Note: This was written and published on Carrie's blog at the beginning of March 2020 before Quarantine started.
Up until last year I was a youth pastor, so my job was planning events for the teens. Several years ago as I sat at my desk wondering what conference to take the youth group to the following year as I planned the budget and calendar. I came across a conference in Monterey put on by Organic Outreach International. I sat at my desk and asked God if this is where we were supposed to go. I looked over the speaker list and was drawn to one of the speakers. So we went. I sat there completely overwhelmed by the realization that I was exactly where I needed to be. It was an amazing event, but more importantly it was the start of something amazingly new for our church.
I came back sharing the principles of Organic Outreach with the leadership of our church and thankfully they caught the excitement and got on board. We had a group go do the intensive training they offer and began to launch this new way of operating at our church. We hit some bumps in the road as people moved away and new leaders emerged, and this year I was placed in charge of our Organic Outreach Team.
So what is Organic Outreach? Its not a church program but a new way of living and thinking. So many people go to church instead of being the church and they plan potlucks and socials for their members and it can get to a point where the church feels more like a country club. That isn't what God intended. Organic Outreach encourages us to engage with the people that are in our lives. To be out there in the world loving people and sharing Jesus with them in a way that is natural. That happens when we experience the love for the world that Jesus did. We have to care for this whole thing to work.
I lead an Organic Outreach meeting last night and yesterday morning was a crazy day. I had car issues and a few other things that had me enveloped in my own world. Still I sat at my desk to prep for the meeting. I had to make a change in my schedule so the grocery shopping that was going to happen today, had to happen yesterday so I ran out at lunch to get that errand checked off the list and get back to my work to-do list.
I had no idea I was on a God field trip. He wanted my notes for the meeting to be authentic so he had a surprise waiting for me on my trip to Winco.
As I pushed my cart through the aisles I saw lots of people and usually I end up running into the same people repeatedly, but as I went past the yogurts I noticed a mother and her almost grown daughter by the orange juice. I can't tell you why they stood out to me, but they just seemed cool, positive women. I went on to grab some frozen corn and then headed to check out.
As I approached the lines, I scanned to see which aisle was least ominous and saw the same mother/daughter duo in a not so long line so I pulled up behind them. As they put their groceries on the belt, I got a chuckle at the mom's shirt and let her know I liked it. They seemed to carefully weighing the options of what made the cut and what didn't.
I immediately asked God, "Am I supposed to help them?" You may be saying, help everyone, but truthfully giving to everyone isn't always helping. I wasn't sure if mom was teaching daughter to be responsible and if I rushed in to help, I could be ruining a teachable moment. So I waited as they checked out and began to bag their groceries.
When it was my turn I noticed several items by the cashier and asked if they couldn't afford them. She confirmed that was the case so I told her to add it to my bill and just set it there at the end of their stuff. She verified that is what I really wanted as she rung up each item. Honestly, I don't know how much it was but I doubt it was much over $20. I assured her to do it. When the ladies got to the items they didn't pay for they came to the register to ask what happened and she informed them that I had paid for it.
This is when things get interesting. The mom said thank you and started to cry. She came over to me and hugged me so tight and repeatedly thanked me in between bursts of tears. It was a hug I'd expect from someone who just got the big check from Ellen, not from someone who just got a couple of items free from the store. The hug told me there was more, so I held onto her equally as tight and encouraged her and reaffirmed God loved her. She then got all of her stuff and headed out the store. Her daughter thanked me as they left.
As I left the store, I began to cry because I was the one who was blessed. I didn't plan any of that and God used it to show me how much he loves all of us. He knows the life behind each of us as we pass mindlessly on the street, in stores and public transit. Small things can have great impact for those with great need.
When I got home there were a pair of shoes at my door that I was supposed to buy from a friend. Instead of waiting for me to come pick them up, she dropped them off for me. She knew about my car trouble and decided just to gift them to me, so I know there are so many kind-hearted people out there paying it forward and allowing God to work through them.
This blog post isn't about me and "look what I did," instead its about what God did. For all of that to happen, everything was timed. God had a plan. I didn't have to obey, but if I hadn't I'd be the one to miss out. I also got connected with the heart of people - not the void of bodies roaming, but a woman with a need that I could bless and blessed me in return.
I was now ready for the meeting. Sure, my notes and copies were lined up ready to go, but the real prep work was in my heart in the middle of that grocery store.
Are you connected to humanity? Are you available to go where God leads? We get asked to give a lot and I believe that non-stop request line has most of us pretty checked out with the needs of those around us. I don't blame us, we've been overloaded and have barricaded our hearts to survive and ensure we don't get used, but the down side is, we miss the human moments. Ask God to prepare your heart for what he is doing and when you get those moments, go for it. Feel free to share it with me, I'd love to hear about it! Happy Wednesday!