On Saturday mornings, God shows up right here on the sidewalk in front of our Hill apartment.
Over the years of being here in the Hill, both our church and, as well, Lisa and I (especially since we moved into the Hill) have encountered the homeless population. Sometimes on a Sunday morning, every year at our Park BBQ ministry, and now, almost every Saturday at the Sidewalk Breakfast and Sidewalk Church Service.
Are the elect not also among the homeless?
Is there not an obligation to make church available, accessible, and welcoming to the homeless?
While so many things break and burden my heart in this ministry, the presence of the homeless grieves me, perplexes me, and humbles me.
Over the past four months or so, we have come to know one of the local homeless. He collects bottles (a few of us save them for him). I encouraged him to start coming to our Saturday Breakfast and, perhaps, even to stay for the sidewalk church service. So he did. And, has been. Regularly. In fact, he’d bring one or two of his homeless friends (pretty much every Saturday), encouraging them, “We’re staying for the Church Service, too.” We have had, regularly, the homeless breakdown and cry, even a few times falling to their knees with their arms stretched out. We pray for them, comfort them. They’re just so grateful for the food and broken because they know they need God desperately.
This man, the one who brings people, was missing a few Saturdays. When he showed back up, he assured me he was alright, but had been in the hospital. “Well, actually, the police brought me to the hospital,” he said. “Why did they do that?” “They arrested me for fighting, but instead of jail, they brought me to Yale—New Haven Hospital.” He was in a bad way, he explained. “But, I’m good now.” In fact, he was so proud to tell me: “Pastor, look at me. I’m clean. My teeth are brushed. My clothes are clean. I’m taking showers. I am good now.” My heart was so glad. He hasn’t stopped coming for Breakfast and participates in our Sidewalk Church Service—and has been bringing his homeless friends.
Another regular gentleman also brings friends and many times his homeless friends to the breakfast and service. This week he brought a young lady (probably in her 30s). When we served her the food, she broke down and cried—she was so grateful. Drug use had ruined her teeth. In fact, she had told us she had a lot of teeth just removed. Ashen and thin—and being subject to the nightly elements doesn’t bring rest and renewed strength. This was very evident. She just cried and cried and said thank you, thank you, thank you.
During the Church Service, she broke down, crying through most of it. Afterward, she came up to me to thank me again, still tears flowing. I told he, “We are glad you came today. Life has been pretty rough for you. Please come back. Come be a part of what God is doing here on this sidewalk. Let’s learn about Jesus. He is here for you. He will forgive you. Doesn’t mean everything will get better, but you will get better. Jesus will change you and help you, but most of all, he’ll give you a new family, this church family. This is where Jesus will give you strength, encouragement, people to cry with you—and eventually, people for you to cry with.” The thank yous kept coming. She said she plans on coming back.
Are not the elect among the homeless?
God showed up this past Saturday.
On any given "In His Midst" BBQ evening, many will be truly homeless for the night (and we might very well be in their bedroom)
On any given Wednesday evening this summer, when we open with prayer and I give a short park sermon, standing around me will be a nice size group of people. Then, as the line gathers for the hot dogs and hamburgers, it will not stop until 85, many times 100 people, and even on more than a few days, will pass through. Among them will be many who are homeless . . .
At that hour, 5:30-6:30pm or so, if there are homeless among us (and there will be quite a few)—and, they're not out for dinner—they are indeed homeless for that night. The shelters and available beds are all gone at 4:00pm and the rest just have to figure out what to do for the evening. Many will not have had a meal that day (maybe no real food all week) and this park BBQ will be their only meal before finding a small space to sleep for the night. Sadly, we encounter a number of homeless families with children as well.
The Summer Park BBQ is not a solution to the homelessness problem; nor is it a solution to food scarcity for many who are in the Hill. But, it does put food before those that need it that night and it helps our church (and me as a local pastor) to become friends and known by those most in need.
We want to do more.
But we know, for now, it is the Summer Park BBQ ministry that we can do—with your help. Please consider supporting us so we may have the resources for the 2019 CPC in The Hill summer park BBQ ministry.
Please consider helping:: 2019 CPC in The Hill Summer Park BBQ Ministry Fundraiser
PS The above verses are to remind us that Jesus himself was homeless, that apostles were homeless, and that God desires his people to be identified with the homeless.
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.