Ministry Spotlight:
OSL Food Ministry

Debbie Theis

“Trying to stay sane, number one!”

So says Debbie Theis, OSL’s Food Ministry Coordinator, when asked what she’s been up to during these long months of pandemic disruption. She laughs, but it’s a melancholy, head-shaking kind of laugh.

One might think Food Ministry is all but shut down during these days of COVID-19—after all, there are no Sunday breakfasts, Wednesday or Second Saturday suppers, or funeral luncheons these days—but such things were only ever the most visible part of a great many activities Debbie and her crew of dedicated helpers undertake all the time at OSL. As has been the case with most areas of ministry at Our Savior’s, there’s been a change in focus and emphasis, but the Food Ministry engine chugs merrily and busily along.

“I am spending time thinking of so many of our members who are on lockdown,” Debbie says. “How are they doing? Do they need anything? Are they healthy? Do they miss hugs as much as I do? Can I do anything to help them? So then I do what I do when I am worrying: I cook. I made meals for Dinner to Your Door last week, Tater Tot casserole and chicken noodle soup. I believe there are at least 75 meals there.”

Among OSL’s five Core Values, Service, Generosity, and Community stand out most significantly in regard to Food Ministry*. “What can I do to help our community with our Food Ministry?” Debbie wonders aloud. “I can feed people. So in addition to making the meals for Dinner to Your Door, I called and asked the ICU department at Avera McKennan Hospital if we could supply a lunch for them. They were so gracious and excited that we would think of them. They are busy, stressed, and understaffed because of what is happening. We provided a comfort meal of Tater Tot casserole, buns, and butter. Baker Bob Nelson donated his delicious cupcakes, and the staff and doctors in ICU ate every last bit.

“I am planning to do this again in December, for both hospitals. And if need be, we will do more.”

Campus Cupboard photo

In that same spirit of serving the community beyond the walls of Our Savior’s building, Debbie continues to be deeply involved with OSL’s Campus Cupboard program. That program, launched this past spring through the efforts of the Love in Action ministry team, initially was designed to create “care packages” to be distributed to students at Augustana University who had to remain on campus over break because of COVID-19 restrictions. It quickly grew to where it made more sense to carve out a “store room” at Our Savior’s, staffed by volunteers, where students could come to pick up necessities (you know: mac and cheese, Ramen noodles—the major food groups for college students) to help them get by when the dining hall was closed. The success of Campus Cupboard led to it recently being expanded to help OSL’s neighbors at the University of Sioux Falls as well.

Campus Cupboard photo

And, naturally, Food Ministry is in the thick of it.

“We are working with both Augie and USF,” Debbie says, “providing food for students who may otherwise not be able to eat. We have the Campus Cupboard open three times a week for students to come and take what they need. During the break at their schools, we will provide groceries for the kids who will be staying on campus—and also providing some extra, perishable items during this time, maybe even some Christmas cookies!”

OSL’s Love in Action team also has a partnership with Susan B. Anthony Elementary School in central Sioux Falls, and Food Ministry is a major part of that partnership as well. “We provided a lunch for Susan B. Anthony staff in October, during conferences, and will do this again in January,” says Debbie. “I am also working on a surprise for the staff during the holiday season. But I can’t tell you what because it would ruin the surprise!”

Photo of Susan B. Anthony School

Debbie’s ministry isn’t confined strictly to the kitchen, however: “I am have been making calls to members, checking in to see how they are and if there is anything I can do for them during this very difficult time,” she says. “On a day-to-day basis, I try to make myself available for folding mailings, stuffing envelopes, and rearranging anything that might need to be done. And even helping with communion, in a pinch!”

To be sure, COVID-19 has been something of “a pinch,” with ingenuity and energy, Debbie and the rest of the
Food Ministry team help keep OSL Connecting Faith with Everyday Life.

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