By Deloris Trujillo
Can leftovers be miracles? Ellen White assures us that “the gift brought to Him with thanksgiving and with prayer for His blessing, He will multiply as He multiplied the food given to the sons of the prophets [by Elisha] and to the weary multitude [by Jesus]” (Prophets and Kings, p. 243). The Discovery Life Church (DLC) in Sonora, Calif., helped families with gently used clothing at a God’s Closet event on August 11 and saw miraculous leftovers as a result.
Now to be held annually every April and August, God’s Closet began as a seed of an idea when Debbie Nord, current organizer and leader, read an article in the Pacific Union Recorder in 2016 and finally admitted to herself she could no longer ignore the pulling of her heart to start something like this for the community. She then contacted Meryl Tshoepe, who had been mentioned in the article for launching the ministry in Spokane, Wash., and Redding, Calif.
Months into the planning, Nord efficiently worked with a team of more than 80 volunteers from both the church and community to sort and prepare donated children’s clothing. Many more helpers welcomed families at the school/church gym and helped them “shop” for much-needed children’s clothing, which were especially welcomed at the start of the school year. At least 450 people or 150 families from the community attended the event in August.
Appreciating the team, Nord commented, “It was heart-warming to watch the volunteers cheerfully working and chatting as they beautifully organized the tables. It takes a lot of effort to organize volunteers, but it is well worth it. Helping others to serve has immeasurable benefits.” It is also very important to her that assignments are made in such a way that volunteers will want to continue serving again. One of the volunteers told her that the provided meals made her feel extra special and appreciated.
Nine-year-old Jackson Vymeister handed out three plastic bags to each shopper at the registration table. As he described it, “It was bzzy [sic], but I loved my job.” One of the volunteers, Verdia Williams, heard a five-year-old boy ask his father as they were walking toward the exit, “Why didn’t we pay for our clothes?” The father was able to say, “We did. We paid one dollar at registration.”
Tables were set up with clothing and shoes neatly sorted by size and gender. Adventist Health Sonora provided diapers and children’s underwear. Students at Mother Lode Adventist Junior Academy collected lots of new socks and also helped to bring in the boxes of clothes. The book table was a popular spot, and many children chose a Bible. In addition, the Child Care Center watched about 40 children so that parents could shop more easily.
During checkout and while walking with people to their cars, volunteers were able to hear gratitude and appreciation—and many were so thankful. One mother with two school-aged children described to Jean McMurray, who served as a line greeter in the parking lot, how utterly grateful she was: “Clothes are so expensive and my children grow so fast. I just didn’t know what I was going to do until I heard about this event. I consider it a miracle for our family.” A grandmother, who is raising her 5-year-old grandson, won the drawing for a gift food basket. She called to say how much it meant to her and asked for prayers for their situation.
At checkout, each family received either a mug as a first-time guest or a little bag that included handmade soap made by Renee Mathe. Fliers about other church events were available, and participants could also take the book Steps to Jesus. At registration, they could indicate if they wanted Bible studies and information about church programming.
As a result, at least two volunteers, Cathie Swartz and Connie Allen, are now arranging to give Bible studies.
Becky Renner, in charge of Discipleship Ministries at DLC, summed up the day by saying, “I love helping with God‘s Closet. It is probably my favorite event of the year. I have had the wonderful experience of talking with those who come and then seeing them at church. Jesus reached people by meeting their needs, and God’s Closet gives our church the opportunity to do the same thing.”
God’s Closet has now expanded throughout the Pacific Union Conference and around the North American Division. If you are interested, the Sonora church will hold their next giveaway on April 26, 2020. It would be wonderful if this article, like the one in 2016, inspires others to see how God continues to make miraculous leftovers that bless others.