The food pantry ministry at New Life Christian Reformed Church, New Lenox, Ill., owes some of its success to the help provided by the clients they serve.
Launched in 2006, the pantry serves a primarily Hispanic population. The problem was that few church members spoke Spanish. That hampered their efforts to connect with people—until one day a food pantry recipient stepped out of line and volunteered to help interpret.
Now there is often an interpreter at every table as volunteers interview and pray with recipients before they receive food.
Jennifer Huizinga, who coordinates the outreach, said she hadn’t envisioned the enveloping relationship that developed with recipients, but it was clearly part of God’s plan. She has seen relationships among the recipients and between volunteers and recipients grow and thrive.
Lucy Gutierrez is an example of how those relationships blossomed. Not long after the ministry began, Gutierrez came to receive food and other items that her family of seven needed. After just a few visits, however, she realized she could do more.
“I saw that they were having a hard time trying to tell the people [instructions],” Gutierrez said. “As I was standing there, I thought ‘I can do my part,’ so I stepped out and said that I spoke Spanish and English, and could help.”
Even when she doesn’t need food assistance, Gutierrez comes to help translate. New Life also surrounded her with prayer this past December before her 11-year-old son had surgery for a growing tumor. When the doctors went to operate, the tumor had inexplicably shrunk in size.
New Life is also working on a Spanish Coffee Break group to be established within the Hispanic community.