Big Changes, Big Challenges
By Sarah Lichty, Director of Mission
In 2019, Zumbro Lutheran Church committed to hiring a Director of Mission (that’s me) as Open Table sought to expand to another night. August we expanded our service to include a Wednesday night meal at the Salvation Army at least twice a month. We hired out first Intern Subban Hassan, who helped us bridge a language barrier at Eastridge Estates and worked with our confirmation kids serving on Wednesday evenings.
By the end of the year, big changes were afoot. One of our Open Table founding Pastors, Lisa Kipp announced she was ready to embark on a new adventure. Saying our goodbyes proved to by enormously hard, but it was with hearts full of gratitude for her leadership that we sent her to do her next great thing with Lutheran World Relief. With the cold and dark of winter, our Salvation Army guest numbers were dropping off. We decided to pause our Wednesday service, reflect, pray and listen to what God might be calling us to next.
Wow, are we ever glad we did! We certainly didn’t know then what we know now. A global pandemic was on its way, and we were being called to show up in new and challenging ways. As statewide shut downs began in March, our leadership team and lead volunteers gathered to discern our next steps. Our team had concerns, but we were committed to continue to serve the vulnerable guests we had come to know and love. Our logistical queen, Kirsten Lincoln, quickly developed a plan of packing bagged meals, reducing volunteers , spacing us out in the kitchen , and requiring masks. Jan Vetter, ever the fearless shopper, committed to keeping us well stocked and reached out to local businesses Catering by Design and Otto’s Bakery to help keep our cookies coming! Our ever faithful crew of St. Mary’s NICU nurses stepped up to volunteer week after week as we found our courage in this time of uncertainty. Soon Open Table became a bright spot. As driver Todd Christianson said, “this is the only thing that feels normal right now.”
“This is the only thing that feels normal right now.” Todd Christianson
Four months later, more exciting things are happening. We have been building new relationships with the Francis House downtown as well as Rochester Library employees and volunteers. Each week , we have packed 30 meals for the Francis House. Zumbro member Deanna Hahn connected us to the Library and the folks working at the temporary Day Center at the Mayo Civic Center. Library staff and volunteers have been picking up 50-70 packed meals from our west doors three Wednesdays a month.
We have hired our second Intern, Sara Holmes! We are so incredibly blessed to have this talented young adult helping to lead us this summer and give some of our lead volunteers a much needed break. Sara will be leading our high school youth in their Serve Local Week to three new locations to introduce Open Table and bring a free meal to some new friends here in Rochester.
There is not much I know for sure these days, but I do know that none of this happens without the financial support, prayers, volunteer hours or donations of beans, corn, rice and fruit cups from so many of you. Our hearts are full and we are blessed to be an extension of an abundant community so freely giving of its gifts. Wherever you are, take a small moment to celebrate all that has been accomplished . We’ll keep dreaming big dreams and listening to God’s call. With God and with you, Open Table will continue to be a light to all.
Did you miss the first two parts of this three part article? Go back to Part I