I must have passed twenty-five people as I made my way down the sidewalk to the church. I tried to appear friendly while navigating the path.
Many were passing the time until the doors would open by dozing or playing cards. I noticed someone without shoes, and heard an infant crying in her mother's arms. I felt a bit nervous as all seemed to watch me intently as I maneuvered past them.
Once inside, I began to set tables. This was my first time helping the Rock Church's Homeless Ministry, and I had looked forward to it for a couple of weeks. In addition to serving meals at Horizon Park Chapel the first and third Thursday of each month, the ministry holds a worship service in Balboa Park on Saturday mornings. Volunteers also gather downtown Tuesday and Thursday evenings to give food, clothing, and toiletries to our homeless neighbors.
My husband and I have been living in our RV for seven months, since both of us lost our jobs back East. If it were not for our motor home, we easily could be out on the street too.
Over those months, God has truly given me a heart for the homeless. He is compelling me to reach out to others who have been affected by difficult circumstances and need assistance. I thought serving dinner would be a good place to begin.
If it were not for our motor home, we easily could be out on the street too. God has given me a heart for the homeless.
After receiving instructions and a name tag, I set about my task of arranging chairs, and putting out plastic forks, cups, and napkins at each place. We were preparing for more than 100 people. That number struck me: 100! I felt apprehensive as the clock inched toward 5 PM, the hour when the doors would finally open. My assignment was to serve dinner to five tables, probably 25 people.
After I finished setting the tables, I ran outside to put money in the parking meter. As I wove my way through the growing crowd up the stairs and down the street, a man spoke to me.
"Well, good afternoon, Cindy."
Why Am I Here?
I remembered my name tag. And for a moment, I wished I had taken it off. I glanced at him, and he looked right at me, giving me a big, friendly smile. His smile shocked me. My first reaction was to look away. But I felt as if the Lord were saying, "Look at him. He is why you are here."
I realized that setting up tables and pouring water into pitchers was not the reason I was there. The scripture says As holy people... be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle and patient (Colossians 3:12).
As long as I had waited inside the building for the homeless to arrive, I was waiting for them to become part of my world. But my attitude has changed...
Since that day, I have reflected quite a bit about that man who spoke to me. He will never know the impact his greeting had on me. He was the bigger person that day. By noticing me and speaking to me, he entered my world. As long as I had waited inside the building for the homeless to arrive, I was waiting for them to become part of my world. But my attitude has changed.
True ministry, true sympathy comes when we enter into another's world, not trying to distance ourselves by looking the other way. Jesus didn't distance Himself. He looked straight into the eyes of the wounded, the ugly, the sick, and the sinner. And by doing that, He gave them validation and the message, "You matter to me."
Beyond Your Comfort Zone
I learned from a homeless man that to minister effectively it's not enough to wait for others to enter into our world. If I am to do the work of Christ, I must go beyond my comfort zone, and truly see those people that God puts in my path. I pray that next time I will look into their eyes, and acknowledge each of them, giving them the Good News of Christ to think about after I am gone.
We often think that through serving, we will change someone else's life. But anyone who is involved knows, Christ changes us as we reach out to others.
If you are interested in helping the Homeless Ministry at the Rock, please contact Estreanda Fulford at [email protected] com.
For more information about the Church Without Walls Ministry, click here »