Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes

The past couple of Tuesdays I've been cutting tons and tons of potatoes! I've been spending a couple of hours at a time cutting bins of potatoes, and now this week I also got to cut celery and green and purple cabbage as well. I cut purple cabbage this week until my hands were stained as if I had just cleaned ten pounds of elderberries! Why am I doing this? A friend of mine introduced me to the Ontario Christian Gleaners in Cambridge, Ontario. Wow! I'm addicted now, I think.

If you have time, poke around the website to see what it's all about, but in a nutshell, a few years ago a Christian from here in Ontario heard about a similar organization in British Columbia and decided to come back home and establish an Ontario-based distribution center (or centre, since it IS Canadian). Two and a half years ago, this operation opened up here in Cambridge. The Gleaners receive surplus fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers, food production facilities and food distributors (in places like Toronto) and volunteers come on a daily basis to sort through the bins and pallets of produce, gleaning what they can from the donated food. This is then sent through a chopping machine that dices it fairly small and then it's spread on a conveyor that goes through a massive dehydrator that dries the produce. It's stored in bins until there is enough to package into bags of "soup" that is then ready to be distributed to places in need like Haiti, many African communities, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Romania, etc. One bag of dehydrated vegetable soup can feed 100 people. These bags are very lightweight, so many of them can be shipped at a time at a very low cost.

I wish that all of you could see this production! I am amazed every time I go and I just can't get enough of it! As I stand at my table, cutting my bins of vegetables and chatting with all the other volunteers around me, I can't stop wishing that Grandpa could have seen this! He would have been in there and involved in absolutely every aspect of this operation! And he probably would have had a thousand contacts for even more donated materials and equipment and volunteers. This week, there was an 80 year old gentleman standing across from me who reminded me so much of Grandpa. He knew this person and that person and knew where each piece of equipment came from and who designed it and where they got the materials donated to make it. He found out I was from Ohio and he told me that he was just there last week buying some milking cows. He said, "I was in a little, little town in Ohio that you probably never heard of before." I told him to try me. He had been in Berlin! Ha! Small world!

Anyway, this blog post isn't turning out like I wanted it to. I am so overwhelmed with the magnitude of this little endeavor of the Ontario Christian Gleaners and I wanted to somehow get that awe across in my writing, but it's just not happening. I think it must be similar to what John felt when he tried to talk about Heaven. Although his words are beautiful and create anticipation for us, they probably sounded like just words to him since he had a greater glimpse of that reality. I just can't describe to you the blessing that I feel going in to that building every week, never knowing what I'm going to be digging through or cutting up, but in my own little small way, I am helping to feed some child or some mother somewhere who may feel that there is no more hope...until they are blessed with this nutritious soup that someone far away prepared for them. It reminds me of the story of the man walking along a beach that had thousands of starfish washed up from the ocean. He saw someone bending down and throwing one starfish at a time back into the water. When he stopped and asked the man why he was doing it, seeing that there were so many that it really wouldn't make a difference if a few were thrown back in, the man stooped, picked up another one and threw it in and said, "It made a difference to that one...and to that one... and to that one." I cannot feed all the hungry people in the world. I cannot go to places like Haiti or Ghana or Peru to help feed the hungry. I CAN, however, spend a few precious hours a week sorting through rejected potatoes or crushed celery or sometimes slimey cabbage to glean food for the other children of God that have none.
If it were not for the Ontario Christian Gleaners, this produce would have been dumped and tilled under and just thrown out! Honestly, most of the vegetables that I have worked on are in better condition than the ones that I buy in the grocery store!!

If you are ever able to volunteer a few hours at the Gleaners, I greatly encourage you to do so! There is so much love poured into that work and God has really blessed this organization as it blesses so many, many lives! For you out of towners come for a visit during the week sometime and I will take you with me for a morning of gleaning. It will change your life.
Now, since I've worked on so many potatoes and cabbage this week, I'm off to make some vegetable soup for supper tonight! It just seems like a good idea today.