April 2020 Planter Updates

Camino de Fe's Pop-Up Food Pantry
Serves Over 300 Families

It has been over a month since this whole quarantine and stay-at-home order began. Each day seems the same, but we know they are different and the Lord has been good to us even in the midst of despair. He has allowed us to be His hands and feet in this world.

When we became aware that a lot of families in the communities we serve lost their jobs and were not able to provide to their families, we created a page to raised money in order to help them with basic necessities. First, I want to say thank you! Thank you for your support; thank you to your congregations who have sent volunteers to our pop-up food pantry, donated financially and started collecting food items for our food pantry. You are amazing! I also want to thank the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) and Rick Porter, District Vice President. Rick has been very helpful from the very beginning, finding ways for the LCEF to help our efforts. We received a $1,000 worth of gift cards from them that is helping families in need. Finally, thank you to our District Staff. Camino de Fe and I would not be able to do what we do without their work and support. Caren and Elaine have been very valuable and kind in finding information and providing tools to serve our community.
One of the things that we were able to do is start a pop-up food pantry in Bernardsville. As you know, prior to the shutdown, we held our bible study and worship services in St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church and we partnered with them, the Bernardsville Police Department, the office of Emergency Management and local leaders to start and run this food pantry. We started distributing food bags on Friday, April 3 and since then our numbers increased by 40 families each week.

This past Friday, April 24th we opened a 2nd distribution site in Bernardsville, thanks to Fr. Jay Siceloff and OLPH, at Sacred Heart Chapel on Bernards Ave. (Their parking lot has been the most productive location for distributing school meals.) We continue to collect and organize donations at St. Bernard’s, but the Chapel is our 2nd Friday morning distribution site. Having two distribution sites allowed us to help more than 300 families this past Friday in the pouring rain. This second distribution site is located in a residential area, making it more convenient for those families who are unable to drive. Yes, even in the rain, people walked to pick up a food bag.  So, you can understand, the need is great.  The prior week we helped 168 families. A family of four get a bag of groceries, and two bags for a family of four or more. In addition we give out Shoprite gift cards, and produce.

Financial contributions are also helping us coordinate with local restaurants to provide meals at a reduced cost for families (we cover the cost). The past two Thursday evenings, Nicoletta/Morini provided four person meals for 50 families. This week Plaza Tikal is providing 50 families with dinner on Thursday night. We received produce donations this past Friday from Priscilla’s Pantry and Boxcar, 1000 cloth bags from Wawa, and have more donated bags coming in from Wegmans this week. The Food Bank Network of Somerset County has been an excellent partner as well. And some Ridge High School groups have begun collecting food to donate too.

This has been a community effort, and we are so blessed that Camino de Fe could be a leader in this effort. In addition to making followers of Jesus who in turn make other followers of Jesus, Camino de Fe’s mission is to provide tools and resources for people to engage in and be a part of the American way of life. We found the need in our community and we are using our resources and networks to provide for that need.

Camino de Fe’s second location is in Raritan/Somerville. The need is great there as well. Somerville is a county seat it has more resources and assistance for families in the surrounding areas. Actually, the Somerville YMCA is organizing collections for Bernardsville and providing other assistance as well. In Somerville, our efforts are concentrated on helping families in the School District with translations and assistance with on-line learning that has now replaced the traditional school setting. As you know, many schools have been doing online learning since the shutdown. Our girls have been very good at that and have adapted very quickly. Unfortunately, it is not the same for families who don’t speak/understand English or know how to use a computer.  This results in their children falling behind in their school work. This is where we come in along with other volunteers in the community. The School District sends us information about a family and we connect with them and help them navigate the Flexible Learning system. I have reached out and helped about 15 families so far. Every Monday we connect with those families and oftentimes we check on them to see how they are doing.  
Live Streaming for Camino de Fe- We also jumped quickly onto the Live Stream Worship set-up and we continue to worship with our families in that way. Though I am familiar with a lot of the technology, there was a lot to learn and tweak with this new set-up.  I have been able to network and participate in live learning sessions, in order to make it all work!  My oldest daughter, Sophia, has been a big help assisting me with Sunday morning Worship.  We changed our online time to 11:00 am since now everyone is at home. We will continue to Live Stream even after the Stay-at-Home order is lifted since we find out that we are connecting with many more people online. We also use the application Zoom for our Wednesday (English) at 7:00 pm and Friday (Spanish) at 8:00 pm Bible study.

Here is the link to our live streaming options:
https://caminodefe.church/online-gatherings/

Some of the families from Camino de Fe are not working, but for the most part all of them are doing well. We are communicating with them via Zoom, phone and text. We will continue to do this until we are able to see each other again. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue to reach out to give people hope and comfort.  

Contact me if you would like to be a volunteer at [email protected] or text me at (908) 605-6030. You can go to the link below if you would like to donate to our efforts in helping families in need: https://caminodefe.church/covid-19-give/. Or you can also mail your checks to the LCMS-NJ District Office – COVID-19 Camino at:
LCMS New Jersey District
1168 Springfield Ave
Mountainside, NJ 07092

Don’t forget that you can support Camino de Fe church online at supportcaminodefe.church or you can send your check to the LCMS-NJ District Office – Memo Camino de Fe.

Mile Square Church: Living Room Sessions &
Online Prayer Conference Calls

In May we continue our journey through the Lord's Prayer! We're online live every Sunday at 10am at our online campus. You are welcome to join us at https://milesquare.online.church. Straight after service, we hop into a video chat for a digital coffee hour for continued connection and conversation!

Every morning from 6am-7am and every weekday Mon-Fri from 1:00-1:30pm we host an online prayer conference call. People are welcome to come on the call to pray, or to simply listen and be encouraged. Simply Dial (605) 313-4443 and enter access code 419402 to join the call.

To connect as a community together outside of prayer and worship we gather on Tuesdays to discuss issues we are currently facing and on Thursdays for online game nights! We find it incredibly important to meet together throughout the week to provide support and community while we are in isolation.

In order to love our neighbors during this time of crisis, we are advocating for Hoboken Shelter, who helps protect those suffering from homelessness, as well as Hoboken Public Housing, who are in need of cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Click the COVID-19 Response Page button below to learn more how you can help.

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