7 Questions for Thursday – Jenny and Andy Czerkas

Churches face call to serve the schools
March 6, 2018

7 Questions for Thursday – Jenny and Andy Czerkas

Jenny and Andy are co-founders of The River Food Pantry. For the last 12 years they have devoted themselves to building an organization which has become a very significant part of the Madison and Dane County safety net. In 2016 they developed the MUNCH Program, a mobile program which delivers lunches to many north-side children on all non-school days, primarily on weekends.  Professionally, their background is Information Technology. Jenny is a former computer developer and Andy was a full-time information technology instructor at Madison Area Technical College. Andy and Jenny have now joined Henry Sanders to focus their energies fully on children’s well being with Selfless Ambition.

What does Jesus mean for you?
Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, has made it possible for us, as sinful human beings, to be accepted as righteous by God. He has set us free from never-ending failure of trying to please God to change ourselves into being worthy of God’s love. He has made us worthy in our frailty. Jesus is God’s compassion personified.

Name your favorite three Christian music artists?

What is the church body doing well and what could we improve on?
We do a great job of corporate worship, of encouraging each other to engage in accountability relationships and small-group ministry, of lifting up Jesus in our church lives. A large missionary force is well supported world-wide and does much good in the name of Jesus.

We have not done a very good job of displaying God’s compassion in our relationships with non-Christians and with those, including Christians, living in poverty in our own country.  We need to develop ears to hear the cries of distress in our own backyard.

What scripture really defines where you are today in life and why?
Both Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 tell us that our professed love of God has fairly clear practical corollaries in our behavior toward the people around us.

You founded and ran The River Food Pantry for 12 years. What are three things you learned about people while at the River Pantry?
Our lives changed in the mid-nineties after hearing about people doing random acts of kindness to show God’s love in a practical way. That eventually became the foundation for The River Food Pantry. We wanted to help people by coming along-side them, taking the time to hear their stories and get to know them. We learned so much during that time.

The most important thing that we strove for was to simply love people just where they are. Often people just want someone to care about them. A simple smile and hello can make a big difference in a person’s life. We don’t know what people are going through and sometimes the grumpiest person we would meet just needed a human touch.

What we glibly call living in poverty is often not poverty but simply a lack of money.  We have found over and over that people have great inner, spiritual resources.  We have learned much from them. They care deeply about their families and work hard to get by. We have gotten to know some wonderful, strong families struggling in tough situations. It can be amazing to talk with someone facing their worst financial nightmare, and they have the most upbeat, positive attitude. If all the material goods are stripped away, what’s left?

You two are grandparents now. How has having a grandchild changed you?
It’s true that being a grandparent is the greatest thing ever! They bring lots of joy and energy into our lives. It is an excuse to be kids again without the rules and regulations part. We are committed to spending time with them every week.

The Northside of Madison is sometimes the forgotten part of the City. However, not for you two. What about the Northside made you invest so much in that community?
We’d like to say that we made an informed, tactical decision to participate in the life of the north side but that would not be true.  Our pastor picked a north side neighborhood, one he had lived in as a young man.  As we started working with the neighborhood we began to realize how much the residents and staff had to teach our church group and us personally.

We give great credit to the staff and residents of the Northport Apartments and Packer Townhouses for educating us and preparing us for the founding of The River Food Pantry.  The River would not have happened without the six prior years of working together with the neighborhoods.

 

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