What can be put into one bag of groceries? What does one bag of groceries mean to you? How long does one bag last for your family?
While travelling in northern Armenia with my friend, Ed Sanders, in early June, my son-in-law, Mark Steinfield, took us to the metal container district close to Vanadzor city. The containers were set up some 25 years ago after the Spitak earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, killed some 25,000 people. Originally meant to house people for only 2 years, more than one generation of children has grown up in these temporary shelters that are freezing cold in winter and blistering hot in summer.
It was here that we loaded the car, drove to the site and gave out as many bags of groceries as possible to some of the chosen families living in the containers. Mark saw to it that the basic staples of flour, sugar, and cooking oil were included in each bag along with a few treats for the children. One bag could last a family for a few days.
The challenging part was walking away. Families gathered around the vehicle and asked, “Are there any more bags?” Unfortunately, you can only bring so many. Mark’s associate, Karin, took apart the last bag and distributed the flour, sugar, and other items to 3 other elderly ladies. How I wished we had more to share! Karin had to tell the people, “Sorry, there are no more bags of groceries.”
These 2 questions have moved me deeply for the last 30 years as Mardie and I have seen and lived with suffering and poverty in countries like Mexico and Romania. There has never been an easy answer. Mark, Ed, and I prayed with the sick and elderly in each container we visited; there were so many needs. Many of these people expressed their gratitude and thanks for our prayers. Their faces and needs still play like a video in my mind as I take a new look at poverty and appreciate what one bag of groceries in Canada will provide.
How can you respond? Believe God to have someone organize contributions for Loads of Love in your area, the humanitarian side of Mark and Kim’s work. Send your financial support to buy a bag of groceries, or two. Pray that the pastors and leaders, like Karen, who serve in this one area and other similar places, will see a huge transformation among the people of the ‘Metal Container District’. Come and work alongside Karen in Armenia, getting to know the people and helping them move out of their impoverished settings through training, micro-financing and job provision. Pray that God would redeem and lift many of these long term ‘residents of Container City’ and that they and their families could relocate to better areas. Donations can be made at Loads of Love.
I’m looking at poverty again and appreciating what a bag of groceries can provide.