A little over a year ago I met up with a couple of rather over the edge teens that are homeschoolers that didn’t really fit in their church youth group. They had been doing a burrito ministry to the homeless for a couple of months. I asked if we could do it together and a partnership was formed where I was able to help organize and get others to help out on a monthly basis. Now looking back I am thankful to Ben and Amy for their help to flame my own passion for people that have been forgotten and marginalized by society and the church.
This Christmas Eve saw about 60 people gather with New City/Barrio Nuevo to make 200 burritos, 100 hot dogs, collect 100 blankets and enough clothes for another 100 people. I begin at my house at 6AM on Christmas Eve morning cooking a 100 hot dogs in freezing weather. (Yes the temperature gauge outside said 36.) After cooking the dogs I left to pick up my New City kids and helpers. Maria had cooked the beans and the rice the night before. (It takes a rather large quantity of beans and rice to make 200 burritos.) We had collected clothes from New City partners this last week. A large group funneled into my house and eventually there was about 40 doing burritos, hot dogs and sorting clothes. We end up at an area downtown close to around a dozen homeless shelters. Another couple of groups meets us downtown.
I got a simple divine push to bring tables to set up to make our handing out food and clothes more organized. So we set up four tables and it wasn’t too long before hundreds of people come to get their hot chocolate, burrito, blanket and clothes. My main purpose is doing this is two fold. I truly believe that God has called us to feed and clothe those who have been left behind for whatever reason. I know that I will never conquer the homeless situation in Phoenix. I also believe it is essential to teach those who live in middle-upper middle class America to see that homeless people are PEOPLE who have names and are loved by their Father in Heaven. Yes, they may be smelly, dress strangely or not have a full set of teeth. Yet, given the present economic circumstances we all could at some point end up on the street.
I always give instructions to those that help out. I don’t want this to be a burrito and Bible dump where we show up on 13th Avenue and just throw out of my truck food and the Word. I believe it is imperative that everyone takes the time to look a person in the eyes, introduce themselves, ask the person’s name and then ask about their story. I also believe it is import for us to share our stories of how God has worked in our lives to do this to share Christ’s passion. I had the privilege of talking to a couple of people, all very different. Let me share my experience with Valerie, Roger and Jeremy.
I saw this well dressed and as I talked very educated older lady standing in line. As we talked I asked her name and how she ended up in Phoenix. I come to discover that she is from Massachusetts. I share that I was actually born in Bourne, Mass. We talked a little or I should say I listened to her story and unfortunate choice to follow a former boyfriend to Phoenix. She is now stranded and attempting to get help to get a job and either settle her and get back to her home on the east coast. I gave her my card and said call me. She carefully tucked my card into her new pink blanket and I said I would pray for her.
After seeing Valerie I ended up talking to Roger a much younger African American man in his late 20’s. He didn’t appear to be upset with living on the streets. I asked to video our conversation and he agreed. He shared how he had lived here most of his life and was only recently homeless. He truly acted like he expected to be back on his feet soon. He has a lively smile so I shook his hand, gave him a card and prayed for him.
As I am watching some of my kids hang out and playing with a friend I hear a loud scream, “Dave, come and pray for this man!” I respond initially by saying Terrance you can pray can’t you? Yet, Terrance believed that I needed to be there so I moved through the line looking at clothes and met Jeremy. He was clearly intoxicated and seemed truly remorseful for his past night of drinking. I listened to him talk about his life and his regret for drinking again. He quickly recited Bible verse after Bible verse. He clearly had been around the church and knew his Bible very well. The challenge was that his drinking problem landed him on the streets without any help. He wanted us to pray for him. I could truly sense the power of God as we laid hands on him and prayed. I also gave him my card and told him to call me.
The reality, which I don’t want to accept, is that none of these people will call me or ask for help beyond the burrito, blanket and Bible they received on Christmas Eve. Does this deter me from continuing to have groups partner with us to feed and love on the downtown homeless population – NEVER. Jesus’ love for me has never been dependent upon my faithfulness otherwise I would be totally lost.
Jesus is the one who defines how we are to love him by the way we treat the homeless, the neighbor we can’t stand or the boss at work we could shoot.