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 our at 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, sometimes even telling them, "We're staying for the Church Service, too." We've had, almost regularly, the homeless breakdown and cry, a few times even falling to their knees, and many times with their arms stretched out. We pray for them, comfort them. Many 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." He was in a bad way, he explained, "but, I'm good now."
In fact, this past Saturday he was so proud to tell me: "Pastor, look at me. I'm clean. My teeth are brushed. My clothes are clean. I am taking showers. I am good now." What gladdened me the most, he hasn't stopped coming for Breakfast and still participates in our Sidewalk Church Service--and still has been bringing his homeless friends.
Another regular gentleman also brings friends and many times 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 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. She just cried and cried and said thank you, thank you, thank you.
During the Church Service, she broke down, again, 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 apart of what God is doing here on this street. 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."
She said she plans on coming back. The thank yous kept coming.
Are not the elect among the homeless?
God showed up this past Saturday.
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You may donate online through our website or send a donation to our anchor church marked for CPC in The Hill @ 135 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT 06510 (checks are to be made out to Christ Presbyterian Church or simply CPC; and in the memo please indicate Hill/CA). For more information or to receive our Hill News Updates, please contact me, Pastor Chip, through this email address: ChipCPCtheHill@gmail.com.