Blessing the Essential Worker

As with many U.S. Mission America Placement Service volunteers, when Richard and Arlene Noteman see a need, they ask God to show them how they can help. On April 9, that meant standing in the parking lot of Love’s Travel Stop in Eloy, Arizona, giving away free lunches to truck drivers.

The Notemans, who live in Yuba City, California, travel in their recreational vehicle to serve at camps, Adult & Teen Challenge facilities, and church projects. For several summers, the U.S. Missions RVers have been popular kitchen and maintenance helpers at Silver Lake Christian Camp in Medical Lake, Washington. They usually spend winters in Casa Grande, Arizona, and as they prepared to wind down their stay there for this year, the COVID-19 crisis hit. With Interstate Highway 10 a major route through Arizona, they became acutely aware of the plight of truckers passing through Casa Grande and nearby Eloy.

“As the crisis escalated, it was heartbreaking to hear so much negative news about the problems of truck drivers,” says Arlene. “Restrooms were closed, truck stops were out of basic groceries and supplies, and some places were charging as much as $20 for a sandwich and drink. I was saddened to think of the very people we count on to keep food and essentials in our stores being treated that way.”

The couple, who already had volunteered at the local food bank, decided to pick a day to show truckers their appreciation. Arlene visited an area Walmart to buy large packages of cookies and potato chips. She encountered a few funny looks, as if people thought she might be hoarding the items, but no actual resistance in buying them. She placed a large order for sandwiches from a local Subway, and when paying, pleasantly discovered the restaurant had not charged her for nearly one-third of the food. She told the manager that she didn’t mind paying the regular price in order to support restaurants staying in business, but the manager wanted to show gratitude to truck drivers, too.

Richard had arranged for permission to set up in the truck stop parking lot, and the couple donned masks and went to work.

“We greeted the drivers as they pulled in, thanked them for their hard work, and gave them lunch,” he says. “Some thought at first that we were selling something, but when they realized we just wanted to show appreciation, they were so grateful.”

"We are thrilled with the different ways the RVers have found to continue ministry during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Billy D. Thomas, senior director of U.S. MAPS. “The Notemans are known for their kindness and willing spirit. They are a wonderful example of how ministry continues by touching lives."

In 2007, the Notemans sought volunteer opportunities when a friend suggested U.S. MAPS. Now retired and in their 70s, they have more flexibility as Richard manages some rental properties. They are considering selling their California home to become full-time RVers.

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