Saturday, April 24, 2010

Helping Hands -- Atonement's food pantry

Drive through Wesley Chapel on State Road 54 any Wednesday morning and you may wonder what so many people are doing lined up outside the big white building. By 8:30am there is already a long line waiting for the doors to open at 10am. They are there to receive food, a little friendly conversation, and much more. Every Wed. from 10am-2pm we pass out a 2-day’s supply of food to each family. In March of 2010, Helping Hands distributed over 30,300 pounds of food to over 850 families consisting of 2951 individuals.

Helping Hands Pantry began distributing food weekly in March of 2009. Though it is held in a local church it is truly the community’s pantry, supported by over 200 individual volunteers as well as stores such as Sweetbay, Bagelicious, and Walgreens. Academy of the Lakes has designated us the official charity of their Giraffe Club. We have benefited from food drives from local subdivisions such as Saddlebrook and Bridgewater, and from organizations like the Boy Scouts. In October of 2009 we became the local distribution point for USDA foods. This has helped tremendously meet the growing needs.

Keeping this all-volunteer program going is a big undertaking. It requires picking up food on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, setting up the tables and filling bags on Tuesday with the passing out of foods on Wednesday. The volunteers come from everywhere. They are not only adults who have the time to volunteer and want to give back to the community, but youth from groups like the Honor Society of Wesley Chapel High School, youth obtaining hours for community service, and recipients themselves who want to come back and show thanks for the help they’ve received.

Not only do we give assistance in supplying food, but we now have clothes, toiletries and occasionally baby and pet items as well. Special donations allowed us to register over 300 children who received Christmas presents, and gift bags were distributed on Easter and Mother’s Day. We find it just as important to befriend and encourage people as it is to pass out food, so we try to help any way we can. We are often able to direct people to other local agencies and resources that can help with their specific needs.

It is with the help of people like you that we continue to serve these needs in our community. With the current economy, we see those needs increasing weekly. Please do what you can to help us keep up with the demands and purchase the basic food (peanut butter, spaghetti, etc.) and personal items (tooth brushes, toilet paper, soaps, etc.) that are not provided by USDA. Helping Hands operates entirely on donations, and you can be assured that all donations are used exclusively for the pantry.

Many recipients themselves tell how they found encouragement to carry on through the help they found here. One lady whose husband deserted her and their infant child told us this food pantry saved their lives. Others have found jobs, friends, and hope for the future through the relationships they built here. There are so many stories to tell, but don’t take our word for it – stop by on a Wednesday morning and see all the people being served, watch the hard-working volunteers and you’ll catch a glimpse of why this is such an important and effective outreach.

Quarterly statement thank-you letter

“Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts”
--Psalm 84:3

Dear friends & members of Atonement Lutheran Church,

I can’t say thank you enough. Not to God, and not to you. First to God, who is always blessing us in a gazillion ways. Nobody said it better than Martin Luther, who reminds us how much God gives us through the gift of life and the gift of the Church:

For since in all days and hours you have received the blessings of God, such as life, being, feeling, mind, besides food and clothing and the service of the sun, of heaven and earth and all the elements in exceeding variety, it is clear that you owe thanks for what you have received. But who does not here see his own endless omissions and ingratitudes? Who has sufficiently given thanks even for one day?
Second, consider the sacraments and blessings of the Church, which serves you no less than the whole world. Therefore without ceasing you receive life, feeling, being, understanding, food and clothing in spiritual things, the service of the sun of righteousness, of heaven and earth and of all the blessings in the Church.
Luther’s Works, Vol. 10 – Lectures on the Psalms

So join me in thanking God for each new day, and for sweeping us up in His arms and bringing us into the safety and shelter of the community of Christ, the Church. What a joy it is to see Atonement becoming the community church for the Wesley Chapel area. In May we become the home to area Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous groups. We will also charter the new Boy Scout Troop 2 on May 26. The overwhelming support for the food pantry is leading us to seek more space for our ministries. Praise God for the expanding mission and ministry of our congregation! It’s good to see more people finding their spiritual home here.

Now to you -- thanks for your faithfulness, your enthusiasm, your participation and support, your prayers, your witness to others, your words of encouragement, your faith and goodwill, and all that you share in the name of our Lord. With God’s unwavering blessing and your prayerful support, there’s no doubt 2010 will be another year of continued growth. May your days be full of joy and thankfulness for life, family and loved ones, and for your spiritual home, the Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Scott Lindner

May 2010

"Blessed be the Lord
Who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation."
— Psalm 68:19

It’s starting to show. As snowbirds fly up north, the worship services thin out, offerings go down, and we all have to sing a little louder to fill up the sanctuary with our praises. This year it seemed like our snowbirds were especially enthusiastic and got more involved than ever in helping out with our many ministries. They are part of our church family and we will miss them, even as we remember that God always holds us together in His heart.

Meanwhile, we will continue Sunday school through May 16 and the 8:45am Heritage Service through May 30. We have a month full of baptisms, confirmation, Mother’s Day and other special events. The food pantry and other ministries continue to need volunteers. Our youth will experience a 30 hour fast to benefit world hunger, and we’ll hear reports about what’s going on in the wider church. May is a month when we watch Atonement become a whole different congregation — smaller, but just as full of God’s joy and love.

Pastor Scott


April 2010

"So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul..."
— Deuteronomy 10:12

Nobody expected Easter. No one anticipated the empty tomb. Neither the disciples, the guards, the Roman and Jewish leaders, nor the women who came to anoint the body of our Lord — none of them had any idea that God was going to make that serene Sunday morning the turning point of all history.
And here we are 2000 years later, and what are we expecting God to do in our lives, in our homes, in our church and community? Easter should be the flame that always lights the fuse of hope in us. It should shake us up to realize that God can bring things to life that we thought
were dead, and force us to re-think life’s limitations. Easter is there to inspire us to live beyond boundaries and love beyond expectations. It turns us into “Easter people” who are moved and shaped by this incredible good news.
So what does it mean to be Easter people? It means:

1. We are different — where the world tells us we need to keep climbing higher and accumulating more, we know we’ve got all we need. So we act a little differently from people who think all we need is (in the words of Howard Hughes) “just a little more.” Instead, we spend our lives as Jesus did: giving ourselves away. On April 18, “Time and Talent Sunday,” we will look for new ways we can share in God’s work and give away some of what God has given us.

2. We are family — trusting Jesus to accompany and guide us, we find our lives bathed in the light of the empty tomb. His grace enlightens our relationships and his concerns become our own. Jesus opened the circle and brought us into his family, and now brothers and sisters in Christ are all around us. This month we will celebrate a baptism and a new member reception — as God continues to keep the circle open and call more and more people to come join the family.

3. We are ready — God placed us in the center of a world of needs. People need help, people need hope, and we have both to share. Thanks for being ready to share your time and talent and treasure on behalf of Jesus, our Lord. Imagine — this adventure that began with a cross and an empty tomb, carries on through your hands and your heart!

Pastor Scott