One 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
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: http://www.kzoogospel.org. And the next Lunch and Learn is in early May, if you're looking for a memorable "date afternoon."