Loaves and Fishes

Person holding loaf of bread

“Mom! Look!” My five-year-old daughter ran out of her Sunday School class and placed a picture in my hand. “It’s loaves and fishes, Mom! Loaves and fishes! There were only two fishes and five loaves and Jesus fed everybody! Because Jesus makes the impossible possible!” 

When Hannah told me that Jesus fed over 5,000 people with a smattering of “loaves and fishes,” it was as if she had just told me that the sky was blue. No doubt. No hesitation. Just complete and utter acceptance of what her Jesus could do.  

How I wish we, the Church, had the same childlike faith! I know of a lot of hungry kids who are waiting for local churches to come alongside them, but as churches weigh this possibility, nerves enter in, hesitation sets in, worry sets in. What if we won’t have enough funds, enough food, enough volunteers? Real concerns, but we so easily forget about our real God who is in the business of feeding the multitudes and who always goes before us!

In the book of John, we are told that Jesus saw the crowd and asked the disciples where they were going to buy food for everyone. They were all baffled, and Philip replied that it would take more than half a year’s wages to feed the masses. But then Andrew spoke up. You guys, I love Andrew. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” he asked.

Andrew raised the question that no one else thought to ask. 

Where the other disciples saw the impossible, Andrew saw an inkling of a possibility. He had different eyes for the situation, and while Andrew didn’t understand how some loaves and fish could be used to feed everyone, he at least had the crazy notion to bring attention to them. He understood that God can do more than we can imagine; that he can do much with little. 

Loaves and fishes.

Today, I work part-time as a Growth Manager for Hand2Hand, where I get to meet with schools and churches interested in partnering with the ministry. The goal is to establish a long-lasting relationship between a church and a school: The church provides weekend food bags for students in need so that these students can fulfill their God-given potential. 

And If I could offer one message to the Church as a whole, it would be this: Be the Andrews. Be the ones who see possibilities where others see none because you understand that Jesus is present. Jesus is capable. And Jesus can make the impossible possible. He can still work miracles with loaves and fish; I notice it every time I work with Hand2Hand.

I also act as a volunteer Hand2Hand coordinator for my own kids’ local school and we recently needed 130 breakfast packs to see us through the next week. We had a few here and there in our pantry and had recently had some anonymously donated in a brown bag. I dumped everything I could find on the ground and began counting… 127, 128, 129, 130. We had exactly 130 breakfast packs, and I just smiled. 

Loaves and fishes. 

 Fifteen years ago, it seemed impossible to imagine public schools inviting the Church to have a presence there. As a high school teacher, I struggled regularly to share the love of Jesus with my students while still respecting the boundaries of a public school setting. 

And now, over a decade later, I have schools – public schools – begging churches to come to feed their students. They see their students’ needs and they hear the stories, but they simply aren’t equipped to meet some of these needs, especially the ones over the weekend. They’ve heard about what Hand2Hand does and they are warmly inviting us in. Public schools are inviting Christ-centered churches to love their students through a bag of food each weekend. 

What I once deemed to be impossible has now become possible.

 “Our need is so great,” one principal told me last Fall. “I’ll do anything to help you find a church partner for us. I’ll come to any meeting, make any phone call. Please, just help me feed these students.”

I’ve also been meeting with churches who are discerning whether to step into some of these needs. And I get it: Walking alongside a group of students weekend after weekend and showing up with a bag of food for them is a big commitment. I often hear, “I’m just not sure we’ll get the volunteers we need,” or, “I don’t know if we’ll have the funding,” or, “We are already involved in so much. I just don’t think we can take on more.” 

Loaves and fishes. That is what we do around here. We have over 130 current church partners feeding over 7,800 students who can tell you all about loaves and fishes.

Hand2Hand is currently struggling to find churches to partner with many of the schools inviting us in, including the school of the principal with whom I spoke last Fall. Please, Church, let’s change this narrative. 

Let’s be the Andrews, the ones who see small quantities – of funds, of labor, of time – and understand that Jesus can use them to make the impossible possible. 

Let’s believe that God has called us to act on his behalf and feed hungry students in the school down the street, and let’s step out in faith.

Because as much as that principal loves his students, their Heavenly Father loves them so much more. And he is asking us to be his hands so they can feel that abundant love. 

Loaves and fishes. Turns out, that’s all you need. 

Written by Jenny Steele