a column dedicated to the folks in the pews
Written by Dale Buchanan
This reporter caught up with Randy Oftedal in the kitchen where he was busy slicing watermelons into child-size pieces for the Friday session of Kidmunity Music Camp at Big Red Church. I had to negotiate a bit to get him to slow down enough to talk with me. With all due respect for the butcher knife he was expertly wielding, we came to terms. He could keep slicing and I could ask my questions. I kept a respectful distance from the knife.
Randy was born in Fresno in 1949 of Norwegian stock. His father’s family settled in Fresno around 1890. His grandfather, Zeeb, three times removed, witnessed a murder and after testifying, he was shot and killed outside the Acme Bar on Mariposa Street in Fresno. His mother’s folks made the journey from Norway and settled in Clovis in 1903. His grandfather was one of the first city council members of Clovis.
The Norwegian surname, Oftedal, means “swan valley” in English. I find that beautiful and romantic, especially when contrasted with my own Scottish surname which means “big cow pasture.”
Randy and I were on a roll. I was asking questions and he was chopping melons. The answers were coming fast and furious. We talked about his wife Judy and his sons, Martin and Daniel. The grandchildren also got a fair bit of grandfatherly praise.
Randy loves fast cars and food. I suppose that the fast part might explain the speed with which he wields the butcher knife. And his love of food suggests to me his passion—almost obsession—with our Big Red Church Pantry food distribution program.
I have purposely written in the first person to emphasize my respect for Randy and Judy. They are relatively new members of Big Red, and they have been a breath of fresh air. Their mantra seems to be “feed my sheep.”
A group of dedicated Big Red family members have enthusiastically joined in the mission to feed the hungry. Twice a week some of the children in the neighborhood Head Start program receive a bag of groceries that goes home with them. Once a month free food is distributed to anyone who comes to the front door of the fellowship hall. And the newest project is a Sunday meal delivered to the homeless camped around the Poverello House.
Fundraisers, donations, and astute shopping have made this Big Red ministry self-supporting. Once a month there is a meeting to discuss ways and means to meet the goal of reaching out to those who are hungry.
I encourage you to get to know Randy. Be aware, however, that if you do, you may very well find yourself signing up as a volunteer in the Pantry program.
Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.