Friday, April 19, 2013

A Date With My Husband at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission

My husband and I aren't a "date night" kind of couple.  Occasionally we get crazy and go to Meijer for groceries after dinner, leaving all three children home to entertain themselves.  Most of our dates include standing in our kitchen at 9pm, eating store-brand Triscuits and coming up with solutions to each others' life problems.  It works for us.  Plus, I like to wear pajamas and be in bed by 10pm. 

Kalamazoo Gospel MissionOne of my husband's burdens is that he feels called to serve people in our community who are broken, homeless, addicted, and in need of a Savior.  Sometimes he hesitates and needs a push to get started on things.  I'm a little bit bossy an encouraging wife and if he shares something like this with me, I will find a way to help him.  He had mentioned helping out at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and through Facebook, I heard about a Lunch and Learn meeting that they hold once a month or so.  We missed the first one I knew about because Doug was in the hospital with a tube through his back into his kidney.  This month, however, there are no tubes attached to anyone, so I signed us up.  Lunch without children = a date at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.

The day arrived and it was a warm yet rainy walk from our car to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.  We passed several women who were ignoring their fussing children, while avoiding eye contact as we walked by.  It was obvious to me that these kids were entirely exhausted and bored.  I have seen this same behavior in my own children, the difference being that I am able to tuck my babies into their own bed or hand them a jar of Play-Doh or even start a Dora the Explorer DVD.  These mothers, being homeless, didn't have those options.  And so they stood, waiting for the hour to arrive when they could enter the Gospel Mission for lunch and a moment out of the rain.  We later learned that the residents of the Gospel Mission get to eat first, followed by the general public, including these emotionless mothers of distraught children.

As we entered the building, we were greeted by a kind, approachable woman named Tammy, who led us into the Lunch and Learn meeting.  She reminded me instantly of a dear friend of mine from church.  I often wonder if God makes certain people familiar so that we are drawn to them and comfortable engaging with them.  In the meeting were pastors from local churches and another representative of the Gospel Mission named Nancy.  It was a smaller group than I expected and we quickly realized that it is typically pastors and community leaders who attend these meetings rather than individuals.  We were just two people there because of Jesus.  I'm sure we weren't the first couple without ties to an organization to attend, but it was clear that it was rare.  Thankfully, we felt comfortable in this setting and everyone there was warm and welcoming.  Plus, we are very much used to standing out from the rest of the world.  Being a family who doesn't do things the way most families do we just have that something that attracts attention and questions.  Rarely do we "fit in", yet we've learned to be comfortable with that.

As the meeting continued, we were presented with lots and lots of information about the services provided by the Gospel Mission.  The love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit were evident throughout this presentation.  Nancy and Tammy spoke about the people who come to the Gospel Mission and how these people walk in alone, but are able to walk out with a relationship with God.  We were given a tour of the building and met people who were once residents in the shelter, who were now employees whose lives have been transformed and redeemed by Jesus.  There were men eating lunch, wearing backpacks with all of their possessions inside.  There were mothers holding tiny babies and others helping older kids with their homework.  There was evidence of an enormous problem in this community, but also of the hope that can be found in Christ alone.

As we left, we passed more people smoking cigarettes, combing unwashed hair and organizing their small piles of belongings. They were depressed, displaced and wandering, not knowing where to go or what to do with this day.  Their lack of motivation and ambition is exhausting to me. They are not necessarily bad people, as our community is so quick to label them.  Some of them seem oblivious to the fact that there is more to life than drifting up and down sidewalks, carrying plastic grocery bags of stuff they've accumulated.  Others appeared vulnerable and miserable, knowing that there is a different way to spend their time, but lacking the knowledge and ability to change.  My prayer is that these people will utilize the services provided by the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, that their brokenness will lead them to this place where they can learn about Christ.  They are literally footsteps away from the entrance to this building, but their hearts are miles away.

Doug and I didn't see the latest movie release or enjoy dinner at a fancy restaurant, yet our Lunch and Learn date was time well-spent together.  We even had grown-up conversation in the car without children asking questions, telling stories and sharing their opinions, which is rare.  It was time that strengthened our relationships with Christ and with each other.  A successful date, to say the least. 

There is currently a campaign to raise money to build a new facility, as the current Gospel Mission is crumbling in some areas.  There are also opportunities to serve as a volunteer at the Gospel Mission or to donate just about anything you can think of and things you wouldn't think of!  Visit their web site to find out more:  And the next Lunch and Learn is in early May, if you're looking for a memorable "date afternoon." 

A Wonderful Web Site: www.TakeThemAMeal.Com

 Take Them A Meal

A few years ago, when Doug had surgery, a dear friend from church offered to arrange to have dinners delivered to our house for a week or so after he came home.  I was six months pregnant with my daughter at the time.  My boys were still attending a public elementary school.  Life was busy and taking care of a recuperating husband just added to that mile-long list of things I had to accomplish every day.  Having dinner delivered in the evenings made my day a little bit easier.

Months later, this same dear friend was stepping out of her role as the Meal Coordinator for our church.  She told me that she'd been praying about who to ask and she wanted to know if I would like to lead this ministry.  Knowing what a blessing it had been for my family months earlier, I was delighted to be able to do this for other families in our church.

I was given a list of names and phone numbers of people, mostly women, in our church who had agreed to prepare meals for families in our congregation who were hospitalized, had just given birth, had just lost a loved one, or who were going through a difficult time in their lives. Now, I am not a phone person whatsoever.  I only talk on the phone when it is absolutely necessary.  I prefer email or face-to-face conversations.  My husband and I don't even have cell phones. (We do have TracFones to communicate with our children when they are home alone and we're at the hospital or out and about.)  I wanted to lead this ministry and I knew that God would be honored by it, but I didn't enjoy calling people to ask them to make and deliver a meal to someone.  It just seemed very time-consuming to call person after person until I could reach someone who was available to take on this task.  I tried to come up with a more efficient way to fulfill this role as Meals Ministry Coordinator, but was unsuccessful and continued to use telephone calls to complete this task.

When a friend shared Take Them A Meal with me, I was thrilled! This web site enabled me to create a meal schedule for a family, including which days meals are needed.  I simply enter the details and send a single email that is received by all of the Meals Ministry volunteers.  This allows the volunteers to sign up and share what they are bringing so that the family receiving meals doesn't wind up with 12 pans of Lasagna.  I am able to provide details about what the family does and doesn't like to eat, any food allergies, what time they eat dinner, and how many people are in the family.  These details are helpful for the volunteers and keeps everything organized. 

The web site also sends out an automatic email to each volunteer the day before their meal is needed, reminding them that they have signed up and also what it is they signed up to bring.  Since it stores the email addresses of everyone I've sent emails to in the past, it takes just a few minutes for me to create a meal schedule for someone.