by Charles Ness & Lauren Ness, Perkiomenville (PA) congregation
While COVID-19 restrictions are challenging and severely limit worship services and fellowship, they also provide interesting opportunities. How does one use their gift of hospitality to serve others while practicing social distancing?
Perkiomenville (PA) Mennonite Church struggled with this dilemma. The church hosts a monthly luncheon for older adults called “JOY” (Just Older Youth). A home-cooked meal is served, followed by a program of music, a speaker, and fellowship. It is attended by members of the church and the surrounding community.
The April JOY gathering was cancelled due to COVID-19. Janet Ness thoroughly enjoys making the food and knows that the members of JOY look forward to the meal. Therefore, she decided to make the meal and deliver it to the church members who typically attend JOY events. With the assistance of Tonya Ayars, Dawn Noel, and Pastor Mike Spinelli, over 50 meals were made and delivered. The meals were received with much joy and appreciation.
In May, meals were again prepared. This time people wanted to come by the church building and pick it up. There was much rejoicing as they came by in their cars and were given their meals.
In June, Janet wanted to also include meals for those regular JOY attenders who were not church members. As a result, 57 people came by the church to get their meals.
This act of kindness during a time of restricted mobility blessed both the recipients as well as those making the meals. Because of restrictions, most older adults were not going out and could not go to restaurants to eat. This homemade meal was a welcome treat. As they came through the car line, there were many expressions of gratitude and many said they were very happy to see others again.
Another creative opportunity for sharing during the pandemic occurred cross culturally, with our sisters in Christ in Mexico. The Perkiomenville congregation supports the ministry of Bob and Bonnie Stevenson, pastors of the Promised Land Church in Monte Maria, Mexico. One of their mission churches is located in the village of Jilotzingo, about 4 hours northeast of Mexico City. The farmers of that area grow coffee and many kinds of fruit.
In May, Bonnie Stevenson contacted Charlie Ness. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Mexican farmers in Jilotzingo were having difficulty selling their blueberry crop. Bonnie asked if we might be able to make a video to teach the Mexican women ways to preserve the blueberries, such as blueberry jam.
Rita Hoover, Janet Ness, and Kaitlin Freed created a video, offering instruction on how to make blueberry jam and how to can blueberries using a hot water bath. This was uploaded to a YouTube channel for the women in Mexico to access.
The women in Mexico responded with excitement and gratitude, for not only the instruction, but for the evidence of God’s care and provision. The result was a cross-cultural ministry experience between women teaching other women how to make jam and provide for their families. The jams were then sold in the city, providing income for the women and their families.