Written by Rev. Karen Martin-Tichenor of Soldotna UMC.
Subsistence: “the action or fact of maintaining or supporting oneself at a minimum level.” Webster Dictionary. It is a word used a great deal here in Alaska and during the summer becomes a part of our culture here in Soldotna as the residents of Alaska as well as guests descend upon the Kenai River to fish and dip net for sockeye salmon, originally to subsist through the next year on fish caught.
Food insecurity is a reality in many places around the globe and here on the Kenai it is no different. Food of all kinds are a basic need to our life and well being, whether physical or spiritual. Here at Soldotna UMC we have done our best to address these concerns in the community. The table of Christ has no limits. Christ, God, tell us that there is more than enough for God’s children at God’s table. So let’s share Christ’s abundance. Let’s help everyone know the welcome of the life giving Spirit of Christ for our daily existence.
We have youth on this peninsula who are without a stable or safe home. They migrate around the area to sleep and because they are at risk, some have found themselves attending the Kenai Alternative High School. It is at this school that they are greeted each morning with smiles by faithful volunteers and a full breakfast throughout the school year to help them be able to focus in class and learn. Their day starts with a loving invitation to come to the table and eat. Twice a week we get to be those volunteers helping feed the hungry hearts and minds of our youth.
Distance is an issue across the Kenai making it difficult for those without a vehicle or the means to keep it gassed up to get to food sources. So nearly 7 years ago we opened a food pantry for those in the area and greet each one with a smile and food to let them know the satisfaction of a meal at home. Most all of the UM churches on the Kenai Peninsula have such pantries to help with such basic need. We also operate a community garden, helping supply the Food Pantry as well as teaching community members to garden and raise some food of their own.
A Wednesday night dinner that started as an ending to an after school program has evolved to extend hospitality beyond our congregation to include our homeless and low income families in the area that they can know food, fellowship, warmth and safety at least that one time a week, embracing them in the Spirit of Christ.
Christ’s table does not have limits. It is an organic being as is his church. In the face of our current economy we must rely ever more deeply on the grace of God, the movement of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of an open door to keep the table full. The invitation stands, ‘Come and eat. This is my body given for you.’