Do you remember the Dr. Seuss show “The Cat In The Hat?” Remember how they show the little box that opens up flap after flap and then out pops this incredible machine with a cat driving it??? Remember the bright colored carpets, thing one and thing two….And then at the end the machine shrinks down and disappears in to this little box that closes up so that there is not anything left except for an empty room….. That is what happens on North First Street every Sunday at 2:00. The empty lot sits there untouched and then at 1:50 car after car pulls in, tables are set up, boxes are unpacked, food is distributed, clothes and toiletries fill bag after bag…. The line continues as need after need is met… One person at a time.
Jesus’ love covers all…. His love makes a group of people go out on a cold fall day to create an incredible two hours of love and hope….that is real… it is tangible. There are real people handing out hot food, shaking hands with real people…., hugging the necks- squeezing the shoulders of real people. The smiles, the encouragement, the tears are real… face to face…. Laughter, tears, consoling words, and sometimes prayer… all given with hearts of Jesus. Words of affirmation, acceptance, and concern….words of shared sorrow, grief, and joy- all given in the name of Jesus… He makes it happen… He makes the clothes show up, the food, the volunteers, the details, the recipients… Jesus brings them all.
This last week the Kiwanis Club and one of our local churches pitched in and brought piping hot pots of chili, rice, brownies, bread, corn bread, coffee, water, tea….and a pickup load of blankets. It was such a blessing to us all….They came in with all the food and with volunteers to boot!
It is amazing to see the faces of people who are served week after week…they are shown love week after week and nothing is being asked of them. They know that it is safe and that these crazy people come every week that say, “We love you and Jesus loves you….” It doesn’t matter what you have done, you are loved…. And every week they return….because they know that they have a safe place once a week that they will feel the love of Jesus.
It may take 5 years before some of them accept the Lord….We meet their physical needs and then they are open to hear from the Lord and open their hearts….It does not have to be jammed down their throats… I believe that every single one of them know that those crazy people that come out every week represent the Lord God Almighty!!
Our message is always the same…. Jesus has not forgotten you… He loves you more than ever- despite what you may have done or will do…His love covers all…. And just like they take our food and clothes…. They receive the little packages of Jesus’ love that come in the form of smiles, hugs, hand shakes, nods, warm gloves, hats….but I would be naïve to think that those packages of love are only for the people on the other side of the table…because every single person that is out there feels the love of Jesus week after week and it doesn’t matter if you are living by the river, under the bridge, or in a nice warm house in a beautiful neighborhood…. Jesus reveals himself through our relationship with one another.
Today one man touched my heart so much. He is a lively character who has a huge problem with alcohol. He has a gentle, happy spirit and he always sings to us… it is a little obnoxious at times because he is often so drunk that he repeats himself over and over, but he is a kind man. He also loves Jesus…. Well today he came up to me half way through the afternoon and asked if I had a pair of pants that were his size… My eyes started at his face but then eventually locked on his very wet stained pants. My eyes went back up and locked on his… They were filled with embarrassment and pain… This man who had to be close to 60 had wet himself and was standing there soaking wet and totally humiliated. The Lord poured compassion through my veins… I found myself patting his shoulder saying, “It’s o.k. sweetie, don’t be embarrassed… I am so sorry. We love you and Jesus does too… I am so sorry that your battle is so hard.” I felt the love of Jesus pouring out through my eyes and embracing him. Tears ran down his face like a kindergarten student who had an accident in class. I gave him a huge hug and a box filled with a pair of jeans just his size along with a clean shirt, underwear, socks, and some soap…. The Lord filled his physical need as well as his heart need.
The more I serve, the more humble I feel. I am no better than JoJo the homeless man… it is just that my sin is better disguised than his….I have hurts like him, sadness like him, and sin like him…. Knowing this makes it easy to honor the toothless, dirty person standing in front of me. Some people say, “I don’t want to give to the homeless because they got themselves into their own trouble, I would rather give to organization _____”. I just don’t think that Jesus’ love should be given based on “who deserves” it more. Let’s just say I am not the person to make that judgment call. Who am I to deem someone more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than another??? That is not what the Lord calls us to do.
All in all, I am thankful, humbled, filled with joy, and honored to serve Jesus Christ in the manner that He has called me. It was a great day on North First Street….The boxes closed up, the tables, came down, the garbage was bagged, and everything folded up into a nice little box so that as the truck and trailer left the lot on North First Street...it looked as if nothing had been there.... but truth be told...every single person left that lot being touched by Jesus. Thank you Lord for letting me spend another great day serving You! I pray protection and covering over all of our family and friends… In Jesus Holy Name… Amen!! :0)