The Miracle of a Thanksgiving Meal
When Jesus asked His disciples to feed 5,000 people at a single sitting (Matthew 14:13-21), I’m sure they looked at the few fish and bread loaves they possessed and panicked. I know how they felt.
Over the next two months, my cooking staff and I at Union Rescue Mission must figure out how we’re going to feed more than 4,000 hungry men, women, and children at our annual Thanksgiving celebration! And I’m tempted to panic, too. But I know that Jesus found a way to feed those 5,000 people — and so will we.
I’ve been involved in church ministry all my life, and I’ve always had a heart for the less fortunate. I’ve also loved cooking since I was a child. So when I came to Union Rescue Mission last year as Executive Chef, responsible for serving over 2,500 meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — each and every day, I was able to combine two of the greatest passions of my life.
But no day is more important than Thanksgiving, and last year’s celebration was one of the most extraordinary days of my life. Somehow I had to figure out how to cook 500 turkeys, along with hundreds of pounds of gravy, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, salad, green-bean casserole, rolls, and pies for one single meal! It took us more than two months of 16-hour days to get all the food we needed and to prepare it all.
But I loved every minute of it. Some people think it’s just food, but it’s more than that. It’s ministry. The people I’m serving are precious people who are alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, former inmates, hurting single mothers, and innocent, disadvantaged kids. They need more than good food; they need hope and to experience God. And for one meal, for one day, I can help give that to them. And last year, thanks to a lot of caring people like you, we did just that.
I wish you could have seen it. As I mingled among the thousands of people from Skid Row who joined us for Thanksgiving, they were no longer addicts, prostitutes, and hurting moms and kids — they were grateful people filled with joy. God worked through you and me that day to give hurting people a glimpse of what life could be like again.
Today, I’m already looking forward to what God will do through you and me this coming Thanksgiving. Whatever you give, large or small, we’ll be part of God’s Thanksgiving miracle.
The Fuel of Thanksgiving Love
Last year, at Union Rescue Mission’s Thanksgiving celebration, I remember joining one of our volunteers, an actress from the TV show The Bold and the Beautiful, to eat with some of our guests. Among them was a beautiful older gentleman in a wheelchair who lives here on Skid Row.
We wheeled his chair through the building, ate with him, made sure he got an extra helping of pie, and hugged him goodbye. The look of joy on his face told me he received more than a Thanksgiving dinner — he was home again, touched by the love of friends and family who cared for him, transformed for a moment by the love of Christ.
That’s what our Thanksgiving celebrations are all about — a taste of home, a touch of love, and an encounter with Christ. Because when our precious guests experience these, many times they leave the streets, come in to our program, and we truly show them the way home forever. Without you, however, none of this is possible. Your gifts provide the fuel that makes love come alive at Thanksgiving and all year round.
Rev. Andy Bales, CEO