Bag Ladies?

There are a bunch of bag ladies hanging around Righteous Rides.  No, I’m not making politically incorrect reference to homeless people…although some of the ladies involved do have mad skills at pushing a shopping cart.  I’m talking about one of the adjacent ministries that has arisen from the original plan to help provide reliable transportation for returning missionaries:  Goody Bags.

Before we go any further, let’s take a little side trip into grammar-land.  There is a bit of disagreement among English-language types about what’s proper:  Goody or Goodie?  Most would insist it should be the one with the “Y” …while others (hereafter referred to as “troublemakers”) favor the “IE” …not unreasonably pointing out that it is COOKIE, not COOKY, so just shut your face.  That’s when the hair-pulling, biting, and pile-driving off the top rope commences.

We’ll try to avoid most of that here, being kindly Christian folk who shouldn’t even admit to knowing how to pile-drive.  (For those of you less familiar with professional wrestling, “pile-driving off the top rope” usually involves somebody, who probably shouldn’t even be allowed to wear spandex, climbing onto the topmost of the three ropes surrounding the ring and artistically launching themselves, elbow first, at an unfortunate opponent below.  Artistic writhing ensues.)  As entertaining as a no-holds-barred death match over spelling might be, Y involves less typing than IE…so I’m going with “Goody-Bag.”  Please don’t hit me with a folding chair.

Just in case you have no clue as to what I’m babbling about, let me explain.  When a missionary (missionarie? …nope, not going back down that rabbit hole…) picks up a Righteous Rides van, they don’t just get handed the keys.  They get bags.  Bags full of…well, goodies.  Bags that contain various and sundry, errrr, sundries.   Laundry detergent, toilet paper, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, hand sanitizer, all sorts of useful things.  Personal and practical items that just might come in handy for someone who has uprooted themselves to return to the U.S. for several months and may need a few days to adjust.  That’s what we mean by “goodies.”  Needing reliable transportation when you get here?  Big stress.  Righteous Rides can help with that.  Needing to wipe up a mess one of the kids made? A little stress.  The Bag Ladies can help with that.

How This All Started

According to Renee, the Chief Bag Lady, it all apparently started way back in the dark ages, maybe a year after Mark and Brett got their wild idea to provide vans to missionaries.  Being dedicated gear-heads, their focus was understandably on the, um, “nuts and bolts” of the effort.  I am told the conversation went something like this:

Mark:  You know, those missionaries get off a long plane flight.  They’re probably tired and thirsty.  Maybe we should give them some bottles of water.

Bret:  Well, we only have 7 vans.  A few cases of water are probably do-able.

Renee:  What about blankets?  They’ve got long road trips ahead of them.  Maybe a nice fleece blanket would come in handy.

Mark & Bret:  Boy, I dunno.  We need more shock absorbers…

Renee:  And we should probably provide them with some goody bags.

Mark & Bret:  What?

Renee:  Various and sundry items of use.

Mark & Bret:  We know what it is.  We just thought it was spelled “goodie…”

Renee:  It’s not.  We need to do this.

Mark & Bret:  I think we have bigger priorities right now. Like shock absorbers.

Renee:  Speaking of absorbing shocks, have you seen this video?  It’s of me pile-driving my brothers from off the top rope…

Mark & Bret:  Goody bags!  We love it!

Regardless of the exact details, what got started then has grown exponentially…as has Righteous Rides as a whole.  There are now about 135 vans from 9 hubs, serving over 300 missionary families every year.  That’s a lot of bottled water.  And there’s a small warehouse section in the HQ that houses all of the goodies for the bags.

How We Do It

At this point you might be asking “just where do all of the goodies for the bags come from?”  Go ahead, ask.  I’ll wait…

Well, since you asked so nicely … donations.   Lots of folks donate their time and skills to Righteous Rides. As grateful as we are, let’s be honest.  Some of those volunteers should not be allowed anywhere near the shop.  (We’ve seen Fred weeping.  Trust us, it’s not pretty…) But just because you think “Righty-Tighty Lefty-Loosey” is a Beatles tune, that doesn’t mean you can’t help in some way better suited to your individual gifts.

The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the early church (and no, I am not talking about 8:00am services…) spoke about spiritual gifts and fruits and such.  (Fights over whether there are actually 7, 9, or 12 of whichever, and which ones are still around, are almost as entertaining as pro wrestling, though with far less spandex, we hope.  What does YOUR pastor wear?)

It has been opined that many of Renee’s small army of bag ladies, while perhaps being a bit sparse in the more traditional categories, like Prophesy and Miracles, do have the gift of Shopping.  (I’m reasonably sure that’s on one of the lists somewhere.  My Greek is a bit rusty.)  Give them a few dollars and point them toward the nearest strip mall, they’ll come back with bags full of bargains.

But Discernment (that’s on the list too…right?) is needed as well.  Granola bars, lip balm, and boxes of crayons come in real handy.  Purple and Mustard-striped knee socks, or a bulk lot of Power Ranger yo-yos?  Maybe not so much. (Sorry, that was merely a humorous reference.  The boys in the shop got excited about the yo-yos for a second.)

Artistic Pro Wrestling Moves, while definitely NOT on the official list (not even in the Vulgate,) might also come in handy if you’ve witnessed some of this nation’s Black Friday mayhem.  (Take a large pile of 50% off yoga pants and put them in the middle of a wrestling ring in Wal-Mart.  Hey, I’d watch that…in horror, but I’d watch.)  But I have been assured that the fine ladies associated with the goody bag ministry can find useful bargains without hardly ever bashing anybody with a folding chair…whether they deserved it or not.

(Editor’s note:  A snarky, somewhat sexist joke about the gift of Tongues was originally to be included in this section, but wiser heads prevailed after seeing the way the fine ladies of the goody bag ministry were eyeing the folding chairs…)

One of the hidden secrets to the ministry is the semi-super-sewing machine that Bag Lady Jackie (or is it Jacky…?) has brought in to handle most of the embroidering chores.  It’s marvelous bit of computer-controlled industrial technology that is kept busy churning out the names of each child of those incoming missionary families, to help add an extra “personal touch” to the services Righteous Rides provides.  It should be mentioned that the volunteer seamstresses strongly urge missionaries to name their future offspring “Bob,” “Joe,” “Sue,” or “Amy.”  (Having a child you named “Krungthepmahanakornamornratana” is likely, semi-super-sewing machine or not, to get some of those aforementioned seamstresses climbing for the top rope…)

So now every missionary family that comes through gets a nice, warm fleece blanket with their name on it, a bag full of useful sundries, and each of the kiddos gets a hand-made draw-string bag with their name (no matter how long it is) embroidered on it.  Along with “sundries,” the kids also get snacks, coloring books, markers, and other odds and ends that may make long trips in the van a little less tedious.  It has been reported that many of the missionary families have appreciated the thoughtfulness behind the efforts.

A Little Thing that Means A Lot

Goody Bags. It’s not much.  Just a little gift from a bunch of bag ladies with gifts of their own.  We’ll not quibble about exactly which gifts, since good ol’ Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, pretty decisively settled which one is really the driving force behind the goody-bag ministry.  And he didn’t need the top rope to do it.


Goody Bags Ready to Go

A group of Goody Bags all ready to go into missionary vans.