When life gives you melons
Written by Pastor Amy Johnson, Osceola United Methodist Church
Some days, we wake in the morning with a plan. Tuesday was a full day: check messages, attend a member funeral, help with the church luncheon, prepare for worship, write the next funeral and weddings. Somehow, though, God has a way of reminding me that ministry happens in unexpected ways.
At 8:30, as I was about to gather the pies I baked to take to the dinner I received a text from my secretary, Anna Frohling.
"Can you have the kids come with you to help with melons?"
Cryptic, though it was, I answered, "Yes," and stumbled off to get Andrew up. I have learned to say, "Yes," when Anna texts, even if it sounds odd. She knows what we are capable of doing. With Alexe asleep and unawakenable, Andrew and I curiously trekked off to see what this melon business was that required our attention. We learned that a partial shipment, a few boxes with about a hundred melons, was about to be dropped off because they fell off the pile in shipping and were refused by the grocery store. We just had to find homes for a hundred melons.
We were ready. A hundred melons would be easily shared with those coming to the meal today. We always have a great mix of the community. What a nice gift to the community to also have a melon to take home!
The truck crept into the parking lot about 5 minutes after we anticipated it. The driver positioned the truck for easy offloading and walked back to us.
"Where is everybody?" He looked over Andrew and I standing on the curb skeptically. "We are going to need a few more people."
"For a hundred melons?" I questioned. "We will be fine."
He looked puzzled as he opened the back of his truck. There were some stacked boxes at the front of the truck with what appeared to be a pallet of boxes. No problem!
"You better come look. It's hard to see from here."
I climbed into the back of the truck ready to offload some boxes when to my horror, I saw them: three pallets full of unboxed melons. There before us were well over 2,000 melons waiting to be unloaded.
The driver looked at us with a twinkle, declaring triumphantly, "I am so glad I didn't have to throw away all these good melons!"
It hit me; these were now our mission, our melons. Sometimes when we stare a couple of thousand perishable melons in the eye, we know that our plans for the day just changed. When that happens, there are four things we could have done: 1) panic for a moment, 2) call for help, 3) get to work, or 4) explain that there was a mistake because we cannot possibly take that many melons today. I opted for the first three. I knew there were people coming to our meal today who needed those melons. I knew two of our food pantries were open today, and one would be open north of us tomorrow. We could do this! It just meant changing our day. It meant erasing any hope of doing the things that seemed so important this morning, opting instead for a new day, a day God planned instead of me.
We unloaded the small boxes, about 40 boxes filled with 5-6 melons each, onto the sidewalk. We started making calls to the food pantries and had three agree to take some melons. Two came and took care of about half of the pre-boxed melons and a few loose ones. There were still almost as many as we started with somehow. "Are these melons or loaves and fishes?" I sighed.
By the time the first two food pantries loaded up and left, Anna found someone with a skid loader to move the three full pallets of specialty honeydew onto the sidewalk beside the boxes while I went to the funeral. I returned to a beautiful sidewalk of melons, a pallet of empty unfolded boxes, and a full church of people eating lunch while members rushed deliveries out the door to local businesses. And what was everyone eating? Melon! One of the ladies started grabbing melons and we fed dozens to those at the dinner who then took some home. Now we had cut melon, cases of melon, and pallets of melon.
This was getting serious. The food pantry north of us was coming, but that still left a ton of melons. I posted on the community Facebook page. People trickled in, and melons began to disappear. Then came our saving grace: the food pantry that remained was the first stop for a special giveaway on Wednesday. They called and would be able to take more because when they received their food tomorrow, they would give the melons to the distributor who would distribute to other food pantries in the area. They were able to take several hundred melons for those even farther outside our area. Just like that, one whole pallet was gone.
We thought it would be impossible, but box by box and bag by bag, the melons found homes, ice-cold to the end as though the Holy Spirit was breathing upon them on that hot sidewalk. When dinner was over and cleaned up, we boxed up the few remaining melons ourselves. The pallets of melons were emptied at last, and the empty boxes loaded in our truck and hauled to recycling. At about 4 pm when the last box was picked up, a huge sigh filled the kitchen where Anna and I stood. How did that even happen? But there was no time to rest.
A knock sounded on the outside kitchen door. At the door was an older woman with a walker who had walked several blocks to the church for melons. We had given away all but a few cases for the Wednesday night meal. There was no way we were turning away the woman who walked here with her walker to get melons. We pulled out two melons, as much as it looked like the woman could carry and were about to send her on her way when she told us her story. She was a friend of one of our pianists who had told her she was confident we would find enough for her friend, even if the melons were gone because our church is like that. She grinned proudly and shook the bag of melons we had dug out of the Wednesday pile as if it were her daily bread faithfully doled out by Jesus himself, a communion meal of bright and tasty melons. We smiled and thanked her for her story and for coming.
It was she who had reminded us why we never say no to random loads of melons as United Methodists. We are just that kind of church, that kind of denomination, the kind that understands how a melon can make all the difference to an elderly woman, to the woman at the meal who said she was homeless and could only take a little melon and lunch right now, to the member who just was released from the hospital, to the community member in a wheelchair who wanted whole melons that he could cut himself hung on the back of his wheelchair, to the tired pastor and secretary who received so much more than melons today, to all of us in our community who feel a little more loved because of some silly little specialty honeydew melons that we didn't even know we needed.
The strange thing is that at first, we thought a load of melons would change our schedule, but really, a load of melons changed our lives and our community. When life gives us melons next, I hope we won't be afraid to change our day or even the world.