Feed the poor

Loaves and Fishes ministry

Kevin Sample carries a Bible from which he reads before feeding the homeless.

Kevin Sample carries a Bible from which he reads before feeding the homeless.

Photo By David Robert

I’m interested in the concept of ministries within the universe of belief systems. In my life, I’ve always found that people who actually do things are more interesting than people who talk about doing things. It’s where the rubber hits the road, in a spiritual/community sense.

This ministry takes place across Arlington Avenue from Wingfield Park, near the basketball courts. It’s a ministry to feed the homeless on Thursday nights, running from about 5:45 p.m. to sometime after 7 p.m.

This is community in action. The River Alive Church was started by Kevin Sample about two-and-a-half years ago. I was invited by Thelma Reindollar, who volunteers with the ministry and once through-hiked the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail with me.

The décor is a little hard to nail down for this service. Congregants sit on a hill, a natural, shady amphitheater on the south side of the park. This Thursday evening, there was a slight breeze, and the leaves on the many trees rustled a bit. The temperature was probably a bit warmer than many churches I’ve been in, and the floor was a bit grassier, but, overall, it was as pleasant a house of worship as exists—certainly more bicycles and picnic tables than I’d seen in other churches.

Before the services began, I sat and chatted with some of the homeless people who’d come for dinner. Their questions were the usual ones: Why doesn’t anyone in the media care about the “homeless situation?” Jason Jones, who lives at Lakemill Lodge, wanted to know why there are no foods or help available for diabetics.

The volunteers gathered for a short prayer before the service. Sample began the readings with an apology for his behavior at a sermon two weeks prior. There had been an unusually large, somewhat rowdy group, and he lost his temper. He’s wearing green nylon shorts, a blue T-shirt emblazoned with a pickup truck and American flag. He’s got fairly long hair and a soul chip. “Has anyone experienced God this week?” he asked.

Various folks spoke up with their success stories of finding homes, jobs and more stable circumstances.

“The kingdom is upon you,” Sample said. “The kingdom is here; the kingdom is within you. … The church isn’t made with walls and ceilings. This is a church. You are a church.”

The reading and sermon kind of wound between each other as Sample read from Hebrews 13. He’d read a bit and talk a bit, explaining what he’d read, but avoiding “preaching.” “There’s a difference between church life and kingdom life. … I want to practice the love of God wherever I go. The immediate target is salvation.”

Fred Reindollar closed out the readings/sermon with a prayer. Then it was time for communion: macaroni salad, tuna salad with grapes, rolls and drinks. The Loaves and Fishes ministry fed about 80 people, and fed them well.

This is where the rubber hits the road. Thelma said the group can always use backpacks, sleeping bags, sundries (like soap and shampoo), odd jobs, bus passes, cell phones with cards with prepaid minutes. Tax-deductible checks can be made out to Loaves and Fishes or Renaissance Ministry.