Someone asked about the homeless ministry we're involved in, so I thought I'd post something I wrote last summer after an outreach. These events are put on by people from over a dozen different churches, and are usually held several times a year. They are a starting point for building relationships with members of the poor and homeless community. There is also a weekly gathering where those who are seeking to follow Jesus can share their struggles and be encouraged through Scripture and fellowship. On a less visible, but even more relational level, my parents spend much of their time "on the street" loving, talking, praying, and discipling these people.
Everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes I tell bits of my story and there are colorful characters whose paths have crossed my own. They have become part of my story, and there are many whose names I don't even know. Occasionally I wonder whose stories I'm in, and what they remember about me.
Today as I sat beneath the bridge I watched a few moments of people's lives; I watched as their stories unfolded a little more. You may have seen Clarence, or C.W. as his buddies call him. He looks like your typical homeless guy- long unkempt grey hair and a shaggy beard, his hands cracked and imbedded with dirt, deep lines in his face that speak of his years of wandering on this earth. Clarence, like so many others, was under the bridge today to enjoy a free meal. Along with burgers and hot dogs, there were ice cream cones piled high, free clothing, live music, hair cuts, and people around whose stories have been changed by meeting Jesus Christ. Today Clarence, for the first time in ten years, had a hair cut. The change was something to behold as Michele gently trimmed his long hair and beard. He looked like a different person. Something as simple as a haircut was a mile marker in Clarence's story. I wonder though, what was going on inside of him today- how many years has it been since someone has loved Clarence, since anyone has shown him real affection? What events in his life have shaped his view of Jesus?
Transformation is what Jesus does. I love that verse that says He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is writing our stories each day and He asks us to tell what He has done and what He is doing. So that's why today if you happened to be under the bridge you would have seen lives being changed. Because the story isn't finished yet. Sure, people ate a good meal, received clothing, and some even got their hair cut, but the real changes are the unseen ones. One man stood up on the stage and shared a bit of his story. He ended by saying "God is my Father. He is my teacher; I am His student...... I profess my belief". Then there was Curt. Jesus stepped into his story a few years ago and Curt has just been released from prison. Today I watched as he stood over a huge pot of boiling water and cooked corn. I watched as his face expressed joy instead of sorrow, hope rather than despair, and as he shared that with others by serving them. I watched Richard and Nicki, the couple who gave their lives to Jesus and got married at an outreach last fall. Today they were here serving food and doing activities with the kids, sharing what Jesus has given them.
When we allow Jesus to write our story, He changes us. As we love "the least of these" He changes us. As they receive His love, He changes them. I love to see the homeless men and women help with serving, picking up trash, washing dishes. I smiled at the end of the day after Gloria had painted many little faces. One little girl sat down, picked up a brush, and began to paint Gloria's face. This girl had been loved and she loved in return. Together we all are being changed. As we serve and love these they become part of our story, and they become part of ours. My hope is that my story is so full of Jesus that when people remember me they can't help but to think of Him.
There is another outreach this coming Saturday. Please pray!