I have a favorite movie entitled, “Love Actually.” I am not sure how many times I have watched it, but I can guarantee the number would be high. There are probably six different stories going on at the same time in the movie, and they eventually all revolve around love in the end. The opening song of this movie is All You Need Is Love, which comes from an old Beatles tune. I could not help but think of this song when I had the incredible opportunity to participate in one of the many missions here at Mt. Bethel.
My husband and I have helped with the packing of backpacks for the kids at Fair Oaks Elementary School for a while. We would do this on Thursday, and the backpacks would be delivered to the kids on Friday. These were children who, because of their economic status, would probably not have food for themselves over the weekend. The items in the backpacks are very healthy and a variety of items were always included. I could not help but be amazed at how orderly the backpack filling process was, thanks to the Mt.Bethel Backpack Ministry leadership for organizing a terrific assembly process. Though I had heard stories about the children at Fair Oaks, I had not personally gone to the school to help pass out the backpacks until recently. And that is when God truly touched my heart in more ways than I could have imagined.
As we entered the school with numerous tubs of loaded backpacks, I was not sure what to expect or what the process would be. Our leader Stacy would knock on the schoolroom doors, and when she opened the doors, children would come running to the doors to greet Stacy with the biggest smiles and hugs you have ever seen. The best part was that Stacy would hug each one back and call their name and treated each child as what they truly were–a loved child of God. We proceeded from room to room and the reception we received was the same. There was such happiness on their faces and in their hearts at the sight of Stacy and the volunteers that we could not wait to go the next room. This process proceeded until we had handed out all of the 520 backpacks. The entire process took a few hours, and not only were we treated to hugs and smiles, but one class had rehearsed the National Anthem for us and we all stood proud and smiled at their accomplishment. I think that was when my first tears came. As we went from room to room, receiving the same welcome and hugs, I could not help but think how we, in our little area called Mt.Bethel, sometimes take so much for granted. Publix and Kroger are directly down the street, and the thought of going without food for the weekend is foreign to us. Fair Oaks Elementary is only about six miles from our church–in our backyard.
These children did not necessarily have clothes that matched, and they were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but they had love in their hearts and appreciation on their faces as they took their backpacks of food for the weekend. We even heard a story of one child who saw a homeless man and gave up his backpack, knowing that this man would not have any way to get any food. That might have been when the second tears came.
When school starts in the fall, I am asking everyone to look for the opportunity to help with the filling of these backpacks, and maybe consider helping with the delivery. Maybe you have been looking for a mission opportunity to help with but are not sure what to do. The only cost is your time, and I can assure you that you will be as moved as I was. Those “God moments” are so precious and I am thankful to our Backpack Ministry leadership for opening their hearts years ago to help these children. Thank you to this Ministry’s leadership, Tony and Pam Palermo, Stacy Ronan, Kimberlee Ackerman and Ben Hornsby. With love in their hearts, they opened their ears and their eyes to God’s call and saw a need that we at Mt.Bethel could help fill. Thank you to all of the hands that help to fill these precious, much needed and appreciated food backpacks.
On a side note, the leadership at this school has reported a strong improvement in overall test scores, classroom participation, reading level, and attendance since this Mt.Bethel program was initiated. Praise God!