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Blessings in Bags
By Karen Treharne

It is very possible that your congregation will participate in a different Thanksgiving activity this year - a modified version of The Earth Day Groceries Project.

The Earth Day Groceries Project is an environmental awareness scheme that teams youth and grocers in communities, with the goal of spreading the message of Earth Day each year.

To participate in the Project, teachers simply borrow paper bags from a local grocery store. Students then decorate the bags with environmental messages, using pictures and words that address issues such as "reuse", "recycling", "wildlife", etc. The bags are then returned to the grocery store, and on April 22, which is designated as Earth Day, customers receive their groceries in these decorated sacks that show people how kids care about the environment.

The Christian Thanksgiving interpretation of this idea is for students and adults from community churches to borrow paper bags from responsive grocers, for the purpose of distributing food to the needy for the holiday.

These sacks are decorated with spiritual reminders of blessings. The biblical messages are artistically conveyed with drawings and Bible verses, or inspirational words like "love", "laughter" and "freedom" colorfully displayed on all sides.

During the creative sessions, congregational friends and family break bread in a potluck fashion, engage in joyful camaraderie and use the time to pray for each other and for those who will receive the fruits of their labor. This is also a time to praise God for orchestrating the ministry and enabling its success.

When the decorating of the bags is finished, the church initiates a food drive and requests donations of money to provide a Thanksgiving meal for families in need. The food is divided among the available sacks and then distributed personally to those designated people without other means of providing dinner for their loved ones.

This community service project serves to promote partnering within the body of Christ, to bring joy and love to participating family members, and to inspire the congregation in a unified effort to spread the Good News of what being a Christ follower is all about. There is a feeling among those who participate in this ministry that not only are they blessing others by supplying physical and spiritual food, but they are also being blessed because of their obedience.

Those involved in the mission also note that the awareness of the needs in their individual communities is directly due to the Holy Spirit guiding them in God's will by reminding them to follow in Christ's footsteps. There is a filling of the heart with His presence and an understanding and appreciation of all that He provides them as His children.

This is bound to become a world-wide tradition of giving among Christians as the news spreads. Hearts and minds will be opened to the realization of how much of God's mercy as a source of blessing could be derived from such a universal venture. It will be one more reason to give thanks and will bring all glory to God.
Karen Treharne is the author of "Women Wearing the Baggy Pants", a newspaper article about clowns, and a soon-to-be published story, "Prom Night", in one of the FaithWriters’ quarterly books. Karen and her husband have two sons, one daughter, and three granddaughters. They live in "God's Country", the Pacific Northwest, in Tacoma, Washington. Please feel free to contact her at treharnek@yahoo.com.
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