Monday, November 7, 2011

Soup Kitchen: An Ongoing Outreach

As a missionary in Chicago, I was involved in a variety of outreaches.  One of my favorite outreaches was working with the homeless and serving at a soup kitchen.  When God called me back home, one of the things I missed was serving at the soup kitchen.  I began looking for opportunities around my hometown to serve.  I searched the newspapers for ministries or churches that were already helping the poor.  During my search, I found a group of Methodist churches that fed the hungry on a regular basis.  So I called around and asked if I could volunteer.  One of the churches agreed to let me help, and eventually agreed to let my church coordinate  and serve at the soup kitchen regularly.

There are so many reasons why I absolutely LOVE serving at the soup kitchen.  One reason is because it's a simple way to meet a practical need.  But the real reason is because it gives me the opportunity to get to know some pretty amazing people!!  It's taken a while, but real relationships are being built between the folks who serve and those who eat at the soup kitchen.  In the past couple of months, I've gotten to know two sisters - Jane & Edna.*  These two women have hard lives, but they have incredible, humbling faith.  Despite the heartache that Edna is facing in her marriage & with her youngest son, she holds onto Jesus with a child-like faith.  She trusts that He answers prayer.  And He does answer her prayers.

This past month was my husband's first time serving at the soup kitchen.  Together, we had a chance to get to know Shawn.*  Shawn shared with my husband & I that he is homeless.  He lives, most days, behind a grocery store downtown.  On cold nights, he drinks to stay warm.  Sometimes, like this past Halloween, he gets drunk enough to get arrested so he has a roof over his head at night.  Shawn believes in God, and even calls himself "apostle."  He's friendly with many pastors around town.  Whether or not Shawn knows God, I have no idea.  But I know that God knows Shawn.

Sometimes I like to think that I'm making a difference in the lives of the folks that come to the soup kitchen.  The truth is, they're changing me.  Jane, Edna, and Shawn remind me of God's love and faithfulness.  They remind me to hold on to Jesus during my tough times, because He loves me and will hold my hand through it all.

Have you ever helped out at a soup kitchen?  What was your experience like as you interacted with the folks who attended?

*names changed to protect identity

1 comment:

Quiet Mind said...

I could, and may well, write an entire blog about this. I'm sure it seems strange to some, my hit-and-miss church attendance, coming and going from the soup kitchen. Here's what I know.

First, a long-lost relative of mine was finally found, after a to-that-point lifelong search. He lives at least 6 months of the year homeless, due to severe mental illness. I've seen him in the face and story, told or not, of every homeless person I've met since, from New Orleans to Over the Rhine. My prayer is that wherever he is, he's not only fed and warm, but that someone treats him with human respect and dignity.

Second, was the journey of a few years that led me through my very worst times, and the night when my life could've ended but started again instead. Those worst times left me distrustful-of people and institutions and relationships. Those times left me entirely faithful that God will put me where I'm supposed to be. I just have to listen, and go. The rest will come

I wish my reasons were less selfish, but I'm thankful for them, if they take me just one step further down this path.