One of the pieces of feedback I have received about the blog is a request for more personal, non-business entries. I am not too sure how applicable these will be, but if something truly STRIKES me…I will write about it.
Only the good ones will make it on here though.
Recently, I had a day that was the very definition of polar opposites.
DAYTIME – The “Have Not’s”
I volunteered to help a meals ministry. Or, I am embarrassed to admit, my Wife volunteered me for this ministry. It turned out to be one of the most eye opening experiences of my life.
We drove to an area of town that most people would consider “poor.” I have ministered to people in poverty many times before, but never before was it in an area that was approximately 5 minutes from my home. I was born and raised in this area, and had no idea that neighborhoods like this existed so close to home.
The concept is simple: walk up to the door, knock, and when the person comes to the door, smile and say “Hi, my name is Matt, and I am here with _______ Ministry. I am not here to bother you or to sell you anything. What we can offer is a hot meal. Would you like some hot vegetable soup with some bread? We also have fresh fruit and brownies.”
If they accept, then we make them a plate. If not, that is okay too. However, either way, we ask them “Is there anything in your life that you would like us to pray for?”
Some people said yes and managed to give us a list of things for us to pray for, but most of them initially said no. At that time, I decided it was time to use my “gift of gab” for the Lord. For each person that said no, I tried to immediately find something in their house or yard that I could ask about….just trying to start a conversation. Without fail, once they started talking, then they would open up and share all of their prayer requests.
These are people that N E E D love and attention, just like me, you, or anyone else. When initially approached, I think they felt as though there was some agenda so they declined the free food. However, after seeing that we were there for the right reasons, they opened up and became very real with us. To me, that is true ministry.
For those of you that have never had a true encounter with an “at risk” person (as in “at risk” of becoming homeless…called at risk because it is nicer than poor), you are truly missing out. It is an incredible blessing for two reasons – (1) you can help them just by doing something small like holding a hand or praying for them and (2) it makes you appreciate all of the things we take for granted in our everyday lives. I would encourage all of you to try it…but when you do, be prepared to see stuff that will shock you.
“WE HAVE NO HEAT"
One of the families in particular touched me. Their yard was littered with all sorts of trash. It literally looked like a land fill. Beer cans, food packages, toilet paper, old tires, pieces of vehicles, etc. Think about a land fill…that was their yard. There were a few old cars in the yard, but they were all missing wheels and had grass growing up through the bottoms.
As I approached their yard, there was a woman (mid 50’s, overweight) walking towards me. I said “hi, how you doin?” and she responded with “not good. Bad. My husband don’t pay bills and after I caught him cheating, he just left me for another woman. We don’t have any food, there are 7 of us that live here and my food stamps don’t come till next month. Also, we don’t have any heat or running water. We have a space heater, but there are 7 holes in my mobile home so we freeze even with the heater.”
She smelled awful – like a mixture of cigarettes and body odor. She was desperate. She was worried about her children and grandchildren. She was pitiful, and it was hard keeping it together as she spilled her heart out to me.
All we could do is to give them several meals (7), and pray with them. That doesn’t seem like a lot – what I wanted to do was to buy her a home, give her a turbo-charged heater, hire a personal family chef for her family, and beat up her dead beat soon to be “ex.” Not very Godly of me resorting to violence, but that is how I felt.
This experience changed something for me. When I went home, I NOTICED that my home is heated. When I showered, I actually appreciated the hot water. When I saw my children, I was happy that they were clean and have never gone hungry. I wish I could live every day like this, but despite my efforts to keep it fresh, it has worn off and I have reverted back to my old ways of taking things for granted.
NIGHTTIME – The “Have’s”
After cleaning up, I put on a nice suit and tie, shaved, brushed my hair, and put on some cologne. these are all things that the hungry family could only dream about My wife was equally as “dolled-up” as she put on an evening gown and looked like a movie star. I take that back, movie stars don’t look as pretty as she did that night. She looked amazing.
The event was a charity gala, and it was well run. It included a nice buffet dinner, a silent auction, a live band, an open bar, and dancing. There was nothing wrong with the gala.
The people that attended the event were all high society – well known, affluent people…with the exception of us of course. As I looked at each piece of jewelry on the women (diamonds, pearls, etc.) and each bow tie on the men, all I could think about was how much money each item cost and how that money could help the hungry family.
That $800 suit, could feed that family for 4 months. The $5,000 necklace could provide heat for several years. That $25,000 diamond ring could buy them a new mobile home without holes. This went on and on and on….all night.
The people at the gala didn’t do anything wrong. They weren’t flaunting their money, and they were actually very philanthropic when it came to the charity the gala was supporting. There is nothing wrong with being successful.
But, that night in particular, it sure felt like there was…