Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Reflections

Coat donations at Northwest Children's Outreach.
Kids here will need them until July 5. Or August 5. Or always.

March is over. How is this possible? I’ve been running around so much, this month has passed by in a blur. 
Whoever said March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb did not live in Oregon. The wind, rain, and gray skies are bringing me down and my lack of energy totally reflects in my volunteering attitude. I’m still keeping my commitment to serve the less fortunate once a week, but my enthusiasm is waning. 
From the Bible, I’ve adopted Philippians 2:7 (written in left column of this blog) as my theme verse this year. I strive for compassion to come naturally; to learn to have the “nature of a servant”. I wish I could tell you that after 13 weeks, my heart is full of grace and mercy. Sigh - not so. I wonder if I’ll ever get there.
The Bible paraphrase book, The Message, writes the Philippians passage this way:
[Jesus] had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.
Jesus was human. We read throughout the Gospel that he experienced emotions like ours. He cried, became angry, was hungry, and withstood temptation. I wish I could find a passage telling me if Jesus ever became depressed or overwhelmed. 
Did he ever say, “So much healing to do, but it’s cold and rainy out. I think I’ll just stay inside and watch tv today?”
“There is just too much hurting in this world! It’s too much for one person. Plus I’ve got bills to pay, kids to chauffeur, and meals to plan?”
No, I don’t think he did. Because even though he was human, he was God. And even if he gave up his “privileges of deity”, he still had a God-size heart. Which means he loved everyone, no matter what. Even the junkie who can’t make it to the food bank.
Entering April, I will continue on my quest to have a servant’s heart. Which of Jesus’ attributes do you strive to embody?

Friday, March 30, 2012

SCAT Food Delivery Team - Week 13

Where I Went:
SCAT (Special Church/Community Action Team) is a food-pantry ministry of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, OR. The church website details SCAT’s mission:
  • Deliver 5-7 days worth of nutritious food and basic household items tailored to meet specific dietary needs of low-income residents referred by Care to Share (CTS) or Oregon Food Bank (OFB). Delivery services are intended for those who are elderly, ill, disabled or without transportation.
  • Operate "shopping-style" pantries that provide 5-7 days worth of a variety of nutritious food choices as well as basic household items for referred families. Walk-ins are provided a limited amount of emergency food and contact information for CTS. It is our policy that no one leaves our building without food, whether or not they have a referral.
  • Provide traditional Christmas food baskets and gifts to economically disadvantaged families in Beaverton and surrounding areas.
First Impressions:
I thought I may be pushing my luck scheduling a volunteer activity for the whole family on Wednesday. Spring Break theater camp results in tired, hungry, and grumpy children each day at pick-up. My husband, Edd, took the day off work so we could celebrate his birthday together. Nothing says, “Happy 45th!” like an afternoon delivering food!

As we drove into the SCAT parking lot, a wave of memories washed over me. St. Matthew Lutheran was my home church for 10 years, 6 of which I worked in youth ministry. I once knew that church like the back of my hand, so I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know a ton about the SCAT ministry. I knew it existed and I took the youth to pack food when we needed a service activity, but it was always an area where other people served. The more I read about the history of SCAT, the more excited I became to be a part of the group.
Some SCAT volunteers assist walk-in clients and referrals from Care to Share, a local social service agency. Other helpers pre-pack non-perishable items in boxes for daily delivery. (This was the job I remember doing with the middle school youth group.) Volunteer teams deliver boxes of food to low-income residents without transportation. 
Joanne D. is on the SCAT leadership team. Joanne and I go way back - both of her kids participated in youth group while I worked there. When I told Joanne about my 2012 experiment, she suggested the Zomerman family form their own delivery team, committing to volunteer one afternoon a month. I kind of like knowing that our family will have this time set aside to serve together.
The Job:
Joanne met us at 3:30 to begin training. Okay, we didn’t get right to the training. The last time she saw my daughters, one was a pre-schooler and the other an infant. Her once-teenagers are now grown-ups in the real world. We had a lot of catching up to do!
After many minutes of chit-chat, we focused on the task at hand. Joanne guided us through each step the delivery team job entails:
Joanne making calls

1. Gather the faxed daily delivery assignments from Care to Share.
2. Call the recipients to make sure someone will accept delivery.
3. Pack the food.
Food is packed according to family size. Canned and boxed items have been pre-packed in labeled boxes and stacked on shelves over the weekend, so delivery teams simply need to grab what they require.

Non-perishables are boxed and ready for delivery teams to take.

Perishables need to be gathered the afternoon of transport. Taped reminders on refrigerators and freezers detail exactly how much bread, meat, produce, and treats each size family receives. My pre-teens loved taking responsibility for dessert distribution.

Doughnuts, Brownies, and Apple Strudel - Oh my!

4. Log the temperatures: Each cold room, freezer, and refrigerator needs to have it’s current temperature recorded. It seems tedious, but necessary for food safety. With all 4 of us checking, the numbers were logged in a snap.
5. Deliver
Joanne sent us on our way as Edd looked up the addresses on his iPhone and navigated. Our first stop was a budget motel. I popped in the lobby to announce myself and the manager took us to the room. 
Manager knocked on the door. No answer. She knocked again and made her presence known. No answer.
She opened the door. A cloud of cigarette smoke escaped as a man inside (dressed, thank God) raced to see who entered. The man, it turned out, was not the man who is paying for the room. Edd and I told the girls to stay in the car and Manager showed us where to set the food boxes. Meanwhile, she argued with Non-Paying Man and began shouting “Grab your stuff and get out, NOW!”
Edd and I rushed to get the food in the room, hurried back in the car, and quickly slammed the doors shut.
“Please make sure you will always take me with you when you deliver,” he pleaded.
The next stop was less than a mile up the road. Again, I asked the girls to stay in the car until we could assess the situation. A single guy answered the door to his run down apartment. I asked the girls to wait once more while Edd and I carried the boxes to his door. 
Yep, I do want Edd with me when I deliver. 
The last delivery was to a family of four. We pulled up in the driveway of the duplex and decided the girls could help unload this time. A grateful father and his 3 kids answered the door and helped bring the food inside. This was the environment I wanted my daughters to see. I felt safer here, more like neighbor helping neighbor. 
Hopefully, they're also learning what it means to have the "nature of a servant."
How to Help:
If you are interested in volunteering with SCAT, please comment below and I will contact you. 
St. Matthew members lead the SCAT ministry, but they also partner with area churches. I’m excited for our own new church, Kaleo, to become a partner with this emergency food organization. 
I may not be a St. Matthew member any longer, but their community will always hold a place in my heart. I’m proud to be involved once again with a church who, through ministries like SCAT, shows their neighbors what it means to have the “nature of a servant.” 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fork It Over With Family - Week 12

3 generations of volunteers

Where I Went:
Where I live, the Beaverton School District participates with Fork It Over. The program donates leftover school cafeteria food to food rescue agencies, saving tons of sandwiches, pizza, and milk from hitting the landfill each week. I’ve completed routes with Fork It Over in week 3 and week 7 of my quest to learn the "nature of a servant". I’m learning 30 minutes of my morning might make a world of difference to a family that can’t afford a weekly trip to the grocery store. 
First Impressions:
My daughters are in the midst of “show week” for Christian Youth Theater’s production of Seussical, Jr. Late night dress rehearsals are causing the whole family to move about like sleep-walkers. I wasn't excited about spending the few moments I had free this week volunteering somewhere else. Luckily, I chose to help with Fork It Over as my assignment. Squeezing in a route with all of my other Friday morning errands was a cinch.
To watch their granddaughters' performance, my folks flew in from Phoenix. I invited them to come with me on my weekly serving jaunt so they could get a taste of what I’ve been up to. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I let the girls stay home from school on Friday to rest up before the show. My eldest wanted to catch up with her Grammy and Opa, so she came along on the route.
The Job:
An email came from Fork It Over earlier in the week warning that food pick-ups may be heavy on Friday, the last day of school before Spring Break. I wasn’t worried with my team of helpers. 
Dad and I went together into Five Oaks Middle School to assess how much man power we needed. The cafeteria supervisor handed him one box. A heavy box - but still, one box. I guess I didn’t need a team.
Mom and Daughter chatted in the car as we drove to the other two schools on the route. Dad and I quickly popped in and out of the cafeterias. We hauled a cartload of food from the elementary school, but only took one box away from the high school. 
We arrived at Hope Food Pantry and “my team” unloaded the car in 2 trips. I took my parents on a brief tour of the pantry and showed off the beautiful children’s play room our church group painted last month. 
How To Help:
Liz McGuire, Beaverton’s coordinator for Fork It Over, recently sent this plea via email:
“For the number of people who have registered on VolunteerSpot for Fork It Over, participation is extremely low.  The core crew of dedicated “regulars” is too small to cover much more than half of the routes each week.  As the driver of a vehicle that gets 13 mpg, I thoroughly understand that driving a FIO route not only takes a little time, but costs a bit too these days.  I hope you can find a way to drive a route and consolidate it with another outing.  Those 2-school routes during April and May are a great opportunity to volunteer for a shorter trip!”
To qualify, you need to be a registered volunteer with the Beaverton School District and have a driver's license. If you have any questions about Fork It Over, please comment below. 
Don’t live in the Beaverton School District? Check how your local school district handles their lunch room leftovers. Be a part of the movement to get food on the table instead of in the landfill. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Catalyst Partnerships - Week 11

Where I Went:
Catalyst-Partnerships is a non-profit organization that completes home restoration projects for elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens. During the past month, they’ve been renovating a home that had been donated to the Domestic Violence Resource Center. This residence, “Safe Haven”, will provide temporary housing for victims of domestic violence.
First Impressions:
My friend and Pastor’s Wife from our church, Kaleo, forwarded an email to me from Catalyst. The message requested volunteers to help on weekends throughout February and March listing various tasks that would need to be completed. Home improvement is not my forte, but I wanted to help. I emailed the project coordinator, Bev, and asked if I could come on the last weekend for clean-up chores. I may not be able to frame windows, but I can scrub or vacuum any mess that’s been made.
My thespian daughters are in the midst of dress rehearsal week for the Christian Youth Theater production of Seussical, the Musical, leaving me a Saturday morning free to volunteer with Catalyst. My husband, Edd, agreed to help also. It’d be a date! Kind of. 

The Job:
Edd and I showed up on site, tools and cleaners in hand. About 30 men and women milled in and out of the house. People were painting, installing, moving furniture, and sawing things. We didn’t see Bev when we arrived, but we met Judith, another project coordinator who put us to work. Judith asked if we’d hang blinds on the widows in the back bedrooms. I’ve never hung blinds before, but Edd’s pretty handy, so no problem.
Here is some information about blind hanging: It’s a one person job. I tried to be helpful. I found the instructions. I held the blinds while Edd measured, marked, drilled, and hung. I did insert the little rod necessary for opening and closing the blinds - that made me feel useful for 3 seconds. 

Such a hard worker!
After we’d been there for 30 minutes, Judith roamed the house looking for muscle. Love, INC, another local non-profit finding resources for the less fortunate, backed in a moving truck full of donated furniture for Safe Haven.  The volunteers formed an assembly line to transport items from truck to house. The truck was emptied in 20 minutes and Edd and I went back to blind-hanging.

I watched as he measured and marked when Judith entered the room asking if I could go outside to paint so some of the painters could come inside to hang doors. I grimaced.
“You don’t want to paint? You don’t HAVE to...” There was a small pleading in her voice. 
Edd laughed. He knows how I feel about painting. I hate painting. People say it’s easy, but it takes patience. I’m a messy painter. I leave drips everywhere and it inevitably gets in my hair, staying there for days. I cannot emphasize enough how much I don’t like painting.
It takes a lot of nerve to volunteer to help and then try to get out of helping. Probably not very “Jesus-like” when it comes to having the “nature of a servant.”
My dashing prince came to the rescue. “How about if Andee and I hang the doors and the painters can stay outside painting?” Edd offered.
“Oh, sure! If you don’t mind, that would be great!” Judith left satisfied. 
Edd put down the drill and I grabbed the pins out of the door hinges. He lined up the brackets and I glanced down at the bottom of the door.
“The paint work is kinda sloppy,” I observed.
Edd glared. “Please tell me you did NOT just comment on someone else’s paint job!”
I shut up.
Edd hung the doors while I held the pins. When he finished door hanging, he returned to installing blinds. I inserted the rods. 6 more seconds of work. I grabbed some paper towels and 409 to clean up the dust. My husband dripped with sweat from hard work. I put on my fleece because I was chilled.
“I feel so guilty!” I whined, “I’m hardly doing ANYTHING. I feel useless.”
“But you brought me here,” Edd replied. “I needed to come or I’d be home mindlessly surfing the internet.”
“Yeah, but you know this great feeling you have right now because you are helping someone in need? I’m missing that right now. I’m not sure if this fits in with my weekly goal of helping the less fortunate.” 
“Maybe this experiment to learn the “nature of a servant” doesn’t have to be about YOU every week,” my husband retorted. “Without your interest in this, I never would have come here. I would have wasted another Saturday morning when instead, we did some good for someone.”
Judith called a lunch break. That was our cue to depart, but only after she assured me she had enough help that afternoon. Luckily, a lot of willing workers showed up Saturday. The next day would be the grand reveal of the new “Safe Haven.”
A job well done.
Look at how well that rod hangs from the top of the blind.
How to Help:
Contact information is on Catalyst-Partnerships’ website. Volunteers are required to fill out an application. If you know of a renovation project that could use Catalyst’s help, an application is available for that as well. Our church, Kaleo, will also be doing projects with Catalyst throughout the year. You can check the church calendar for details.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'll Never Be "The Pioneer Woman", the "Simple Mom", or the Woman from Proverbs 31

Dishes still in the sink at 3:00 p.m.

What started out as a simple New Year’s resolution to help the less fortunate has turned into a life-changing process. Serving others affects me hugely - no question. Surprisingly, the blogging portion of this project is proving to shape my inner being as well.
There are over 50 million blogs on the internet, so perhaps you’ve heard of them. Maybe you even subscribe to a few hundred. Two of my favorite blogs at present are The Pioneer Woman and Simple Mom. 
I adore the women of these blogs. These ladies can do everything. Why wouldn’t I want to read about a happily married wife as she homeschools her adorable children and afterwards everyone pitches in to clean around the house as she pulls out her favorite apron and whips up her organic, food-pyramid, planned dinner for a party of 8 and manages to photograph the whole experience and display her artistic layouts in annual scrapbooks? 
They remind me of another woman I’ve read about. The woman from Proverbs 31.
If you’re not “churchy” like me, you may have never heard of this Biblical super-woman. Found in the Old Testament, the author of Proverbs writes positive-living advice and inspirational quotes of wisdom. In the very last chapter of this book, there is a description of “The Wife of Noble Character.”
Now of course the internet didn’t exist in Biblical days. But if it did, this woman would have 700,000 followers on Twitter.
Here’s why I don’t measure up to the woman from Proverbs 31:
(Scripture from paraphrase “The Message”)
A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.
Okay, I think my husband trusts me for the most part. I’m good there.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.
When Edd and I are in the midst of “heated discussions”, I can get pretty spiteful. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.
I tried. I took a sewing class. Twice. I can’t sew.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.
Does Egg Flower Soup and Sweet and Sour Pork from Chen’s Chinese Restaurant count?
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
My kids are up before me and I shuffle to the kitchen to get them something to eat. Don’t even ask me about plans for the day.
She looks over a field and buys it, then with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
Seriously, a whole field? Where did she get that kind of money and how did she have any left over? 
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work, and is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
I take the kids to school, come home, pour a cup of coffee and surf the internet for an hour. I’m still in my pjs at 10:00a.m.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.
I would love to be able to decorate my house all “cutesie”, but I’m happy if my dishes get done.
An example of NOT diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
Finally. Something I’m actually doing. Once a week.
She does’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. 
I take my kids to the Columbia outlet.
She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
See above re: sewing. I dress in gray and black yoga pants.
Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.
Well, he doesn’t participate in the local government, but he is respected at work. Don’t see how I help with that though...
She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops. 
Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
Why is the Bible so adamant that I sew?!? And most of my clothes come from Target. 
I do usually smile about tomorrow, unless I have to go somewhere I don’t want to go.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
I attempt this. I know I fail sometimes, but it is my goal.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.
Heck, yes! Voice lessons, Taekwondo, theater class, play rehearsals, and homework.
Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise.
I am lucky here. The family often tells me how much they love me and Edd always thanks me for being a good mom.
I read “The Pioneer Woman”, “Simple Mom” and Proverbs 31 because I dream to be like them. Unfortunately, I think when God was handing out motivation genes, I was in the other room watching Project Runway. 
So I will accept that at age 41, I am who I am. I will continue to read these blogs for inspiration and ideas, but the dishes may still be in the sink when the kids get home from school and I might only complete 3 items out of 10 on my to-do list. 
When I pray, I thank God for loving me even though I’m not the perfect woman. Who knows? Maybe as I continue working toward my goal of having the “nature of a servant”, some of these other qualities may fall into place. 
Not the sewing though. I’ve given up on that.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Northwest Children's Outreach With A Friend - Week 10

Where I Went:
I volunteered for Northwest Children’s Outreach (NCO) 8 weeks ago at their Hillsboro location. NCO distributes donated clothing, books, toys, and baby items to social service agencies that in turn provide needy families with necessities for a short time.
This week, I headed south a few miles to NCO’s Tigard center, located near the Washington Square Mall. This time I was not alone. A long, lost friend came with me.
First Impressions:
When I posted about volunteering at NCO in January, I casually mentioned the ease of bringing a friend to chat and catch up if one wanted to forgo the usual coffee date. Immediately, Deanie contacted me. 
Deanie and I met when I moved from So Cal to Portland in 1992 when we started working for the same company on the same day. We supported each other through our early 20’s and served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. Sadly, soon after we became “domesticated”, we hung out less frequently, phone calls stopped, and FaceBook didn’t exist. We drifted apart.
15 years have passed since Deanie and I last saw each other. Thanks to the advent of social media, this friend from my youth found me, read my blog, and wrote to tell me she wanted to volunteer at NCO together. We made a date and I eagerly anticipated the time we would have to re-connect.
The Job:
Deanie and I both arrived at the Tigard business park at 10:30a.m. It was easy to spot her - she looked exactly the same as the 25 year old I remembered. 
We walked into the office-turned-clothing mecca and introduced ourselves to the NCO coordinators, Wendy and Susie. Susie gave us a brief tour and delegated our assignment for the day; overflowing piles of spring/summer wear needed to be separated by clothing type. After doing the same job for 2 hours a few weeks ago, I’m almost an expert at this.
The pile against the wall needed sorting.
Susie gave us the rundown: the sorting bins are labeled “tops” and “pants” for boys, the same for girls with an extra bin for “dresses and skirts”. Stained clothing or items with questionable logos are passed on to a different clothing distributer at Birch Community Services.
Shirts with “Hawaii” and “Disneyland” logos had to go in the discard box. Even though the garment looked perfectly fine, a boy or girl may feel strange wearing something displaying a location where that child had never been. However, I was surprised when the coordinator directed me to put a size 12-month onesie with the saying “Daddy’s Little Cutie” in the Birch box. 
“Some babies just don’t have Daddy’s around,” she sighed.
Deanie found no stains here!
I wish I had more to report, but honestly, the next 2 hours were a blur. I worked hard sorting, folding, and discarding, but Deanie and I were deep in conversation. We had a decade and a half to catch up on! 
How to Help:
The next time you and a friend discuss making a date for coffee, consider using that time to volunteer instead. There are clothing distribution centers all over the country that will use any time you can give - even an hour is helpful.
 If you live in the Portland metro area, helping with Northwest Children’s Outreach takes no more than 2 steps.
  1. Read NCO’s website and determine a time and location that work best for you and a friend.
  2. Show up.
Nothing shows the compassion between two friends like helping those in need. Where could you volunteer with a friend? Comment below - I'd love to hear more ideas!

I told readers that for the month of February,
 I'd donate one diaper per blog comment.
The green pack 4 shelves down on the left is ours!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Justice Conference - Final Thoughts

It’s been 2 weeks since I attended  The Justice Conference. Little did I know how 48 hours would change the way I view the world.  The inaugural conference was held last year in Bend, OR and had 1000 attendees. This year, 4000 conference goers came to Portland. Next February, the conference heads East to Philadelphia, PA. Who knows how many lives will be touched then?
All of the speakers, all of the seminars, all of the exhibitors taught me or challenged me in some way. As I close out my blog “series” on what The Justice Conference meant to me, I’d like to share with you some quotes that I never want to forget.
“Our culture needs a new language. We need new music. Not something that promotes racism and bigotry.”

“If we’re going to address trafficking in our country we have to address poverty, racism, and gender based violence. We need to pull our finger out of the dam and rebuild the dam.”
“Masses live in poverty so a handful can own everything. We’ve created poverty because we haven’t learned how to share.”
Shane Claiborne, founding partner of The Simple Way
Regarding stepping back into the ministry spotlight after some called him an extremist, author and pastor Francis Chan had this revelation:  “I’m done being quiet, ‘cause I’m right!”
(I can think of all kinds of reasons I’d like to use that quote.)

Art in the Exhibit Hall
Referring to the overwhelming amount of causes that need help, Stephan Bauman, President of World Relief states, “Hold the long line, and choose ONE line, ONE cause, and go for it!” 
I take Bauman's advise to heart. My “experiment” is to learn compassion by volunteering every week in 2012. I’m excited for the time when I feel called to ONE cause and can exclaim, “Okay. I’m going for it!”

I bought this book to get ideas about how to make a "small difference" in someone's life every day.

I heard one quote that I will scribe on a Post-it note and stick on my alarm clock making it the first thing I see each morning. Shane Claiborne convicted me when he spoke of the question that so many of us ask: “God, why do You let all of this pain and suffering happen? Why don’t You do something about it?”
God’s reply: “I did do something. I made you.”

Do any of these quotes speak to you? And if not, do you have a favorite quote that motivates you every day?