Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Love Looks Like: Reaching Out to Those Who Have No Homes

This is what love looks like:

Every month, a team of volunteers 
from Local Impact (a ministry of Metro Life)
sets up tables in the parking lot 
of a local motel where many people live
because they've lost their homes.
Folks who live in the nearby woods also come.

Dinner. Clothes. Toiletries.
Blankets. Laundry detergent.
All free.

Allison and Greg sing,
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!"

Heather gives her testimony
of when she was a homeless single mom,
and how Jesus rescued her
from her addictions.

Daniel shares the gospel with passion.

Guests and volunteers line up for dinner.

Two happy young volunteers serving food
- that's my littlest daughter on the left.

Tables beautifully decorated
- even the napkins are adorned for Thanksgiving

Guests and volunteers enjoy the meal together
at picnic tables set up right in the parking lot.

They were giving away Bibles this month,
and I know one of the women who received one
was so excited that she started reading it right away.
One of my friends suggested
that she start in the Gospel of John.
I totally agree.
It's all about Jesus and his love.
This meal is all about Jesus and his love.
Also on this table?
Lists of local resources for
housing, food, job assistance,
health care, and more.

My daughter Julia organizes this monthly event
with our friend Allura.
I can't even begin to tell you
how much this blesses her Mama's heart.
I am so grateful.
I love to follow her example.

I'm so glad to be a part of this.
Can you tell from the smile on my face?
I mingle among the guests, seeing what they need.

It's sprinkling by the end,
but at least the rain held off until after dinner.

There is more to it than just serving the meal.

So much work goes on ahead of time and afterwards: praying, planning, publicizing, sorting clothes, assembling toiletry bags, buying and cooking the food, setting up tables and sound equipment, decorating, cleaning up, tearing down, loading up, more praying. We all work together.

And then there are the in-between times, because they are without homes every day, not just once a month. At least once a week or so, I try to stop by the area where many of them hang out during the day. It's less than a mile from my house. This time of year, to keep them warm and dry at night, fuzzy blankets and plastic tarps are in high demand. Fortunately, the Deals store nearby sells them inexpensively. Sneakers and socks are a good pick because theirs wear out fast with so much walking around. Water bottles and juice boxes are always appreciated. Bus fare cards help them get from one place to another so they can look for jobs and get to places like the Christian Sharing Center for assistance like job searches, food, housing aid, health clinic, clothes, laundry, and showers. 

It's time to watch and listen. What do they need? One of the ladies lugged around her heavy belongings in a big black plastic garbage bag. I could see she needed a rolling suitcase, and I had an extra at home. She also said she had been interviewing for jobs without success, and it was apparent that she lacked decent clothes for that. Time for me to share, even if it meant raiding our closets and driving around to the thrift stores the next day. I also got black dress pants for one of the men who was starting a new job, and another pair for one of the others. 

You see, it's not all about handouts, but a hand up, too. Let's them back on their feet so they can support themselves and get off the streets. But let's also remember that they are people, not projects.

You know what else our friends like? Hugs or handshakes. Smiles. Looking them straight in the eye. Remembering their names. Warm words that can be trusted. (They've been betrayed way too many times.) One of the newer ladies told me, "I have a really hard time trusting people, but when I saw how well you treated the ones that have been here awhile, I thought maybe you would be kind to me, too." That's why she came to the dinner.

What do they really want?
What do we really need to give?
They ask, "Why do you do this for us?"

The answer to all three questionsLove.

More of my posts on homelessness:

Grace and peace,

(P.S. Some of the photos in this post were taken by Amber Carroll. I took the rest.)

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