So I am sitting here 12/30/2011 wondering how it all began. How did I get to this point where my heart is pumping faster, harder, and with more emotional pain than it had 2 1/2 months ago... How did I get so emotionally connected to people whom I do not even know? People who probably have very little in common with me? How did I get to this place where I am wondering how they will withstand tonights rain? The cold? Do they have enough to eat? These people are the homeless of Yakima.
It all started about 2 1/2 months ago when our Pastor showed a video duirng service that called us to step out of our comfort zones and reach out to the community around us. After church Keith (my husband of 13 awesome years) asked me what the Holy Spirit was telling me... I responded immediately with "The homeless, and you?" He also replied immediately with "The same". That was a Sunday... over a 24 hour period of time, we gathered what clothes, blankets, coats, etc. that we could and we headed out at 7:00 P.M. on Monday night to North 1st Street. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. That night about 4 other people along with our 10 year old daughter pulled into a vacant lot, opened up the back of our car, and started laying boxes out on the sidewalk. It just so happened that the Lord placed us right in between here and there....
People passed us on the sidewalk as they walked with purpose from here to there... , however we were able to ask them if they wanted anything. We had decided that anything we had out there was free game to whoever wanted it. They could have as much as they wanted or needed and we would not preach to anyone. We wanted to just meet them at their basic needs and show the love of Jesus. Love not Judge became our mantra.
That first night was amazing. Many people stopped by and took almost everything we had available. Hats, coats, blankets, pants, and shoes went. A few of the people asked us why we were out there, we just replied, "to show the love of Jesus and help you out since it is so cold." The people we met that night were appreciative, kind, and very humble. There was not hoarding, pushing, or rudeness.... just humble appreciation.
As quickly as they appeared on the street was as quick as they disappeared into the night. Less than an hour went by and we were loading up our boxes. Our lives were in the process of being transformed. All we knew was that we were different than when we first pulled up an hour before. Some how the experience of handing out something as simple as a coat to someone in need, looking them straight in the eye, and asking their name had changed us on the inside... but this was just the beginning because we were able to ask what they needed out on the streets, what would help them survive the winter... and our education began. We said good bye and God Bless... we also said we would be back on Tuesday night, then Friday night, and then Sunday.
During that first week we asked many questions of the people who would show up at the empty lot. We wanted to know pants and shoe sizes, coat sizes, need for blankets vs. sleeping bags. We started to get educated about the people who live by the river vs. the people who sleep at the Mission. The people by the river were the first priority because they needed to keep warm. Olivia (our daughter) followed us around with a pad and pencil jotting down names, sizes, and specific needs as if she was taking orders at a hamburger joint. During that first week she gave her socks away twice and her gloves away more than that. As parents, we couldn't have been more moved. One night she took off her socks behind the truck and then came out and gave them to two little boys. She said, "You be sure and share them with your brother!" Thank you Jesus for a little girl who "gets it" and who has a heart so much like Jesus'.
Each time we went that first week, almost everything went. We would hand out garbage sacks and let the people fill them as much as they needed. What was interesting was that we couldn't believe the fact that people didn't push or shove or hoard things. They only took what they needed and if you tried to give them more they would say something like, "No, save it for someone else who might need it." Word spread quickly on the street and soon, they would be waiting for us to come. We told them that we would come on Sundays only though after that first week.
Week after week, people would show up. Sometimes it would be people from the past who we were supposed to bring something back for but often it was brand new people who we had not met before. One Sunday in December we handed out over 55 pairs of gloves and over 70 pairs of socks. The weather was getting cold and there was a huge need. Since that time we have started getting a clearer picture of what some of the needs are for the people living on the streets. They include a need for shampoo, soap, under clothes, socks, shoes, pants, coats, hats, gloves, toiletries, tampons, and toilet paper.
As I sit in my nice warm house, I can't imagine trying to live without these things. I know that most of the people we meet are addicts, alcoholics, and/or mentally ill people. They include prostitutes and drug dealers. We do not want to enable anyone, we just want to extend the hand of Jesus and help them with their basic human needs- clothes, a hot meal, a conversation. Jesus said, "‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-41. I can't help anyone break an addiction, but Jesus can. I can show the love of Jesus so that is my motivation.
Two weeks ago we brought out soup, hot coco, a Christmas tree, gifts, cookies, etc. A group of us transformed an empty lot into a little bit of Christmas love. It was so fun to be able to laugh and talk with our new friends. We were able to extend a little bit of Jesus to them and wish them a Merry Christmas. It is amazing what a little bit of chocolate and a smile can do. What is truly amazing though is as I mentioned earlier.... God is changing and touching people on both sides of the boxes. The people who donate as well as the people who hand out clothes are just as touched as those who humbly receive it. Somehow God in His Amazingness allows both the giver and the receiver to feel His Presence. It is truly an honor to serve Him.
I want to share this experience on line not as a boast to us, but as a journal of our incredible experiene of God's unbelieveable Mercy and Grace. I have skipped so much in this first blog like how we had nothing to give and no idea how we would get the clothes, then from word of mouth, God would prompt someone to drop a few bags in our driveway which would be just in the nick of time. Sunday we will head out again....January 1, 2012. I am so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us all... Thank you Jesus for allowing me to be able to experience your love up close and personal.... I will never be the same! Love, CCJones :0)