the rest of the room! More importantly, there are several areas of our world where children diagnosed with Down Syndrome will never have the opportunity to enjoy a fulfilling life. A recent CBS report stated that there are several countries claiming that they have come close to eradicating Down Syndrome births, most notably Iceland, who has nearly a 100% termination rate for pregnancies with a Down Syndrome diagnosis. Sadly, the United States has a 67% termination rate.
It really was a blessing for her to be there with us that day.
That blessing brought me back to Mark Batterson’s book Chase The Lion where he makes frequent references to something known as the butterfly effect. Simply stated, the butterfly effect is a term explaining how small causes can have larger effects, often much larger effects than the initial cause.
Do you know the name of the person that witnessed to Billy Graham? A lot of people don’t. I would bet that an even lessor known fact are the people that witnessed to that person, leading them to Christ, setting the example to set into motion a chain of events that would impact so many for Jesus. It is easy to point to Billy Graham and see his impact, but what about the series of events many, many years ahead of him had to take place for that to happen?
As these thoughts flooded my mind, I couldn’t help but think about all the others affected by disabilities that weren’t serving. Did they know that they could serve? Have they been asked? Has anyone told them how important they are? Have they ever heard what a tremendous impact they could have on the world?
This young lady was not just standing there scooping rice. She wasn’t just “allowed” to participate because the leadership at the church thought it would “be the nice thing to do”. Without this young lady at our table, we would not have been able to package up the number of meals that we did. Her role was vital. She had a global impact. The small act of serving for one hour had the potential of reaching thousands of people beyond our comprehension.
This is what happens when our friends affected with disabilities are not only included, but encouraged to serve.