He walked through the double doors with a kind smile in a room of glum faces. No one expected to find the group cheerful. It was the third Thursday of the month and I was volunteering at the local food bank. And times were difficult for our small town; unemployment was like kudzu spreading too quick too fast.
“Have you been here before?” I asked. He shook his head no. “Well, fill these out and bring them back to me,” I said.
Minutes later he returned and I made a file for this new man in need of food and clothes. I scanned his paperwork in search of his employment record, trying to figure out what he was eligible to receive. Then my eyes rested on the third line of the second page. The word prison nearly jumped out at me. He had been released the day before. Our eyes met again, but this time I didn’t feel compassion, I felt scared. What crime had he committed? How long was he in for? I shifted my weight from one side of the chair to the other and engaged in awkward small talk.
Moments later, he moved on to the next volunteer who filled his bags with milk and eggs, meat and vegetables, kindness and a hard to understand King James Bible.
And on that day I saw a man just released from prison and I clearly saw myself, judgmental and unprepared to minister to real life issues.
But in the defeat of the morning, disappointed that I had responded poorly, God began pouring newfound compassion into my life for those hurting around me. In my town and in my grocery store, at the gas pump and in the parking lot of the library. It was as if I was seeing people for the very first time.
And God has allowed our family to be one of dozens who are serving as missionaries to a church on the other side of town. A once thriving church that has in the last few years declined to a handful of members attending. The once bustling neighborhood is now a havoc of crime and poverty. It sits in a bowl of bedlam; streets muddled with youthful gangs and frequent shrill of sirens blare. And we have knocked on doors and met and prayed with many in the community.
And I have heard the stories of single mothers and alcoholic fathers and children who feel abandoned. And I listen for ways to relate to the man who is drunk on his front porch, to the daughter who is caring for her dying mother, to the girl whose belly is swollen with child when she is so young herself. What do we have in common?
But as we bow our heads, and we pray upwards for help and direction and for a purpose in this life, I realize that I’m praying for someone else but it’s a prayer I desire for myself as well. A prayer of desperation, a prayer for change and repentance and for newness breathed fresh each and every morning.
(Another post to come Friday, but can I share with you that there were 29 decisions made this weekend to follow Christ? God is so very good.)
This means so much to me today! On Monday, I came a little too close for comfort to one of the people I was serving and it really scared me. I went home thinking that this is not what I’m supposed to be doing… I need to really ask myself why. Is it because I’m uncomfortable? Because I don’t want to get too involved? Because I’m only doing it to make myself feel better?
I hope you keep posting about this journey long after Friday!!!
Just finally got my first Sunday blog on. Took me so long to narrow down what to say. things You say so much better than It It is so amazing how our perspective can change when we are placed just a few inches away from another person who is living life in a much different manner. I found myself jumping to a quick judgment and sentence in my head as well when a mom asked me to pray to keep her son out of jail. A mother of a police offfice praying with a mom who’s son was arrested by a police office. Only God – can put us in a spot where we are so different and help us realize that we really are the same in His eyes. The difference is one us has the answer for the other. Are we willing to change our perspective to His to share Him? Glad I’m journeying with you! Love you girl!
29 decisions? Amazing and wonderful. So wonderful to see such changes happening in hearts — theirs and yours and mine.
In situations like that where it’s life or death, far removed from our comfort, people are more aware of God’s grace (if their eyes are opened). It’s so wonderful that you’re sharing the news with them.
Inspirational. I have no other words.
I can so relate to this Amanda. Everyday I come to work and I see poverty and abuse and brokenness. So much of it, day in and day out for 10 years tends to harden the heart. I struggle with being judgmental and ‘unprepared to minister to real life issues everyday’. That phrase sums it up precisely. Thank you.
I had to come back and catch up where I left off.
I’ve had these moments. Moments when I realize I am not who God intends me to be, and instead of being angry with my attitude, he gives me new eyes.
I can think of one time in which I really felt numb to much around me, and He pounded my head with tale after tale of those battling big things in my own life…people I knew, people I saw everyday, but people I walked right by.
I love, love, love this, Amanda. I have felt these same feelings. It’s amazing, the way God exposes us through service.