They Shall Still Bear Fruit in Old Age (Psalm 92:14a)
A quiet, unassuming woman lives among us, yet she lives an extraordinary-ordinary life as a champion of serving others. She is 81 years young and resides on the third floor in Heritage at Lakeview Village. Despite her recent hip surgery, she embodies God’s mission to lovingly promote human flourishing since 1962. How is that possible, you may ask? Let me tell you a story about the life of Faye Martin.
Traveling back in history a bit, Faye is called upon to serve during the formative years of a new Johnson County hospital, located at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Interstate 35. In 1962, an opportunity opens up for Faye to assume the position of development of the OB Department at the newly formed hospital. Within three months, Faye is promoted to Director of Nursing. She stays in this position for nine months, organizing the department before leaving to pursue other career goals. Later Faye returns to the hospital, now renamed the Shawnee Mission Medical Center, where she serves the folks of Johnson County for 37 consecutive years from 1967-2004.
In 2004, Faye retires from the hospital to care fulltime for her husband, who contracts bone cancer. It is a precious time for Faye as she serves her husband until his eventual passing in 2011.
After the death of her husband, Faye continues to serve others. While driving to church one morning in 2013, she is struck with a deep thought. Faye believes that God is speaking into her mind and telling her to start a food pantry at her local church.
When she reaches her church, the New Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church, Faye relates her desire to start a food pantry for needy residents in Johnson County. Indeed, she already knows about the many needs right in her own community because of her years serving at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
This outreach to the needy within her community should be a holistic ministry, Faye explains, to not only their physical needs but also to their spiritual needs. Pastor Nunes confirms Faye’s desire and tells her that she was already planning to call Faye on the telephone that very week to discuss this possibility!
Ministry to Physical Needs
Thus, the food pantry begins in a small closet at the church and initially ministers to 7-8 needy folks. In the beginning days, the church pastor purchases food across the street at the local Price Chopper on 87th Street. Under Faye’s leadership, others within the congregation also help.
Since those beginning days, the New Haven Church’s food pantry has grown to currently serve over 100 families in the local Johnson County area. Faye encourages the folks coming to the pantry from other areas to find food resources within their own communities. However, nobody will be refused.
New Haven Church ministers to a varied group of guests. There is a community of Hispanics as well as a community of Russian immigrants who regularly visit the pantry. A Russian volunteer helps to translate. The church receives food from Harvesters, Walmart, Natural Grocers, and Panera Bread. In addition, some of the gardeners at Lakeview Village donate their fresh garden vegetables. Twice each month, Harvesters brings a large pallet of boxed food for drive-thru. At Christmas, children receive a bag of toys, with color books or a reading book as a gift from the church.
Ministry to Spiritual Needs
As an outgrowth of Faye’s leadership, a group of prayer intercessors begin meeting together on a weekly basis to pray for incoming individuals and families that regularly visit the pantry. Since those beginning days, the church develops a website that lists the prayer requests of these needy individuals. For example, some ask for prayer to be healed of physical afflictions, or for healing of relational issues among family members, or requests to be baptized.
As a result of these prayer requests, the church for the past two years has been offering clothing, shoes, and toys for the children free of charge through their small clothes closet. Faye thoughtfully smiles and says, “it is the hope of New Haven Church that these folks will wear the clothing to job interviews.”
Maintaining Dignity and Self-Respect
Faye believes it is important for these guests of New Haven Church to retain their self-respect and dignity as they accept these gifts of food and loving care of the church. Faye explains that “this ministry has NOT been designed as simply a grocery store, but rather a place of healing for families.”
One of the many ways that New Haven Church carries this theme of dignity and respect for their guests is to allow the family members to pick what foods they like. Faye notes that “our guests shouldn’t be mandated to accept something that their family members may be allergic to or simply not enjoy eating.”
In addition, Faye continues to be physically present each Tuesday when the church opens its doors for the weekly food distribution. She has cultivated many new friendships among these people groups. Faye relates that “we receive thoughtful expressions of thankfulness for the church’s ministry.” Faye also notes that she derives personal satisfaction from helping the guests that arrive each week at the church.
As a thoughtful apprentice of Jesus Christ, Faye maintains her core calling to promote human flourishing. She practices the biblical mandate to care for the poor and needy among us. She is spunky and determines to be a trail-blazer. She reminds one of the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, who inspires a small group of discouraged Israelites who return to Israel from captivity in Babylon. They are returning to rebuild the temple and to rededicate their lives to the LORD. Zechariah declares, “For who despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10 NKJV).
Faye certainly trail-blazes through the days of small beginnings of a Johnson County hospital based on the Adventist Health System philosophy of the “Whole Person Health,” known today as the Shawnee Mission Medical Center. She trail-blazes though the small beginnings of a food-closet at New Haven Church that initially ministers to 7-8 needy folks but now serves over 100 families in the Johnson County area today. Truly, Faye Martin lives an extraordinary-ordinary life as a poster-child for Psalms 92:14-15:
“They shall still bear fruit in old age: they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright…” (Psalm 92:14 NKJV).
Would you like to help the downtrodden and the disenfranchised that live among us in Johnson County? Consider donating a portion of your produce from the Lakeview Village gardens or perhaps canned goods or a clothing donation. Please contact Faye Martin at 913-909-7977 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.