By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 26, 2020
ATLANTA—There was a trend on social media this summer: Remember where you were on Dec. 31, 2019, as you looked forward to the promise of the new year.
Eleven months later, here we are. More than a quarter million Americans are dead. Schools shuttered and learning disrupted. Civil unrest sparked by the shooting deaths of Black people by police. Jobs disappeared.
As the coronavirus crept into our lives in the spring, I wanted to learn from other Catholics what they faced. The Georgia Bulletin featured a university senior moving back into her childhood home, a new nurse working in a hospital, leaders of a food pantry wrestling with how to serve and others.
As Thanksgiving approached, I reached out again to those who I wrote about as the quarantine began. I hoped through their disrupted lives, they might remind me and others what it is to be thankful during this civic holiday.
The women leaders and volunteers at Gregg’s Pantry dealt with longer lines than ever before as families increasingly needed help with food. As the volunteers put it, “God smiled” on their efforts.
A wife and husband—after years of preparation—were ready to join the church at Easter at St. Jude the Apostle Church, Sandy Springs. But then churches stopped public worship for safety. Victoria Farmer, 34, and Michial Farmer, 38, leaned into God as they waited. But as they stated, “We have spent lots of time in prayer these last few months, praying that we don’t know how to pray in such confusing times.”
The Farmers and the dedicated volunteers of the food pantry share their essays of gratitude:
‘God has smiled’ on Gregg’s Pantry
BY NINA DARGA, THERESA IVORY, BARBARA JONES and JOANN MAJOR
2020 has been a hard, stressful year managing a food program while practicing social distancing to keep clients and volunteers safe from COVID-19 at a drive-through pantry.
Through prayer and God’s mercy, the church pantry has not closed, even at the height of the pandemic. The pandemic made us busier than ever and forced us to adopt new habits—delivering to car trunks while people stay in their cars.
When the pandemic started, we could not turn away anyone seeking assistance. Often when arriving at the pantry at 7:30 in the morning, people are already lining up and by 9 a.m., there is a long line of cars. They come from many areas around Atlanta. But we saw smiles on many faces as we put food boxes in their trunks and they were grateful.
Being a small church with limited outreach funds, we’ve been able to serve 70 to 80 families each week with the help of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Royal Food Service, members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and other organizations.
The call for this ministry was met with an honest cry of “Yes Lord!” from volunteers who refused to close, despite the danger for this mostly elderly group. The dedicated volunteers come every Saturday to make sure families have food. The time to prepare increased significantly and many people just show up during the week to help. From unloading food bank deliveries and buying boxes to use to preparing bags full of food to distribute, they have been there. God has smiled on this ministry.
A devotion to St. Anthony of Padua with prayers for his intercession for the work of the pantry kept our spirits up. The desire to fight on is still a force, the drive to do what the Savior asked, “feed my sheep.”
There is so much we are thankful for working at Gregg’s Pantry. First, we give thanks to God our Father that we are able to help those in need of food. For our church community of Sts. Peter and Paul, who set up tents to keep us out of the rain, hand out Thanksgiving baskets and give us supplies as a yearly project. For Father Bryan Small, our pastor, who shows up to work with us.
It is through God’s love and blessings we are able to participate in this very worthwhile community action.
The pantry program was originally featured in April as hungry families began to flock there amid job loss. Read the piece at https://bit.ly/gb-greggspantry.
Praying in times of uncertainty
BY VICTORIA and MICHIAL FARMER
It’s been a hard year for us, as it’s been a hard year for everyone else in the world. We know that we’ve been lucky in most ways during the pandemic—both of us kept our jobs, we were able to be confirmed into the Catholic Church after a long delay, and none of our family members have become seriously ill from COVID-19. And yet the news from around the world feels crushing at times; the mood in the air is so desperate and bitter that no one could fail to be affected by it. This is the first time in our lives we’ve felt like this. Both of us know what it’s like to be depressed, but until 2020, we didn’t know what it was like to live in a world where six billion people were depressed, angry and frightened. What we have come to realize is that we have been artificially shielded from that sort of world, and that the COVID-19 has revealed the cracks in that shield and in the society that built it for us.
Typically, when thinking about the things we are thankful for this time of year, we default to things like family, food and fellowship. And we are thankful for those things, this year as we are every year. But like many things about 2020, even the act of being thankful for those normal artifacts of family life feels different because of the profound changes this year has brought to the context in which they exist. It is almost impossible to raise prayers of thanksgiving for family, food and fellowship without lamenting the hundreds of thousands of people who are facing profound sickness in this country, cut off from their loved ones. We have spent lots of time in prayer these last few months, praying that we don’t know how to pray in such confusing times. It is a comfort to know that God hears and understands our hearts even and especially when we have trouble expressing them.
Victoria Farmer, 34, and Michial Farmer, 38, were received into the church at St. Jude the Apostle Church in August, several months later than expected. During this time, they attend Mass mostly by praying with the community online. Read The Georgia Bulletin story on their delayed journey, published earlier this year, at https://bit.ly/gb-rciadelay.