Despite serving dozens more meals than anticipated, no complaints were heard from staff or volunteers at the Montana Rescue Mission's Christmas meal Friday.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve. We’re all called to serve,” said Denise Smith, the MRM marketing and public relations director. “I’m gonna get teary-eyed and choke up on you, but it’s just an honor to serve.”
Montana Rescue Mission, with the help of 110 volunteers, delivered 300 meals Friday and served more than 100 people at its multi-course meal in the basement of the men’s shelter.
MRM did not have an official count tallied Friday but had expected to serve between 300 and 350 meals. Smith estimated they ended up serving more than 400 meals.
“I just love spending time here,” volunteer server Lydia Vorisek said. Vorisek has been coming to MRM's Christmas meal with her family since she was born 18 years ago. “The volunteers, the people who come. Everyone’s just happy.”
Longtime local musician Noreen the Outlaw Queen strolled around the room strumming a guitar and singing as volunteers served ham, turkey, chestnut-cranberry stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean almondine, homemade eggnog, cider, coffee and a variety of desserts. Each spot at the table was decorated with free bibles, atop which sat stuffed reindeer toys that belted out the words to “Jesus Loves Me,” after a belly poke.
One attendee, Timmy Ten Bears, enjoyed the atmosphere and in particular Noreen’s music. “Oh man, oh man, I love it,” Ten Bears said. “I haven’t heard live music in awhile. This is great. Tell her to keep it up.”
Later, when Noreen circled back to Ten Bears table she got a warning from the music lover. “Don’t make me get undressed,” Ten Bears said, shrugging off his overall straps to free his arms before singing and dancing from his chair.
Prior to the meal, a short Christmas service was delivered by Montana Rescue Mission pastor Glenn Fournier. “Jesus is here with us, we don’t see him, but he is,” Fournier said before telling a related story concerning a struggling young married couple.
Standing in front of a sink full of dirty dishes, with a pile full of dirty diapers in the room, the wife, overwhelmed, decided to leave, Fournier said. She called later, and the husband, angry but concerned, asked where she was, saying that he and the children were worried. Soon after, she hung up.
The husband continued to call every week, telling his wife he loved her and that the children missed her, but every time the conversation turned to a question of her whereabouts, she would hang up the phone.
Fournier said the husband used their savings to hire a private detective who found out the wife was in “a crappy hotel in Great Falls.”
The husband drove up, preparing his words for when he saw her, but he forgot them instantly when she opened her hotel door. They embraced, and she went home with him.
Later, the husband asked why she didn’t come home despite his calling and telling her how much she was missed and loved by himself and the children.
“Because those were only words,” the wife said. “Then you came. You came in the flesh. You knocked on the door and rescued me. You brought me home, and it was real.”
Explaining the connection, Fournier said that “Christmas is a celebration that Christ came personally.”
The sermon was appreciated by Andrew Jefferson, 55, a regular at the Rescue Mission.
"I thought it was a nice service," Jefferson said. "It came in loud and clear to me. When you make a place for someone you love and you go out and get them, they'll come in."
"That's how God receives us."