Saturday, June 4, 2011

grace place

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." ~matthew 25:35

this verse is the foundation for Grace Place, the homeless ministry at Galloway and where i spend most of my mornings throughout the week. sunday through friday morning, galloway hosts homeless men and women from the downtown jackson area for a hot meal and some respite. usually about 60-75 folks come each day, both regulars and new faces. i think it's easy for us as christians to glamorize a ministry like this, to see it on paper and have our hearts warmed and our fists pumped for Jesus. but here's a little taste of the day-to-day life of grace place--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

the good: God's children are truly gathered here. i met "N" my very first day. when i introduced myself, he was so tickled by my name that his whole face lit up with a smile that literally radiates. if i could only harness the light behind that smile, i promise you it could heal souls. i hope i never forget his face. he is just one of many beautiful children here. on wednesdays, we have a worship service and communion just for grace place. it's raw and unglamorous, but this glimpse of the kingdom is a precious sight to behold. it's where i helped serve my first ever communion, and i wouldn't want it any other way.

the bad: you can't be in grace place long without realizing that homelessness effects all types of people--it hold no bounds, it does not discriminate. its causes are as varied as the people it affects. "V" comes often, and we have a fun time joking on each other. it's not so hard to relate to one another considering he's only 21. from our conversations, i'm pretty certain that he sells/deals drugs. it's crazy for me to imagine this young face out on the streets. there's a story behind "V" (as there always is), and i'm praying one of these mornings i'll have the privilege of finding out from him just what that is.

the ugly: in many other countries, christians still believe in demons and their power over people. after only briefly seeing how life-destroying addictions take a hold of people, i'm convinced they're here in our midst too. i say this not to scare anyone but merely to say that sin is a real and powerful stronghold in our lives, one that can capture us before we even recognize it. my second day at grace place, 2 couples walked in shortly after our worship service began, and in my limited knowledge, i knew immediately that they were addicted to drugs (if not also currently on them in that moment). my heart fell. i knew i couldn't do much to help their situation, that i likely would never see them again, that their battle was much bigger than i could ever tackle. but they got a hot meal that day and some new clothes and heard the Gospel preached.

homelessness is complicated. lately i've struggled to think about how i can possibly help in the midst of so much brokenness--where do i even start? the Gospel of Luke has been my company, where i've encountered many stories of Jesus physically healing and helping those around him; and yet, it has numerous mention of those he did NOT immediately help: "yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." a gem of wisdom lies in these verses, and i must continue to wrestle with them. what i do know is that for now i can offer a meal, some respite from the sweltering heat, a listening ear and a hopeful smile all in the name of Jesus. i pray God may use these small offerings for the kingdom.

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