“Search and Rescue”
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa
A couple of weeks ago I had one of those experiences that was both deeply touching and yet a bit mind-bending. I am a part of a small group of ministry leaders from across North America who meet together two times a year to share, encourage, challenge and learn from each other. Our most recent gathering was in Seattle where one of our group, Jeff Lilley, is the President of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM).
Jeff arranged for us to spend an evening on a “search and rescue” where UGM loads up a van with food, clothing, blankets and hot chocolate and drives around Seattle “searching” for homeless people to serve.
The staff of UGM has a good idea where to find people. So we drove to those spots, got out of the van and “searched” for people in need. Most were sleeping on a benches, laying on the ground under overpasses or in door ways. The most uncomfortable part of the evening was waking these folks up from their sleep.
Once awake we invited them to the van to partake in our goods. Sometimes, like waiters, we carried whatever they needed to where they were. We also invited them to come and stay at UGM and then prayed for them. Over the few hours I would estimate we served 50 to 75 people.
So what was so deeply touching and mind-bending for me about this experience?
First, these people were very grateful. They were some of the kindest and most thankful people I’ve ever meet. At least two prayed for us.
Secondly, they all have a story. There is a reason they are homeless and not all the reasons make sense (we asked them their stories when we could and listened when they would tell us).
Thirdly, I didn’t meet one victim, or at least one person who expressed that they were victims. I’m sure they were out there; I just didn’t meet any with that attitude. Considering their situations that is quite remarkable.
Fourth, there is help available to these people but for whatever reason they have chosen not, can’t or don’t know how to pursue this help.
Finally, even in light of the fourth point, I am more convinced than ever we need “to feed the poor, cloth the naked and shelter the homeless.” We need to do this even if we can’t grasp how they got to this place and why they haven’t moved beyond it.
In those few hours I kept thinking of Jesus. Maybe it’s because I was seeing Him in the faces of these people. His words kept coming back to me “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” Matthew 25:40.
I really enjoyed sharing this experience with you, Michael. I’m glad the experience was touching and “mind-bending” — though I am quite sure I’ve never heard S&R referred to that way! You’re right: in spite of that fourth point I am convined that we must find ways to share the table of fellowship with the poor and broken and lost. We need this fellowship as much as anyone else. Come back any time…
–Mike Johnson, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
I’d love to come back Mike. You and your team are an inspiration. Please be encourged in your work.