Overall, I would say my time was pretty good. One of my favorite parts of working at Jewel was the other high schoolers working at the store. Since, I was working at the Barrington Jewel, most of them went to Barrington High School, unlike me, who attended Cary-Grove High School. It gave me an opportunity to meet people that I normally wouldn’t have since we went to different schools, and most of my Cary-Grove classmates worked at the Cary Jewel. My group of friends at Jewel were all close and always enjoyed spending time with each other outside of Jewel. We had a solid core group made up of high schoolers from four different schools. One of my friends in that group was Mary, who was also a cashier. The core group stayed pretty well connected, even when we went away to high school, thanks to e-mail, this new thing at the time called Facebook, working at Jewel during Christmas and summer break, and, of course, weekly volleyball at Barrington High School in the summer.
As we all started graduating college, we began to drift away a little bit. We started in our careers, which made us busier. In my case, I moved to St. Louis for seminary; and four years later, I moved to my first church in Salem, Illinois about five hours south of the Palatine area. With all of us growing up and moving around, we lost contact except for seeing updates on social media and wishing happy birthday on Facebook, and some messaging there or texting. Even when I was in Salem, I would see Mary posting on Facebook about something she started called “The Community Meal.”
As I reflect upon what a blessing The Community Meal has been for us at Immanuel, I see God’s hand in the process of getting it started at Immanuel. I would say that God’s hands in this process started when my oldest brother started working at Jewel. This led to my middle brother and, ultimately, me getting a job at Jewel—not just any Jewel but the one in Barrington, which was a couple miles further away from my parents’ house than the Cary Jewel. Over the years at Jewel, God fostered my friendship with that core group. Throughout those years at Jewel, there were other high schoolers that worked there but maybe didn’t work there for very long or just didn’t get as connected with that core group that I connected with. Yet, despite moving away from the area, God kept most of us connected to each other through Face- book, so we could see what each other was up to in life. I was able to see what The Commu- nity Meal was doing in Barrington. Little did I know that God would be calling me back to serve in an area that I will always see as home and have a chance to partner with Mary on bringing The Community Meal to Barrington. I won’t forget that meeting when Pastor Warren mentioned the phrase, “community meal.” He could have used any other term; and who knows that if he did, would it have triggered my mind to remember what my friend was doing with The Community Meal.
That’s the amazing thing with God–He is always working in our lives to continue to further His Kingdom here with us. We never know what God is doing and why He connects us with the people He does in our lives. When I was 16 or 17 and working at Jewel with Mary, I would have never guessed we would be partnering to serve over 200 free meals for people in Palatine. God knew exactly what He was doing and the ministry that would be happening 20 years later. God is still working behind the scenes in each and every one of our lives right now. God has placed you in your neighborhood, your place of employment, school, community, friend group, and so on for a reason. He has amazing plans for you and will do amazing things for the Kingdom through you. It starts with building relationships with the people God places in our lives. We get to know them as we start doing life together. As we do life together, we see what God is doing and how we can share His love with that person. It will look differently for each of us–maybe it’s somebody who has fallen away from the church, or it’s somebody that has never had a relationship with God, or someone who is one step from falling away from the church. It doesn’t matter where they fall on that list because the mission is still the same…share God’s love with that person. As you share God’s love, you don’t know what that will lead to; but when you go with the Lord, you can’t go wrong. Who in your life needs to feel the love of God?