The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Social media & the soup kitchen

Is it normal for a college student, instead of just anticipating going out and having fun after studying, to daydream about serving the homeless and working poor at a shelter? I don't know. But if it isn't typical, maybe it will become more so, thanks in part to social media and relationships.

For three years at Carthage, an ELCA college in Kenosha, Wis., I've spent every Monday night after class serving at a food kitchen called First Steps Service Inc. Why? Because I know God wants to use me in every environment I'm in.

After my first night at the soup kitchen, I rejoiced on my Facebook page about the opportunities to serve the community and the Lord in one setting. I soon received a private Facebook message from the captain of the Carthage JV football team, who wanted information about the soup kitchen and how to get involved. So I brought him to serve with me one Monday after his football practice. While he first felt out of his comfort zone, once he began cooking with other volunteers he opened up, sharing his dream of becoming a chef and starting a business. I learned that his passion for culinary arts and serving the community began in high school when he cooked for the homeless and working poor in Chicago's northern suburbs.

Using social media and relationships to share my faith and testimony about my experiences has made a huge difference. My football buddy shared his positive experiences at the food kitchen with all his friends, roommates and others. It ultimately helped me expand my networks on campus, as well as with other Kenosha-area organizations.

In my sophomore year I persuaded a fraternity that didn't have the best reputation on campus to volunteer weekly at the soup kitchen. They went from two volunteers a week the first month to 15 to 20 volunteers and 10 pounds of food every Monday night for nearly two semesters.

This year, as a summer intern for ELCA World Hunger, I helped with the 100 Wells Challenge interactive space at the ELCA Youth Gathering. There I caught up with 35 youth and 10 adults from my home congregation, Christ the Lord Lutheran, Lawrenceville, Ga. At first they just wanted to see how I was doing, but after hearing about the challenge they decided to sacrifice lunch that day and give $20 each to the 100 Wells Challenge. It made me even more proud to be a member of my congregation.

What if we all volunteered regularly at a food kitchen or shelter? What if once a week we also sacrificed one meal and donated the money to World Hunger? What if we used our social media connections and face-to-face relationships to bring others with us?

In my lifetime I've seen how much we as God's children can do to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate. As first lady Michelle Obama once said, "Success is not measured by the amount of money you make, but by the difference that you bring into people's lives." I am blessed, and so are you, to be able to make such a difference, thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


Richard Baumann

Richard Baumann

Posted at 12:20 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/2/2012

Dear Louis, Thank you for your article. You have highlighted one thing that is important about feeding the hungry and homeless: the value and benefit to the one who is giving. I am now and have been involved in housing, sheltering and feeding homeless and poor individuals for the past 15 plus years as an urban pastor. Please remember that the benefit we receive should never take the place of the needs of those we wish to serve. I think you experienced that and I would hope others could as well. Thank you. I am a Carthage alum too.

Note: Richard Baumann edited this post at 12:21 pm on 10/2/2012.

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February issue


Embracing diversity