Why do we bring homeless to church? That’s simple. Because Jesus was homeless.
But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20. He borrowed a womb for His birth, a bed to lay His head, borrowed bread and fish to feed a multitude, a boat for His pulpit, a donkey for His presentation to the nation of Israel, a cross for His death and a tomb for His burial.
One of the most admirable things I have noticed about those I have met without a place to call home is the community they are in. The main people who assist the homeless are the homeless. The chronic homeless teach others how to survive on the street, how to protect oneself, and where to get assistance. Often the best resources for help are those who need to get the help themselves. Many times, in spite of their own needs, I have witnessed them giving to each other. Lovingly and freely.
When I first began serving the homeless I had to make it past a few preconceptions. What I came to realize is that some homeless have graduate degrees. Others served with honor in the military. Still others once held high-paying jobs. Until a catastrophic illness exceeded all insurance claims. Until an ugly divorce stripped them of their families and their money. Until they entered a death spiral of drug addiction or alcoholism. Until they felt abandoned by God. Some are people who found out a low-paying job doesn’t come close to paying for rent, electricity, food, and medicine. Jesus tells us that we are one body in Christ. Everyone — rich, poor, every race, every age — has a legitimate role to play in that body. Casting Crowns says it best for me. “If We Are The Body” Why aren’t His arms reaching? Are His hands healing? Are His words teaching? Why aren’t His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way!” What do you think we are we supposed to be doing?
As Christians we are responsible to be Christ-like. This means we can make a difference in the lives of people who are homeless when we respond to them, rather than ignore or dismiss them. We don’t just have to give them money or goods. We can offer a kind word and a smile. We can respect them as individuals and try to understand them. We might actually even educate ourselves about homelessness and learn where we can refer them for homeless services. Peter was such a good example for us and I love this portion of scripture describing a scene where he came across a beggar. “But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6 As we grow in our faith through prayer, reading the Bible and attending church we learn how we are supposed to live our lives daily. Sometimes out of laziness or complacency we choose not to do what we know is right – I know I do! But the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me when I am not “feeling like” serving others….“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” This definitely helps me make a better decision!
For me, one of the hardest things is finding the fruit in all this goodness – but I know it is there! One of the most tangible pieces of fruit hangs out on Sunday morning. You’ll find him wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt and greeting the homeless as the vans arrive from Safe Harbor prior to first service. His name is Henry. Henry, once himself homeless, finds incredible joy freely giving back what he has received! He is quick to share how Countryside changed his life when he was offered (and chose to accept) a ride to church while residing at Safe Harbor. He has found a valuable place to serve with us and is growing weekly as he serves and attends faithfully.
If you’re looking for a tangible way of helping the homeless right now, please consider serving at Pinellas Safe Harbor or at Helping Hands (a ministry of Countryside Christian Center). We have a place for you! If we would simply coordinate and work with other organizations (this includes other churches), together we’d make a serious impact in fighting homelessness and getting people off the streets. Remember, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Pastor Naomi Powell