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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Era (02/03/11)

TITLE: Feed the hungry
By Gregory Kane
02/10/11


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The vents are spewing out hot, rancid air as I shuffle closer to the form huddled beneath a grease-drenched blanket. The alley is filthy, littered with discarded packaging from the oriental restaurants that occupy every square foot of real estate in Manchester's Chinatown. I'm relieved that it's so dark as I'm saved the indignity of seeing what I'm crouching in or where I'm placing my hands. But then I'm not here for my comfort. I'm here to minister to Val, the bag-lady who's commandeered this particular spot as her sanctuary from the terrors of the wider world. It's rare for Val to venture out after dark even though our church minibus is parked less than 200m away. That's why we make a point of dropping by with sandwiches, a cup of hot tea, and a cheerful reminder of the love of our Saviour.

An hour or so later, I shove twice discarded clothes into black plastic bags and squeeze them into the back of the minibus. Between 30 and 40 of the homeless have turned up tonight to polish off our sandwiches, guzzle our tea and coffee, and inspect our latest collection of donated shirts, trousers and dresses. We don't just feed the geese— to borrow a much disparaged expression from the world of airline stewards— we shake hands and bare our hearts, we lend a listening ear and offer a few words of practical advice. And then, once all of the material incentives have been exhausted, we announce that we're ready to commence our Sunday night service.

I look with pleasure at the eight souls who have opted to stay on. Together we sing a hymn of celebration to the God who made each one of us. Afterwards one of our team members preaches a mini-sermon, speaking words of life in the vernacular of the streets. Another song, a few prayers and we're done. Week by week we're seeing a spiritual awakening in the lives of certain individuals. At one level we're merely following the exhortation in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, befriend the stranger. But beyond this we long to see our friends embrace the grace that transforms all of life.

.....


Such scenes linger at the fringes of my memory as if they took place only yesterday. The reality is that some twenty years have passed since I last ministered to the homeless. I moved away from Manchester and God called me to serve him in other ways: to reach out to children and youth; to bring a word of consolation to migrants from other lands. That's why it feels so odd to be standing here waiting for the doors to open and the flood to be unleashed. Tables and chairs have been set out, trays stacked, hot water brought to the boil. We have chatted amongst ourselves, downed a cup of tea and asked someone to lead in prayer. As the clock clicks round to one, we're ready and waiting.

A sea of unfamiliar faces bursts in like a rip tide, surges past the refreshments table, drains every last cup of coffee and snatches away every proffered biscuit, before coming to an expectant rest beside empty tables. Carrying two trays at a time, we serve these men as though they were landed gentry in some fine restaurant. In all we minister to eighty souls: mostly men; a few women; one elderly Asian man and a younger Muslim woman, who insists on the vegetarian option. Some are drinkers, some on drugs, some suffer from mental illness, some are just lonely and come for the company. We take no notice of their situation in life, state of dress, or even stench. Every one receives a warm meal and an offer of friendship.

Twenty years have slipped by since I last did this. I expect to feel quite comfortable but I don't. Perhaps it's because all this is taking place in broad daylight. Maybe because something sticks in my craw at the way the volunteers don disposable gloves so that they don't actually have to touch the homeless. Or perhaps it's the sight of the smart young man in a snazzy shell suit who saunters in while chatting away on a pricey cell phone. Whatever the cause, something has changed in me. I can't fall back on familiar experiences of the past. This is a new day, a new era. And somehow I have to learn afresh how to minister Christ to those in such desperate need.


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This article has been read 508 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kate Oliver Webb02/14/11
This is a realistic analysis of a changing world, and world view. It is heart-breaking, to say the least, but because nothing surprises God, this new era, too, will see those who earnestly seek Him--and they will find Him. Blessings on those who continue to serve, and to point the way.
Noel Mitaxa 02/15/11
I appreciate the full scope of your description of the misery and hope within ministry experiences that are twenty years apart. I also warm to your honesty about your personal questions in your commitment to continue to serve in Jesus' name.
Melanie Kerr 02/15/11
I think every encounter is about learning afresh. The little details like the the plastic gloves and the cell phone really tugged at my heart.
Mona Purvis02/15/11
Gregory, you have bared your soul, fresh and raw. Reading this has introduced you to me in such a frank and honest and interesting manner.
Passions change, cool, and grow hot again. That's what sets pasion apart from matter-of-fact service. I go for the passion everytime.
Can't wait to see what next steps bring. Love this piece.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/15/11
This an incredible story. The first part touched my heart and the second part reminded me of how the world has changed and how it it could impact a volunteer's heart. Bless you for going where and when God sends you.Thank you for sharing I have been a bit down on myself and your words have really helped lift my spirit in a way only God will understand.
Lollie Hofer 02/15/11
Times have changed, methods have changed but the need never changes...hunger is hunger. Great story and insight. I like the way you didn't sugar coat how you were feeling the second time around, you shared your real emotions and thoughts. I hadn't thought about Margaret in years until I read your story. She was a homeless lady in St. Louis sleeping in the doorway of a dress boutique. My friends and I found her huddled in the doorway one night. We weren't there to minister to the homeless (we had just left a woman's conference) but we just couldn't pass her by. We gave what food we did have. I talked to her about Jesus and had the awesome privilege of leading her to the Lord. I left her my Bible as well.
Rachel Phelps02/16/11
Your writing sucked me into the scene, and your message caught my heart. Well done!
Loren T. Lowery02/16/11
Well written, Gregory. Thank-you. Not much to add as it left me thinking this:
It is a good thing that when God looks at man He sees only his heart. It is a good thing that when God looks at a saved man He sees only a soul justified by the sacrifice of His only Son. If we could only look with the eyes of our Lord to see what He sees. Can a man be fed as easily by a saint wearing rubber gloves as he can by one bare handed? Is it possible to be fed by one carrying a quarter to make a phone call from a booth, as easily as by one using a cell? The vessel distracts us, it is the heart of the unsaved that matters. I think each generation looks to those they can identify with. I'm not so sure how I'd reacted to say John the Baptist coming up to me. But CS Lewis, yes, with him I could relate and understand.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/17/11
Congratulations for placing 26th overall!