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Thanksgiving Outreach... Giving Thanks by Giving
By Ellie Hayes - November 23, 2005
Over 200 Rock volunteers helped make Thanksgiving special for many of San Diego's homeless
Over 200 Rock volunteers helped make Thanksgiving special for many of San Diego's homeless

On Saturday, November 19, 2005 the Rock Church partnered with the San Diego Rescue Mission for another year of the Great Thanksgiving Banquet. It's a huge and challenging event to put together each year. Hundreds of homeless of all ages were presented with a Thanksgiving Day meal.

For some, it was probably going to be the only real meal they would have for the rest of the year; for others it was just the first meal to get them started on the road to recovery and a new life in Christ. And for everyone there, both volunteers and guests, it was a true showing of the love of Christ.

Seeing so many people who were without hope, and have gone unfed in both body and spirit, was heart breaking. However, at the end of the day, it was a blessing to see their joy and thankfulness for a warm meal in their belly, someone to share their story with, and a bag of necessities for the upcoming winter months.

The preparations for the Thanksgiving Day Banquet began early in the morning as hundreds of volunteers arrived at their assigned posts to help minister to the homeless. The teams included the outreach team, food servers, table hosts, greeters, and of course the Rescue Mission staff behind the scenes preparing the delicious meal.

The first meal was scheduled to be served at 2 PM. Early in the morning, the outreach teams were sent out to various areas of San Diego to extend an invitation to the Thanksgiving Banquet to those in need.

Divine Appointments

"I didn't even want to come today," said Anita, a member of one of the teams. "I figured there would be plenty of volunteers and I wouldn't be needed. I've never done any street evangelism before, and it was such a blessing."

Anita shared how she met a woman who knew of God but was so hardened that she wanted alcohol to come first and didn't need a handout. Anita also met Monty, who was living on the streets and struggling with living as a bi-sexual.

"I was able to break down the Gospel, and gently share with him what God's Word said," Anita shared.

Later that afternoon, both Monty and the other woman were seen at the Rescue Mission.

God was definitely working and setting up the divine appointments people were praying for. One man, Johnny, wasn't even scheduled to volunteer for the outreach, but God had other plans. Johnny was there to do a walk through of the Mission when he was drawn to a man named Daniel.

Daniel opened up to Johnny and shared his struggle with alcoholism, that he had just lost his best friend, his mother no longer wanted to speak with him, and that he didn't believe he would live through the end of the week.

Johnny had the opportunity to share his own testimony with Daniel. When Daniel was ready, Johnny led him in the sinner's prayer, but Daniel was literally unable to utter the name of Jesus to receive the gift of salvation. He came to see the power in just speaking the name of Jesus. After some time, Daniel was able to ask Christ to be his Savior.

"Immediately," Johnny said, "you could see something was different about him."

Once the worship team began playing, Daniel brought out his harmonica and joined them. He was free and was finally experiencing the joy of the Lord.

Someone Who Cares

Nearly 700 meals were served and everyone received a gift bag with t-shirts, socks, toiletries, etc.
Nearly 700 meals were served and everyone received a gift bag with t-shirts, socks, toiletries, etc.

Throughout the day, the outreach team brought people back to the Rescue Mission. When the meals were served, the table hosts were able to sit and talk with the guests-many who said that other than asking for a handout, they hadn't had a real conversation with another person in months. Simply asking someone about their life and their circumstances may seem like such a small thing, but it let them know that someone cares, that Jesus cares.

Walking through the Rescue Mission, it was amazing to learn of how many doctors, lawyers and once successful businessmen (even billionaires!) were homeless or residents of the Mission.

Once you have been a volunteer for the Thanksgiving Banquet, it's hard to forget the look on the faces of those who walked in lost, and walked out with a spark of hope for a better future. You never forget someone who has been living on the streets the entire year and joyfully shakes your hand just because you cared enough to be there.

It seems such a small thing to give by serving the homeless a meal or greeting them with a smile but it makes a big difference to them. It makes a difference to Jesus. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded. Matthew 10:42

On the day we celebrate as Thanksgiving, remember the homeless and the less fortunate than ourselves. Say a prayer for them and give the Lord thanks because you are able to give back what He has so freely given you.

And he said "Yea Lord; thou knowest that I Love thee." And He said unto him, "Feed my sheep." John 21:15

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View photos from the Thanksgiving Outreach