Last Sunday I shared my experiences in dealing with homeless people as I went to work. But a job change removed me from that urban setting and ended my encounters with the homeless. However, changing churches brought me back there every Sunday and some days in between.
Homeless people flocked to our church, and we sought to treat them as Jesus would. Collectively and individually, we tried various means to help the area’s homeless. Along the way, we had some epic fails, but we also enjoyed some successes, too.
Many homeless people show up on Sunday to worship God with us. As one man explained: “You don’t care how we’re dressed – or even if we smell a bit.” Other homeless people, however, position themselves outside, seeking a handout. Even when security chases them away and they retreat across the street, there’s still a good chance they’ll achieve their objective before the morning is over.
All the homeless in the area know they can get three meals a day at the local mission, with little expected in return. However, most non-homeless don’t know that. I do. Although I sometimes buy a meal for people I know, here’s how our conversations typically go:
“Hey, buddy. Can you help me out with some food? I’m haven’t eaten in a couple days.”
“You know, the mission’s only a couple blocks away. They’ll be happy to provide you with a balanced meal.”
“No way! It’s not safe there.”
“I used to volunteer at the mission and ate there over a hundred times. I never saw any problems. I think it’s very safe.”
“Ah…well…it’s too late for me to make it there for lunch.”
“I have good news. On Sunday they serve lunch later so people can go to church first. You have plenty of time.”
At that point, they either give up or make some snide comment about my faith or parentage.
I’ve had this conversation with one particular man many times. Once, it happened twice on the same Sunday. He doesn’t need to beg, but it’s all he knows.
Still, if I sense there’s a true need that can’t be met elsewhere, I’m willing to help. I’ve even missed church a few times to do so. I think that’s what Jesus prefers.