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In a pandemic, delivering the bread of life

How one Christian woman lives out her faith for those who need essentials during the coronavirus crisis.

EDMOND, Okla. — I use the last bit of energy I have to get out of my car, walk into my house and strip off my uniform. My hands are dirty despite being slathered in hand sanitizer every hour. I shower, put on clean clothes and eat something for the first time in almost eight hours.

I am not a nurse. Or a doctor. I am a Shipt shopper.

Laura Akins | Views

Laura Akins | Opinion

While most people stay home, I shop for the elderly couple whose grown children have forced them to stay home, the frightened widow who hasn’t seen another person in days, the mom of a small immunocompromised child and others who are just plain scared.

When COVID-19 came to town, I suddenly became a first responder.

Shipt, an online grocery service, offers customers the safety of staying home while someone else shops for them. Customers select items they want in an app, they pay with a credit card and wait at home for their items to be delivered. Shipt shoppers are independent contractors who accept or decline grocery orders based on availability, drive time, selected store or previous interactions with the customer (good or bad). When an order isn’t claimed by a shopper, it is sent out into “Open Metro Orders” and typically sits until someone has the time to do it.

During non-pandemic times, we typically see a few metro orders (maybe 20) during the weekend, but they are quickly picked up and shopped.

In Oklahoma City this past week, there have been roughly 200 open metro orders at all times.

When COVID-19 came to town, I suddenly became a first responder.

Every day I try to pick up seven to nine orders, with each order taking an hour of my time. My work doesn’t make a dent in the total number of orders, but I do as much as I can to help.

Prior to this pandemic, I shopped and delivered groceries to customers who mainly used Shipt out of convenience, sometimes laziness. My work was mostly uneventful and typically viewed as a side gig by others. But for me, I have always viewed it as a ministry.

During the last year, I’ve built real relationships with my regulars. I’ve given out my personal cell number to customers who seemed to need someone to talk to. I’ve had customers text me late at night telling me their child is throwing up, and can I run to the store for Lysol and Pedialyte. I’ve built relationships with cashiers and invited them to my house for Christmas dinner.

For Laura Akins, delivering groceries isn't just a side gig. It's a ministry.

For Laura Akins, delivering groceries isn’t just a side gig. It’s a ministry.

Now my work is not only a ministry, it’s essential to my community.

I’ve met neighbors who needed someone to do their shopping. I’ve picked up the last can of baby formula and the last package of diapers for moms who can’t get out. I’ve delivered bread, eggs and milk hour after hour after hour.

Am I saving lives? No. But am I helping as many people as I can in the way I can? Yes.

Until this ends, I’ll keep slathering on the hand sanitizer as I fill as many orders as I can while holding onto the hope that I’ll get to hug my favorite Target employees and high-five my Shipt friends in the bread aisle again. I can’t wait to bump into people, shake hands and see unmasked smiles.

That day will be glorious.

Hold onto that hope, dear reader. Find a way to help however you can. And please, wash your hands.

LAURA AKINS is the Reviews Editor for The Christian Chronicle. She worships with the Heritage Church of Christ in Edmond, Okla., where she serves as a youth ministry director and her husband, Travis, is the preacher. Reach her at [email protected].


Filed under: Coronavirus covid Covid and church COVID-19 global pandemic grocery shopping hands and feet of Jesus Opinion Top Stories Views

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