Marilynn Collier’s story as told to Lisa Vernon. Read here by Jaelyn Hence.
Someone asked me recently about when the Lord called me to ministry. I traveled through my mind trying to recall the answer to the question and for the life of me I could not find it. I don’t ever remember a time in my life where I didn’t feel called to serve God, or was not able to hear that still small voice in my soul that I recognized as my Heavenly Father’s. As a matter of fact, my lifelong friend, Frank, would swear that I was ordained as a child! He would admit that he and the other neighborhood kids were full of mischief and would even fight each other sometimes. He would go on to tell you that I would immediately stand up, call them to attention, and tell them to sit down and act like they had some sense because the Lord would not be pleased with them.
It wasn’t until much later in life that I was “officially” ordained in the AME Zion church. I worked as a chaplain at St. Vincent in Anderson, Indiana, and then also started doing chaplain work at IU Ball in Muncie. Chaplain work is not for the faint of heart, but it is what God wanted me to be doing at that time. He used me to pray with, comfort, and minister to families and patients who were experiencing sickness, fear, turmoil, and sometimes death. It was emotionally draining and almost too much at times. I desperately wanted to be able to make everything better for these people and couldn’t. It was so hard, but God was preparing me for an adventure.
My sixtieth birthday rolled around, and I knew what I wanted. I wanted a “gathering” of women. A time where strong, independent and intelligent women come together and celebrate each other for the “QUEENS” that we are. I expected fifty women to turn out. I was wrong. One-hundred-and-fifty women showed up! The Gathering of the Queens was born.
We continued to meet and have never stopped. We took trips together, one to the Underground Railroad, we had meals together, we prayed together, we developed unbreakable bonds, and we formed a sisterhood in Christ. What a royal sisterhood! Of course, we encountered many challenges. The pandemic was our first one. It definitely put a wrench in things; but as resourceful, determined, united women, we found a way. We met at parks; stayed separated but still enjoyed each other’s company. I was so grateful that God had placed these women into my life and me into theirs. I was so grateful that I knew we had to give back.
The community we live in, grew up in, and love is in a bad way. Drugs, alcohol, addiction, violence, shootings, homelessness, poverty, and hunger have reared their ugly heads, and God wanted us to do something. He gave us a vision and a hunger to make a difference.
The Queens began buying food to give to folks in need. I remember going shopping and having to limit what we bought because we were spending our own money. We needed hundreds of boxes of cereal but could only buy twelve. We took what we bought and set up shop in the elements. I can’t say the weather was bad every time we had a giveaway, but I can say that Indiana gets stifling hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winters. There was a lot of shivering and a lot of sweating those three years we were outside, but we stood on God’s Word and were amazed by all that we saw Him do. The limited supplies we used to buy have turned into entire skids that we get for free. Those twelve boxes of cereal have turned into hundreds of boxes of cereal.
In December of 2022, we gained walls! The Impact Center gave us space to operate a pantry. We went from having to rent two to three U-Hauls a week to getting a truck purchased for us by Mayor Broderick, and we have opened a second pantry in Anderson. We serve an average of eight-hundred families a month. The Queens serve much more than food. We serve love without judgment, acceptance without question, and allow God’s light to shine through us. God has blessed our faithfulness. Luke 6:38 says, “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” We are living in God’s overflow, and I believe in my spirit He is far from done with what He’s got planned for The Queen’s Gathering and the city of Anderson.
My vision is for us to continue farming a piece of land that my mama gardened for over forty years and use it as a community garden. Teach folks to grow their own fruits and vegetables and to preserve them for the winter. Help them to be able to help themselves. Teach them so that they can teach their children. Go back to the basics! I thank God every single day for a mama that taught me to use the land to feed myself and how to not waste. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate progress. I love my cell phone and the wonders of technology BUT . . . maybe, just maybe, we could benefit from going back to the good ol’ days and their good ol’ ways. Put our focus on people, build people up, support one another, neighbor collaborate with neighbor, more selfless and less selfish.
My sisters and I will continue following God’s Lead. We will love on each other and everybody we meet, we will stock shelves in the pantries, drive the truck to pick up thirty skids of free food, get dirty out in the garden, spread God’s Light all over the streets of Anderson and thank God without ceasing for the overflow.
This story originally appeared in Facing Resource Insecurity, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Second Harvest Food Bank of East-Central Indiana.