But it hasn't been easy. I would never tell anyone that stepping out in faith is easy, because it is not. It is one of the most difficult pursuits of my life, and it is challenging emotionally and physically.
The emotional toll can be wearing - and in more ways than one. I love the people I meet. Sometimes my heart just aches with pain as I listen to their stories, and life experiences. I have a soft spot for those society discards and discounts - and the knowledge that I can't help them all sometimes makes me achingly sad. I am also struck, as I drive through the neighborhoods where we go, by the numbers of individual human beings we are NOT reaching. I want them all to know how much they matter- whether or not they need the meal we are cooking - but also because I know and understand how completely lonely life can feel. And my prayer is what we are doing at the Torch will have a ripple effect that reaches beyond the people who we have been blessed to meet and know - and spreads out into the people they meet and know, and beyond.
I do find it hard to have compassion for those who prefer to criticize us rather than to figure out how they can love others. That really is a struggle for me. But I keep praying my way through it, and for them.
Physically, the Torch can be absolutely draining. Literally hours of planning and preparation are poured into every single event we do. We are blazing a new path, so we never know for sure how things are going to turn out - but I refuse to worry. Instead, I pray. Sometimes, though, I wake up a lot at night - and pray and pray and pray.
The weekly events take a lot of planning and organizing, as well. Any perishable food we wish to serve is picked up on our way to wherever we are going - so we often find ourselves rushing like crazy straight from work, and skipping dinner because we know traffic is going to be insane and lines might be long, and we don't want to be late.
Leaning through the window of the truck to help the precious individuals who arrive for dinner, puts a strain on my back which often leads to a headache. Sarah works constantly over the grill - and has picked up a variety of burns throughout the past few years. The repetitive motion of flipping and moving food around causes her bad shoulder to ache, and many evenings she is working hard to stretch it out the best she can while she works. After the meal is over there is clean-up, and the truck has to be re-stocked and made ready for the next adventure. Sometimes we are at the warehouse working on it for hours after we have served dinner.
Combining the emotional and physical toll of pursuing this dream can often send Sarah and I clashing. We are human, after all, and our personalities are very different - which is a mixed blessing. Sarah has a great deal of food service cooking experience,and can multi-task inside the truck with ease, but if I try to do too much at once, things start to go haywire for me. Sarah stays focused and works hard to get the meal ready, while I stop and talk to people - sometimes when I am on my way to do something important, like turning on the propane or generator - which she is waiting for so meal preparation can begin. And I might even forget why I was out there in the first place, and step back inside the truck without turning the generator or propane on.
As the line forms, I have learned never to look at the length, I pay attention only to the person in front of me, because if I see a long line, my stress mounts - and I try to go to fast and orders get messed up - and Sarah and I get mad at each other. And, about every other week we decide to quit.
We are learning, though, to let it go when things calm down and we are no longer caught up in the flurry of the moment. That has not been an easy lesson to learn.
So, The Torch is truly a lot of work. Taking that leap of faith did not mean we just started a non-profit and sat back to let God do the rest. He has done many things we could not do, but we are committed and understand that great things happen when prayer is combined with sacrifice, sweat, and tears. And we have seen tremendous and great things happen. Our faith has grown, our ability to love has expanded, and our hope for the things we see coming in the future has never burned brighter.