Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Could Not Make This Up

The pie crunch is on this week. 55 have been delivered since this adventure began in November, but this week is when many are due all at once. It's a daily journey. I was going to say, "One pie at a time," but actually it's more like "Ten pies at a time" at the moment. :)

On Saturday morning I had a hairdressing appointment; an island of much needed relaxation in the Sea of Pies.

I hurried in from the biting cold outside, stamping the snow from my shoes, glad to be inside the bright and warm salon, while outside the first major storm of the winter was brewing.

Jamie, my hairdresser, welcomed me and showed me to a chair on the main floor. She explained that she'd be doing my hair there rather than upstairs in her own small, elegantly decorated room, because she'd be working on another customer at the same time as me who was coming in for a shampoo and set.

Shortly after I sat down, a car pulled up out front and parked, and a blond woman who looked to be a few years older than me, gingerly made her way through the snow, holding tightly onto the arm of a man . They were warmly greeted like old friends by Jamie, and Ivo, the owner of the salon.

The man, whose name was Tony, sank into a chair to wait for the woman, who was his wife. I was sure I knew who they were. A few months ago, Jamie was chatting about a customer named Francesca who was a dear friend, and who came in for a shampoo and set every week. In the course of the few details Jamie shared then, I had realized that her husband was the owner of the company at the Ontario Food Terminal that my friend Brian works as a buyer and seller for--the Brian who has recently been supplying apples for the pies for South Sudan. At the time it had seemed a coincidence; but now I was in the next chair to Francesca. Still, it seemed inappropriate somehow to blurt out to someone who was a stranger that we had a mutual connection.

We exchanged small talk as I was seated between Francesca and her husband and then Jamie asked Ivo to help her by rinsing off my colour.

As Ivo worked on my hair he asked, "So are you going somewhere nice tonight?"

"Actually, I'm going home to bake pies," I said, and shared the story of the guest house in South Sudan and fact that now almost a quarter of it had been built by pie.

"Are you still taking orders?" he asked, and before I knew it I was baking three more pies for three upcoming events in Ivo's life.

"Don't worry if you can't get them done by next weekend," he said, "I'll still take them after Christmas." He patted  his softly rounded belly and said with a smile, "I work hard on this!"

We were still chatting about pie as I walked back to my chair, and Jamie, who has been following the posts on Facebook about them, explained the story to Francesca.

A few minutes later, Francesca said, "Where did you get the apples for those pies?"

"F.G. Lister," I said, and Tony said, "I own that company--I'm Brian's boss!"

I told Tony about the guest house project then, and pulled up the last blog post I had written about it, on my phone, so that he could read it, which he did, with interest.

Then he said, "We don't sell the kind of apples you need for pies at the Food Terminal, but I have a contact for Northern Spy apples; I buy them for my wife's pies. When do you need them for? Do you have cold storage?"

I felt like a certain cup-bearer named Nehemiah whose king gave him timber to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, except that it sounded like I was being given apples to build the walls of a guest house in South Sudan.

I am running out of apples and I don't know when Tony's apples will arrive, but I do know that so far, the making of the pies has been provided for in ways that have amazed me and I could never have imagined the connection that happened on Saturday.

There is a need for a safe place to stay with basic amenities, for people going through CH Global (the non government funded, global branch of the organization I work for,) to help those in need in Africa's newest country, and I know that every pie made and sold is a step towards that.

As I have worked in my kitchen, alone or with friends, doing just that, the pies have been a gift that have kept me focused on what Christmas is all about, and too busy to get distracted by what it is not.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Multiplied Blessings

Have you ever been part of something so much bigger than yourself that you feel that you are right in the middle of the adventure and mystery that is God? 

Well, that is how it feels right now with the Pies for South Sudan.

It's a bit of a scary place to be, but daring to step forward because he said so, and do something that makes absolutely no logical sense, without having any idea how it can all work out is when miracle dust starts to fall from heaven and you just have to smile--well, laugh, actually, with joy.

I ended my last proper blog post with these words from my journal:
"I just need to remember to relax and breathe--and stick closely connected to his heart and voice. This is how radical obedience works in practice. 
And when we place our trembling hands in his great strong one, it is an opportunity for him to be shown to the watching world, right here, right now; not in the pages of the past."
 God had nudged me to bake pies to raise funds for our district project, a guest house in South Sudan, and at the point that I wrote that, I had 81 orders for the pies, which are priced at $20 each. The orders kept coming in. At 100, my boss, Dwayne Milley, said, "Belinda, I think you should stop taking orders." 

That made sense, but since when has God ever, "made sense?" I found that I couldn't bring myself to stop taking orders; even though I didn't go looking for them; because it felt like turning off a tap that God had turned on. I had to trust that he would make it possible to do what he was giving me to do.

People have donated boxes, pie plates, flour, sugar and apples. Our cell group put together over 100 pie boxes one evening and put on the labels that someone else had designed so beautifully. They say, "Belinda's Homemade Apple Pie...Enjoy Locally...Give Globally."
 I took a break from pie baking on Saturday evening when Paul and I went to a local retirement residence to support our worship team who were there singing carols. 

I was sitting next to Michael, a young dad who is our church treasurer. "What's all this about pies, Belinda?" he asked, having seen many pie conversations going on via Facebook.


I explained what I was doing--and that I had just over 100 orders by then, which had raised over $2000. He said at first, "That's an awful lot of work for $2000."

Then I told him about the guest house and how it only cost $10,000, and how many people had pitched in to help in so many different ways and his eyes took on a gleam that told me he was inspired, and he said, "If you have another apple peeling party, let us know. We want to teach our kids to help others.." A few minutes later he smiled and said, "That guest house only costs $10,000. That means that almost a quarter of it has been built by pies." 
"Spoken like a true accountant," I thought!

We had bagged and frozen over 100 pounds of apples for the pies. But my friend Susan had given me her Mennonite grandmother's recipe for Schnitz Pie several years ago and word got out! So I made an experimental couple of them, just to be sure I could, and people started ordering them. The only trouble was that the apples needed to be sliced thicker for this kind of pie.

So I sent my friend Brian, who works at the Ontario Food Terminal, and who had donated a very generous 3 boxes of apples already,  a message. I said that if it wouldn't be asking too much, could he possible get me another box of apples? He responded right away that he would get me some more, then yesterday he told me they'd be here on Friday.

I was so grateful and excited, that I wrote back:
"Yay!! I have 500 pie plates and a Lee Valley Tools Apple Peeler Corer Slicer is on its way by mail! Thank you SO much. We have raised over $2000 with pie." and I told him, "The guest house we're building in South Sudan only costs $10,000, so almost a quarter of it will be built with your apples. How cool is that?"
This was when Brian wrote back to me, and with his permission I am sharing what he wrote:
 "So a seed that came from God gets sold for less than a penny; gets picked and packed for the cost of say, $15, then through the journey it somehow increases to less than $200 wholesale, which has a net worth of $2000 after they spend time on their journey with you...have somehow paid one quarter of the price to build a house...2 fish 5 loaves?"
How very cool is that?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Hello!

Hello dear friends. I am so sorry for going "missing in action" since both the season of Christmas and responding to the call to bake pies have swallowed me whole!

If anyone out there is still checking here, please be patient--I will be back. I'm missing writing and connecting with "you." 

I hope that you are enjoying the crazy as much as I am. Let's embrace it and go with the flow; let go what we can; hold on tight, and remember the important--our friends, our families, and the reason we are celebrating at all right now--a King who stooped to love us with his very self.