“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat…naked and you clothed Me;”-Matthew 25:35-36
I woke up Saturday morning and I could hear the downpour of rain. Usually I love rain, seriously, it’s my favorite and yet on this day, I was drowning under the weight of what the rain meant. Rain meant that people would be hiding in covered spaces trying to stay dry. Rain meant that we wouldn’t be able to see them as easily. Rain meant that I considered canceling.
Every three months, I take a team of people into downtown Seattle to an area that is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless and struggling people. We go armed with love, tuna fish and this time, clothing and hygiene bags. We go to the same park every time and during the months when the weather is nice, all we have to do is show up and people flock to us. This time was different and I knew it the moment I woke up.
This time, we had more tuna fish than we had ever taken, over 700 cans. We had a hundred or so hygiene bags ranging from soap to shampoo to tooth brushes and hundreds of pieces of clothing in all sizes, colors and styles. And to my surprise, we had a team of 27 people heading in to love on the homeless! It was truly the largest event so far in every single aspect.
As we were driving in to Seattle, rain pouring down, I was praying for God to let the rain stop. I was only looking the immediate need that I had and truly nothing more. I was worried that no one would be out in the park and I was bummed that we were all going to get soaked. I was right on both parts and yet, in the midst of my worry and depression over the circumstances, God showed up in ways I never imagined.
As we got parked and rallied together in the rain, we were able to attract a few folks who were in need. We had a long way to go to give out a TON of stuff. This team of mine, they were up for the challenge! We split into smaller teams, grabbed what we could carry and started walking. It’s my guess that we easily covered a 10-block radius if not a little bit more. And when we ran out of supplies, we just walked back to the cars, reloaded and launched out again.
For my little team, we immediately found two men who were under nice cover and as we told them about where we were just on the other side of the park, we could see the concern in their eyes. There was no way for them both to leave their prime real estate. One man couldn’t walk due to an injury and the other couldn’t leave for fear of losing his home. (If he had left, it’s highly likely someone else would have moved in to his space and the man who couldn’t walk wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.) So, my little team of three walked back to our home base, grabbed blankets, coats, tuna and other snacks and brought it all back to them. Awesome!
Jesus went to the people, He didn’t ask people to find Him. These people have no other option but to live on the streets. Many of them have mental illnesses that stop them from being able to live self-supporting lives. Quite honestly, how they actually stay alive is nothing short of a miracle. I’ll share more stories later but one of our teams found a woman walking down the street barefoot with feet that were bloodied and battered due to a lack of covering. This is just not ok.
My organization is never going to end homelessness, even Jesus said we will always have the poor. However, if we can reach just one person and give them a moment of hope and love in the form of tuna fish, tooth paste or clothing, then we are doing what Jesus has asked us to do: feeding those who are hungry and clothing those who are naked. It’s simple really, but in order to accomplish this simple task you have to be willing to head out in the rain and find the people in need. We could have so easily canceled before we even began because of the weather, but we went. We could have so easily turned around and headed home when we saw the park empty, but we stayed. We can all so easily turn a blind eye to the homeless in our area and when we do that, we turn our backs on God and His people.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more stories from many of the team members. It’s exciting to see what God did not just in the lives of the people we reached, but in the lives of the people on the team. If you are willing, God is able and wanting to use you. Small ways are HUGE in the kingdom of God.