Gleanings are things that are collected from various sources after a harvest, rather than being acquired as a whole. Gleanings For The Hungry is a non-profit ministry that is centered around the mission to feed the hungry in our world. It is the idea of taking someones “left-overs” and feeding it to the needy.
This is a mission that everyone understands. Even the youngest children grasp this need and wholeheartedly help in every way they can.
We were blessed to spend a week at Gleanings and it ended up being one of the most memorable events in our journey. Serving God in any capacity is fulfilling, to do it as a family is transforming. As we disciple our kids in the matter of service, this was a powerful opportunity for them to work hard, and then see the fruit of their labor in such a tangible way.
Gleanings is a division of YWAM (Youth With A Mission), a non-profit, Christian missions-based organization whose objective is “to help feed the hungry of the world, both physically and spiritually.”
How We Discovered Gleanings
Last December I was sitting in my RV, chatting with my friend Leslie, as she and her girls told us about the most amazing ministry. Leslie’s daughter exclaimed, “you just have to visit Gleanings!” What?! At that very moment, I realized that our friends at Faith Takes Flight were volunteering at that exact place…at that exact moment. It took me about two seconds to realize that this was not a coincidence. As soon as the new year began, we were investigating this place in Dinuba, California.
Dinuba? I had lived in California for most of my life and had never heard of this town. It was all such a mystery…and why would it be based in the middle of “no-where,” an hour outside of Bakersfield…and why did I feel so led to go there?
We were able to coordinate a visit, with only three weeks of planning. I felt in my heart that we simply had to volunteer here before we exited Southern California. Unfortunately, Chris would be working that week and had to fly out for business. Even with our fearless leader away, we simply could not pass up the opportunity for the kids and I to investigate this ministry.
How It Worked
Tucked amongst the orchards in the Central Valley’s agriculture belt, we found that Gleanings was perfectly placed. Not only does it sit amongst farmland, it is within driving distance to three National Parks.
We learned that in the summer, Gleanings collects the imperfect peaches that farmers cannot sell and dries them to create dried fruit and trail mix. In the winter they collect various dehydrated ingredients to make a dried soup mix that provides nourishment to people all over the world.
To date, the dried fruit and soup mix has been distributed to over 90 countries around the planet!
As we were arriving in January, we would be making soup! We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the day after Angie’s Birthday Bash at the beach and got the RV all set up. The kids had no idea what to expect, but they knew that we were taking the week off from school, and focused solely on serving.
At 6:00 am the next morning, my crew was up and moving. By 7:00 we were in line for breakfast. We found a table and sat as a family while eating breakfast, before Chris left for the airport. Breakfast was followed by worship, a devotion…and then we were asked to sign-up for what we were interested in doing. All three kids wanted to work in the soup plant, so that became our assignment.
We opened and emptied pallets of dehydrated ingredients, that would all be combined to make the soup mix. We dumped product into boxes for three days. The fourth day we bagged the soup mix and heat-sealed the bags. On the fifth day we did yard work and helped weed an area of the facility. Though these tasks were relatively simply, we worked with fervor each day. What a joy it was to work hard and see such an accomplishment.
It was a beautiful thing. My kids worked their hearts out. They were surrounded by mature, loving adults who were able to love on them and guide them. There was one other family with kids serving that week, a German family who lived in Turkey. My son had a blast connecting with their boys.
As a mama, it was a pleasure to focus on the task at hand and remain out of the kitchen for a week. All three of our meals were prepared and served for us, so I was able to serve and focus on working with my kids, without having to feed my troop constantly. We especially loved meal time as it was fun to meet so many people.
After dinner, the kids would stay up as late as possible playing games with other kids from the YWAM community and running around the playground in the dark. I literally had to make them come in at night. They had a blast playing and I was constantly amazed that they had any energy left to burn.
We left Gleanings with so many treasures in our heart. Try as I might, I just cannot list all that we experienced. Here are just some of the highlights…
Family Service. Our family found complete joy in serving here. We were blessed to find such a fun energy and joy-filled atmosphere. We truly felt the presence of the Lord. We found that many of the volunteers who were serving that week had been returning year after year, for this very reason.
All Ages. Young and old serve side by side. One morning I was opening boxes when a sweet lady leaned over and said “I can’t believe she is over 90 and able to do this.” What? I discovered that the hard-working woman across the table from me was a local who came to serve each week. She was one of the most devoted and hard-working women I have ever met. As I ponder her service, I do believe that her volunteering is as much a blessing to Gleanings as it is to her. What a gift it is to our seniors to have such an opportunity for service at so many different levels.
Socializing. My heart was filled to the brim by connecting with some wonderful people. I met a couple from Michigan who drives down each winter to serve. There was another couple from Northern California who was so sweet to the kids and I. My RV neighbor was a single grandmother from San Diego who drives her motorhome up each year and RV’s all over the west. Then there was another couple who introduced us to connections up in the inland northwest when they found out we were headed north. I met a staff member who lives onsite at Gleanings who poured out friendship to me over lunch.
Sharing Jesus. Gleanings also opens their doors to backpackers who are traveling. Positioned near the National Parks, this is a great option for those packing through the state. Backpackers can stay there for a trade in helping around the facility. That week, there were three backpackers there. A young guy from Germany, a woman from Sweden and another guy from Japan. I loved chatting with them over meals and hearing their stories and experiences. The backpacker from Japan, named Saku, left a lasting impression on our hearts. He is a vibrant character, so fun and animated. Several times we commented on how it would be so awesome to see him enter into a relationship with the Lord. At the end of the week, different people stood up and shared how that week had impacted them. Saku stood up and shared that he had never experienced anything like this before, in all of his travels around the world. He was moved by the hearts of those serving, the atmosphere of being surrounded by Christians and the mission of Gleanings. He asked everyone if we could all have a big group hug:. This was the hug:
In the weeks that followed our visit to Gleanings, we followed Saku on Instagram. He stayed at Gleanings…and stayed….and stayed. Then one day we noticed that he received Jesus as his Savior and was being baptized. Wow! What a story to watch unfold.
Joy. Watching our kids serve the Lord in this capacity was such a joy. I could not have picked a better place show them the heart of service. Four months later, Brendan continues to ask when we can return. I was also encouraged as a parent by the feedback I received on my children. Their hearts and hard-working spirit were evident to those around them and I was so blessed to hear what the staff members and volunteers saw in my kids.
Impact. Lastly, my kids received culture and made friends. Not only did the kids meet backpackers and hear reports on the political climate of Turkey, but they met staff members from at least four different countries. Aside from the volunteers, many staff members who live on site have kids and then there are also other YWAM families who visit and work there. My kids made friends with a family from Southern California. They bonded so quickly with them that my children simply did not want to leave. They continue to stay in touch and I do believe that they will reconnect some day.
The staff has made it incredibly easy to serve. It is almost like going away to camp. Volunteers may stay at Gleanings in hotel-style rooms, dormitories or in your own RV.
Once you decide to volunteer, simply contact Gleanings For The Hungry to coordinate your visit. As an RV’er, this could not have been more perfect for our family. There are 19 RV spots with full hook-ups, all on paved sites. These sites are nicer than many RV parks we have stayed in around the country. They have even landscaped the area! You will have use of their laundry facility as well as meals during the week. The weekends are free for you and your family to explore as you wish. There is also a shared kitchen facility for those staying in the rooms, should you want to make meals on the weekends.
Though many of the youth groups visit during the summer, it can be crazy hot that time of year (think 115 degrees!), so visiting in the winter was perfect for us. We also found it super easy to reserve a spot in the winter. Apparently groups reserve their volunteer spots up to two years in advance for busier seasons.
Gleanings asks that you provide a donation, per person, per day that you are there. Once you witness this ministry in action, it is easy to understand why the costs of food, electricity and water need to be met and you eagerly pay the nominal cost for your visit. I am confident that this non-profit organization seeks to be wise stewards of their funds and resources.
Who Can Serve?
Traveling Families with their kids. Retired Couples. Singles. Youth Groups. Church Groups. Pretty much anyone with a heart to serve.
As I reflect on our visit, my first thought is when can we return? Our time at Gleanings truly impacted each of our hearts. We learned about other YWAM ministries that inspired us on so many levels.
If you feel the urge to serve alongside your family, I urge you to consider planning a volunteer trip to Gleanings. It would be well worth planning this into your family vacation time or taking a week off from work. The impact on your family will be well worth it!
I see now how God worked in our hearts and in our journey. Clearly this is why I felt that urging to visit Gleanings. We gleaned so much from this visit!