Another Side To the House of Manna

submitted by Gary Bernhofer

On the surface, the House of Manna is providing a very basic service to our New Brunswick community. Warm, nutritious meals are being served to needy families.

On another plane, other great things are happening as a result of House of Manna. Each Tuesday and Thursday (the evenings House of Manna provides dinner), a group of about six volunteers assemble at our church to set up tables and chairs, put out place-settings, bring food to the tables and clean up after our guests leave. The volunteers are as diverse as the Central Jersey population. Working side by side with these wonderful people has been especially rewarding to me. This week I met a father who brought his middle-school aged son to our program. What great parenting! A mother brought her son who is in high school to volunteer. I met a young black woman, a Hispanic woman (always welcome as she can interpret) and a Jewish Rutgers graduate school student.

To me, the most unusual volunteer was not really a volunteer at all as it turns out. A young man came in and it was apparent by his attitude and somber expression that he wasn’t happy to be at the House of Manna. He was doing “community service” for some unknown transgression. He seemed surprised that people would choose to give up their evenings on their own to help serve dinner to needy families. He asked why we do this. The answer came from our new Jewish friend. “It’s important to make time to do this.” He said, “You have to give back sometimes.”

Did the experience of helping have a profound impact on our friend with the legal issue? Did he feel good because of the good work he did that night? Time will tell. Spending a few hours with these wonderful people cannot be a bad thing for this young man. (It turns out that he is scheduled to work several more evenings at House of Manna.)
I’m glad to be in a position of watching this situation unfold. Has God arranged this scenario at The House of Manna in order to touch the heart of this young man? We shall see.

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