First Fruits took place on Nov. 19th, but the fruit extends far beyond this day and the delivery of groceries. We were all blessed in more ways that we could have asked or imagined. We had over 500 volunteers come out, spread over 27 teams that did more than 140 jobs on a beautiful Fall day, that raised funds for more than 90 families in need. Many of our First Fruits families are struggling with unemployment or underemployment, working multiple jobs to care for their families and still not covering their bills. More than 10 of our families may soon lose their homes. Many are also struggling with the loss of a spouse, divorce, major medical bills, and crippling disabilities. First Fruits is about providing encouragement to families in the midst of these struggles as the result of teams often literally expending themselves on their behalf.
Our teams were able to see the first fruits of their labor the same day by shopping and then visiting 31 of the families on the evening of Nov. 19th. The groceries (the small part of the First Fruits gift) together with Shoppers Food Warehouse gift cards provides as close to a month’s worth of groceries for each family as possible. Beyond the groceries, the teams were able to encourage and often pray with some of the families in the midst of some very tough times. One family of four shares a two-bedroom apartment with another family. The team leader has stayed in touch with the family and is putting together a Christmas gift. Another of our teams brought groceries and visited with an Iraq veteran and his family, who are working through the challenges of a brain injury. Team members have stayed in touch with the family, who has also now visited RBC several times. Another team visited a family about to lose their home to foreclosure – yet another reminder of how things that look great on the outside can mask the turmoil and pain taking place on the inside. I’m thankful that our team went beyond the exterior to pray with and minister to the family, encouraging them to not give up.
Thanks to the Lord’s blessing, First Fruits was also able to go beyond these 31 families to include another 60 families in need. One of these families was out of food, had been praying for help, and then received the grocery gift cards unexpectedly that day from a friend that attends the RBC Spanish church. She is still praising the Lord for his provision at just the right time. The wife of another First Fruits family had brain surgery, and after recovering from the surgery, she returned to work and was immediately laid off from her job. Her husband is also out of work. When they were given the First Fruit gift, the husband was thankful, speechless, and surprised that church teenagers would work to help those in need.
One story of a single mother is a further reminder of how important it is for us as the body of Christ to be looking up and caring for those God has placed in our lives. This mom was referred through a First Fruits captain that saw her need and reached out on her behalf. She had been a property manager, lost her job in the downturn, and is now doing a short sale on her home. Her story is still unfolding, but she sends thanks for the unexpected help from First Fruits that provided key encouragement over Thanksgiving at exactly the right time. She too has visited RBC a couple times.
There are many other stories still unfolding from First Fruits and how the RBC body is in motion looking out for neighbors, Shepherd Group members, family members, coworkers, or friends met through church, school, or a child’s sport’s team. Financial struggles cross all lines and neighborhoods. And, thankfully, the RBC body is reaching across these lines. I know there is more fruit to come.