Boxes of produce build bridges in Garden City

Immigrants, including those with COVID-19, are grateful for surprise delivery

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A truck load of produce from a non-profit helping those impacted by COVID-19 provided an unexpectedly opportunity for Garden Valley Church to bless immigrants in their community. Photo; Garden Valley Church

Four years ago, an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, housing Somali immigrants garnered national attention when it was the target of an attempted bombing. Last month the spot where three militia members planned to park a truck packed with explosives was the location of a truck filled with fruits and vegetables for a community ravaged by COVID-19. It also represented an opportunity for building bridges.

When we woke up Thursday morning, May 21, 2020, we had no idea of the opportunity that awaited four of us from Garden Valley Church. The surprise notice came at 8:00 a.m. A Convoy of Hope truck of fresh produce—850 boxes filled with potatoes, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, squash, lettuce, etc.—had unexpectedly arrived at the Assembly of God church.

Convoy of Hope is a nonprofit organization that provides food, supplies and humanitarian services to needy populations and is currently providing relief to people affected by the coronavirus.

Someone needed to pick-up and distribute our portion—150 boxes. After a few texts and phone calls, I recruited three men. We loaded the goods and began our mission of giving away the fresh produce before the heat of the day took its toll.

The first goal: take care of those in our church body that could use some encouragement from the groceries. That barely made a dent, leaving 130 boxes.

A chance phone call resulted in a renewed connection with an individual and his wife who were recovering from three weeks of COVID-19. This was the open door I was praying for, and I knew we had the go ahead at this point to follow the Spirit’s lead—and the Spirit was directing us to the apartment complex. We discussed the risks, grabbed our masks and gloves and prayed for the right connections as we drove.

My contact met us as we arrived. Seeing the amount of produce, he began knocking on doors in the apartment complex, waking people up. Within an hour, 100 of the boxes were in the hands of many devastated by the direct and indirect affects of the pandemic.

When individuals—typically immigrants—working at meat processing plants are offered bonuses for not missing work, there is an incentive to persevere at work in spite of having symptoms of COVID-19. Yes, there is sick leave, if you can sort through the complicated paperwork, but a positive result means all of one’s roommates must be quarantined. This is devastating not only for the employee who has bills to pay but also for the families of these immigrants who are back home and depend on this income. Immigrants are caught between a rock and a hard place.

One individual paused, mesmerized at the beautiful box of produce. After a long moment he blurted out, “I just love this country!”

I quickly responded, “God is good, very good!  May God heal you!” (A phrase common in this community.)

Many sick recipients stood at a distance, respecting the social distancing guidelines, waiting for a friend who knew their situation to bring them a box. It occurred to me how the lepers in biblical times must have felt having to distance themselves from others.

A glimmer of hope. A prayer of healing. A bridge built.

Our next stop was another apartment complex. I needed a connection but was coming up short.  As we prepared to leave, a doctor who cares for people in the complex called and quickly provided the needed contact. This contact, who was just returning to work after several weeks of illness, directed us to delivery points, most of whom were individuals or families who tested positive for COVID-19. There was just the right number of boxes to meet the need!

A glimmer of hope. A prayer of healing. A bridge built.

A simple act of kindness involving a box of groceries helped build a bridge to the hope of the Gospel…one step at a time.

Steve Ensz
Steve Ensz is senior pastor at Garden Valley Church, Garden City, Kansas. Ensz began in youth ministry in 1985 after graduating from Grace College of the Bible, Omaha, Nebraska, in 1983. He served as the youth pastor for Garden Valley for 22 years and in November 2012, transitioned to senior pastor. Ensz and his wife, Lesa, were married in 1984 and have three children: Karena, Tina and Jeremy.

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