Sunday, April 24, 2011

Church Is Open For The Poor 7 Days A Week

Many great things happened to me Easter weekend. An egg hunt and lunch with my grandson Troy in Flagler Beach, FL and a visit to First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL.

I was introduced to this church when they called to ask a few questions about the cold weather shelter at First United Methodist Church in Port Orange, FL. Opening your church to the homeless on cold weather nights is no easy task. The brave, courageous, compelled and led should only apply. A couple of years ago, First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL started with cold weather nights for the homeless but since then they have taken many courageous steps forward when it comes to serving the poor, hungry and less fortunate.

This church is literally open 7 days a week for those that need help. They keep their outside bathrooms open everyday. There is a garden area behind the church for those that need shade or a safe place to sit, think or pray. Towels and washcloths are easily accessible to anyone who needs them along with a place to leave dirty laundry. The dirty laundry is picked up, cleaned and then returned to the church by loving volunteers. Every Wednesday night the church serves dinner to anyone in the area who is hungry.

Before I left this church today I ran into three men who are homeless and call this church their home. Alcoholism, loss of work and destroyed relationships brought them to the world of homelessness. I asked them how they felt about this little church in Bunnell, Florida. One of them said without hesitation, "I love the pastor and this church because they stand up for us and protect us. They fight for us." The two other men instantly shook their heads in agreement. I also sensed that these homeless men would stand up and protect the church that loves them.

The fight can get extremely intense when you intentionally bring the messy and marginalized to your church. Be prepared for a fight if your mission is to help the poor from your community or across the street. Members of your church will disagree and complain about your mission. Some of those members will leave. Fortunately, many members will stay to join you in the fight and the mission. Your mission will become a magnet for others who don't belong to your church. People want to be a part of something especially when it involves doing the right thing for the less fortunate.

If you see a church, ministry, organization, group or individuals loving the poor, pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email or tell them personally, "Thank you for what you are doing." They need our encouragement and praise. I applaud brave churches like First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL for what they are doing.

(Update: Click this link to see how this church has been recognized for their efforts.)

Is your church open 7 days a week for the poor? Is your heart open 7 days a week for the poor?

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