Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I am truly blessed. It's hard to realize how blessed you are when you're surrounded by so much noise in the form of television, movies, music, video games, et al. There's just so much complicated stuff going on that you can't sit back and realize what a wonderful gift the "small," essential things can be. When you put yourself near those that have less, though, it's easy to see how much you've been given.

This past weekend I worked at a homeless shelter, serving lunch to those who do not have the same things I do. It was a cold and icy morning outside, but I got to wake up warm in my bed, put on a nice big coat, and drive my heated car to the shelter. I also grabbed a granola bar for breakfast on my way out, forgetting that so many people would find that a precious luxury.

Honestly, these people have nowhere to go, and nothing about them really struck out as "homeless." According to the other workers there, when they are done with lunch many of them make their way to Wal-Mart or the mall (on a nice day, of course). That blew my mind. People I pass on the street might not have anywhere to go. They might not have food to eat. Not even a little granola bar as they walk out the door.

The experience was so humbling, I just have to go back. I have this burning desire to serve the needy now, to show the love of Christ, and even share the Gospel, which is the greatest blessing of all.


grace said...

I'm learning so much from the family I've been helping. It's alot the same as many of the lessons I've learned from raising my kids....helping the needy has given me new perspectives on how God must often feel as he's been raising me spiritually. I'm proud of you for taking on this sort of responsibility. You'll be way or the other, as you reflect on the time you spend with the folks you're with. There's a book...."Same Kind of Different As Me". It's the story of a couple who started doing just what you're doing. I highly recommend's a quick read...put it on your summer reading list.

love ya muchly!

Brandon said...

Good for you, Jay. I hope you're able to help a lot of people. I'm sure you will. And thanks for writing this. It makes me feel humbled as well. And blessed.


David Roberts said...

Doing work like that will take your mind off your troubles fast. I'm not one who cries often, but I find myself welling up with tears when I see someone with so little. And once that passes I feel shame for not doing more to help them, to give them hope. That has to be some of the most important ministry there is.

I guess there is a small part of me that also worries I might end up the same way one day. You're a good man, Jay. Keep that tender spirit.

Jay said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Hope you're all doing well!

kurt_t said...

I worked in a few soup kitchens when I lived in Philadelphia. We used to get a lot of heroin users. You could always tell who they were because they'd fill a cup half-way or even two-thirds with sugar and then ask you to pour Kool Aid in it. I guess something about heroin really messes up your blood sugar.

It does really make you appreciate having a roof over your head and a refrigerator when you see people in a soup kitchen or a shelter. Shelters can be really sad places.

RikFleming said...

One of the things that that drives me nutz about so many conservatives of the Rush Limbaugh-type is that when they see homeless people or “bums” (especially those who are in their state because of making sinful choices) they think they themselves are not in that state merely because of their own radical individualism.

They think they are comfortable because they are a self-made man.

While it is true that most of the people that I see living on the streets are strung out on drugs or are hard-core drinkers, what distinguishes them from me is only the grace of God.

These people are slaves to sin.

They are suffering the consequences of their habitual behavior to use drugs or alcoholic beverages to medicate themselves into denying the reality that they are living in.

If we would only see ourselves as God sees us - living in the wretchedness of our own self-righteousness - then we would see that although we have a warm and conformable home we are in the same state as the bum who pushes his grocery cart around town collecting cans so that he can recycle them and get some cash in order to buy another bottle of booze.

If we were to see ourselves as being like the prostitute who sells his/her body in order to pay the slave-master (who will give them more of their drug so that they can kill the pain of their childhood abuse), then we would see ourselves the way a Holy God saw us when we were without Christ.

But it is mankind’s failure to see himself for what he truly is that makes it truly difficult for a rich man to enter heaven (Mark 10:24-25)

On the other hand, if we merely give the poor a sandwich, help them get sober and find a job to support themselves then all we have done is make them a little more comfortable in the here and now.

True poverty has nothing to do with how little money we have - but how indebted we are to God because of our sin.

If we fail to preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sin through the cross of Christ then we are robbing the poor of what they truly need.

If we feed the hungry to make us feel better about ourselves then we have failed to be like Jesus.

All we have done is a selfish act whose sole purpose is to relieve a false sense of guilt for having money and alleviate our conscience so that we can think we are good people by relieving a mere temporal problem.

If Jesus merely gave the Samaritan woman a bucket of water He would not have done her any good. But He saw beyond her immediate need to her ultimate need - the forgiveness of sin and to worship the one true God in spirit and in truth. (John 4)

I love you Jay and pray for you often!


Jay said...

Very true, Rik. However, I was reminded by many of the volunteers that not all homeless people are addicts. Several honestly have come upon hard times, through little if any fault of their own.

And it's true that the main service anyone can offer is to preach the Gospel. However, standing behind a counter, serving food to a hungry line of people, I don't really have the ability to say more than, "God loves you."

I am unable to fully preach the Gospel to every single person that comes into the shelter. That doesn't mean that serving their physical needs is meaningless.

Learner Man said...

Reminds me about a quote that I can't exactly get right, or where it came from. Something like this:

"Preach the gospel, and if neccessary, use words!"

Sometimes the best way to share the Gospel is to share the love of Christ first of all through meeting practical needs. If people can't trust us to meet their physical needs when we see them in need then how will they ever allow us to help them more deeply. Just loving folks opens so many more doors that we might imagine. I don't mean this negates the need to preach the gospel, however our actions have a huge part to play too.