Over the next two weeks there will be two major events to help support the Loaves and Fishes Ministry, which was founded this spring to provide financial assistance to area families who have incurred great expenses from traumatic accidents or illnesses.
First, the details, before I reflect on how we got here. The first event is a concert featuring Christian artists Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame. It will be held at West Jackson Baptist Church, May 4, at 7 p.m. All proceeds from the $10 admission will go to Loaves and Fishes. For tickets, contact Justin Phillips (Union University) at 661-5285. The second opportunity is a banquet scheduled for May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Campbell Street Church of Christ. Again, all proceeds from this event will go to Loaves and Fishes. Contact Bobby Hearn (AmSouth) at 661-6823. Tickets cost $10 per person, or $50 maximum per family. Special reduced rates are available for youth groups. I will be the keynote speaker at this dinner. Loaves and Fishes is the official title for an organization that began as an unofficial initiative of some caring Christians toward our family. When my daughter Holly had her terrible car accident in late January, with the serious brain injury that was its result, people from all walks of life came around us looking for ways to take care of us. One of the ways this caring took form was an effort to help meet our needs financially. People said repeatedly: “You have plenty to worry about right now-we don’t want money to be one of those worries. Let us take care of it.” So in a spontaneous eruption of practical compassion, funds were raised from hundreds of different people here and elsewhere. Our family is humbled by this amazing expression of loving generosity. I am grateful to God that relatively little of that money appears to be needed in our case. Unlike so many in our nation, we have good health insurance coverage. The bills are not all in, but it appears very likely that well over 95 percent of the money raised for us will not be needed by us. (It may end up being better than that-a family member, inspired by this outpouring of generosity, has pledged to reimburse Loaves and Fishes for all money the fund spends on Holly’s medical expenses.) Last month, as Loaves and Fishes transitioned from being a fund to help our family into a fund to help many families, the money was transferred into an account now managed by the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation. This is now the seed money for a ministry to other families who face similar crises but with fewer resources. The development of Loaves and Fishes illustrates some important truths about the human experience, especially from a Christian perspective. These truths are also very clear in the biblical passages about Jesus feeding huge multitudes of hungry people, from which this ministry gets its name (see Matthew 14:13-21). One of these truths is that human beings are needy people. Under the conditions of sin and in a fallen world, we constantly find ourselves dependent, wounded and vulnerable. Only a small percentage of very fortunate people ever escape such conditions of great need, and even for them/us the return to such need is just one car accident or illness away. A second truth is that God is compassionate. The God who made the world hurts with us when we suffer. The Christ who entered the human condition knows of its many sorrows. This compassionate God takes on our suffering and acts to heal us and meet our needs. And yet God wants partners in the work of meeting human need. When Jesus was faced with thousands of hungry people gathered in a desolate place, undoubtedly he could have met their needs just on his own. But he asked his disciples to take care of them. They gathered their meager resources (five loaves, two fish), and presented them to Jesus. When the disciples did this, Jesus in turn blessed and multiplied these resources so that they were sufficient to feed this massive crowd. Not only were their needs abundantly met, there were leftovers besides! And so the pattern emerges: needy people evoke God’s compassion, who calls on those who love him to contribute all that they can to meet such needs-and when we do so, God takes our meager offerings and multiples them in a supernatural way. God calls on us to become partners in healing the world and meeting its needs, until at last “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain anymore.” David P. Gushee is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University. Write to him at The Jackson Sun, Editorial Department, P.O. Box 1059, Jackson, TN 38302. Log onto jacksonsun.com and share your thoughts on this column. Originally published April 28, 2006 Source: http://www.jacksonsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060428/COLUMNISTS09/604280304/1014