Sometimes a smile and a turkey sandwich are all it takes to show you care.
While other families gathered around dinner tables to partake in traditional Thanksgiving feasts, members of Epworth United Methodist Church in Jesup packed and delivered 48 sack lunches to people working on the holiday.
Packed and delivered before noon, the brown paper bags contained a smoked turkey sandwich, sweet potato chips, carrot and celery sticks, a bag of dried cranberries, and a pumpkin muffin or piece of pumpkin bread. Labels placed on the outside read, “Thinking of you today as you work and bringing you Thanksgiving Blessings from the congregation of Epworth United Methodist Church.”
“It’s a turkey sandwich, but we try to make it symbolic of a traditional Thanksgiving meal,” said Rev. Kathy Israel McLeod, Epworth UMC’s senior pastor.
The meals were delivered to those who had to work, often alone, and didn’t have facilities to heat food or couldn’t leave their jobs to eat.
Without calling in advance, the Epworth UMC members showed up at Christmas tree lots, gas stations, video stores, liquor stores, the 911 call center and other places that didn’t close for the holiday.
“It’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t take a lot of effort or money,” Rev. Israel McLeod said. “When I deliver the lunches I just walk in and say, ‘We want to share Thanksgiving with you,’ and give it to them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ and leave. We’ve had a great response. People are surprised and kind of don’t know what to do!”
Epworth UMC member Mike Bobo and his 13-year-old son, Ryan, took a few hours out of their Thanksgiving festivities to deliver lunches.
Bobo and his wife, Amy, serve on the church’s mission committee. It was important that their family start the day by serving.
“It made us feel good to start the morning by giving thanks to God for what He has given us by giving to someone else,” he said.
Delivering Thanksgiving lunches was also a great way to go out into the community and show God’s love, Bobo said.
“It’s just a way for us to get out in the community and remind people that God loves them and that we’re thinking about them on Thanksgiving when they have to work and everyone else is at home.”
This was the second year Epworth UMC had packed and delivered Thanksgiving lunches. Three teams of volunteers made quick work of the meal preparation, packaging and distribution.
So no volunteers were asked to be away from their families all Thanksgiving day, turkeys were smoked in advance and refrigerated; vegetables were cut, washed and refrigerated a few days in advance; and non-perishable food items were packed early in the week. On Thanksgiving morning, a team of volunteers met at the church at 8 a.m. to assemble sandwiches and pack the cold items, and another three teams made deliveries.
The sack lunch is a simple gift, but one of unexpected grace, Rev. Israel McLeod said.
“To me, it’s a grace moment because we get to, literally and in a tangible form, give God’s grace to people when they’re not expecting it, and that’s the definition of grace – something unexpected and undeserved,” she said.
And like Jesus, they went to unexpected places, to unexpected people, offering an unexpected gift.
“Jesus went to those people who no one else was going to,” Rev. Israel McLeod said. “To me, it’s like doing ministry in the corners where people don’t normally go. Long term, we’d like for people to realize that the Church is about going out to people and going out to less expected places.”