As of August 18, 2021, The Mercy Table has existed for 9 months, and we are constantly learning. Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. on December 18, 2020, we set up and set out to serve 200 Ham Christmas Dinner’s to our community as we gathered around the table together. As our time in history would have it we were encouraged not to gather. A direct disobedience to the very scripture text we are called to live by.
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
At the same time and more importantly we are called to love. Luke 10:26-28 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
So we honored what was asked of us and prepared to serve Christmas Dinner drive thru style. Our volunteers showed up early and ready with hearts of service. A few of the men volunteers adorned in bright yellow vest lined the parking lot to direct traffic with orange cones making a way for our guests. Men, women, and children volunteers were packing small trinkets and resource bags along with to go meals for the families we eagerly and expectantly awaited. The irony is that we had the workers in spades, and we looked like a well-oiled machine. We were ready and prepared to serve. How glorious it was to see people working together, how glorious the support we were given, how glorious it was that other organizations partnered with us for what we thought would be our grand opening.
Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Then 7:00 p.m. arrived and we waited, and waited, and waited some more for our first guest to arrive. When no one showed up one volunteer posted our event on social media and eventually a few stopped by. Another volunteer went to the people in the neighborhood and invited them to the banquet that was awaiting them and a few more showed.
Luke 12:21-24 ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’
This is the heart of The Mercy Table when we say, “Open to all, come as you are.” All are invited into a community of hope, all are invited to pull up a seat to The Mercy Table, all are invited to the banquet, where there is plenty of room.
We were quick to adjust for the benefit of our community and the decision to move the meal from Friday evening at 7:00 pm to Saturday afternoon at 12:00 pm began in January. That month we served a Venison Chili with Beans and all the fixings. Again, we had the workers in spades as one of the Rooted Bible study groups did their service project with The Mercy Table. We did have a great time of fellowship among volunteers getting to know each other much better and we dined at The Mercy Table together. A college student even took advantage of the opportunity for community service hours with us.
Our marketing was a little better for January as we discovered several social media cites for the Fortville and nearby communities to advertise and the kindness of many local businesses willing to post our flyers in their store fronts for customers to see. More than in December showed up to receive a meal drive thru style and again we went out and took the banquet to the people.
In February we partnered with another local organization in the community and waited to serve a meal alongside them on March 6, 2021. We served sausage and pancakes on a stick with coffee and hot chocolate. As we started to work with what was already happening in the area awareness of The Mercy Table began to increase, slowly, but steadily and it continues in the same manner today. However, some confusion in the message of who The Mercy Table is and what our mission is lurked in the shadows.
The Mercy Table was viewed as a source of food rescue in the midst of a pandemic as we were forced into serving drive thru meals rather than around a table together in community. Our vision has always been about re-engaging people in a safe place where hope and identity can be found in Jesus Christ with community. How we do that is our mission: The Mercy Table is where you can expect loving hospitality and authentic friendships, open to all, come as you are. We didn’t so clearly arrive at that conclusion until June or July of 2021. The food has always and continues to be the attraction, but the community and friendships we are building remain the star. The Mercy Table believes it takes a community to change lives.
Vision Statement: The Mercy Table re-engages people in a safe place where hope and identity can be found in Jesus Christ with community.
Mission Statement: The Mercy Table is where you can expect loving hospitality and authentic friendships, open to all, come as you are.
The drive thru meals continued through March and then finally we were allowed to invite people to a sit down gathering in April of 2021. We went all out with Kona Ice, outdoor games, Josie Beach of Polka Pop Balloon Stop – the works. Most people were from church and a few families were from outside the Fortville area. We called this a success. It was a fun time; not the turn out we hoped for, but we enjoyed ourselves. A lot of people weren’t ready to be in social gatherings. This time people knew we were there as we continued to take meals to the people.
At this point, we learned we could scale back on the food we were producing and reallocate some money to activities. We invested in board games. Sorry, Scrabble, Monopoly, Pop Up, Guess Who, Life, Clue, Hungry Hungry Hippo and more. We marketed on all kinds of social media, in several cities, with local businesses, word of mouth, etc. By this time we also figured out an inexpensive way to create marketing photos rather than flyers giving us 94.6% in savings. Without paying any “boost” marketing ads we reached over 3.5K likes and some shares. 35 to 40 people showed up to our June event – a fairly even mix of church people and not. As we said, there has been A LOT of learning. This was the first event that the delicious pulled pork, corn, and green bean meal was secondary to the community playing a board game together and getting to know one another. This is what The Mercy Table is about. This was a success!
We plan on continuing the success of making new friends around the table where some of the best memories are made with the communities we serve this August 28, 2021, at 12pm 611 Vitality Drive, Fortville as we bring back those board games, share a meal, and find out what we have in common with our new friends.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
So why write all of this? When God gives you the wave to ride to put His love on display before others and for others ride the wave because you want to love people like He does, you want to show up like He does, you want to meet people where they are at like Jesus does, (Philippians 2:3-4). Because you are called to be salt and light in this dark world, (Matthew 5:13-16).
Please know there is always a seat for you at The Mercy Table.
**Some scriptures used may be paraphrased and all are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)***