Friday, December 14, 2012

Feeding the Sheep

Feeding the Sheep
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he ... will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25: 31-40 (NIV)

This past summer I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta, GA to serve at the M-25 Feeding Ministry hosted by Mt. Bethel UMC. This unique service opportunity is geared toward training high school youth and adults to go out and serve as the body of Christ through relational ministry – ministry and relationships with others, with the least of these, with all. Our group served in many ways in many different venues in the short time that we were there. We went into the streets to Woodruff Park to play chess and “hangout” just learning about the people who were without a home. We met many people – all had a story and all had value. They were homeless yet many had jobs, many had a church home, mostly they had each other and they had worth. The biggest gift we gave was recognizing they were not invisible and we did that by forming relationships, acknowledging they were present, welcoming them into our group, learning their names, sharing our stories, and loving them as brothers and sisters.
I was hungry...We made and served meals at Atlanta Mission. We served over 300 people the first few hours we were in Atlanta on the very first day. We prepared over 600 meals to be frozen and stored to get a “jump” on the week at Gateway by helping a wonderful young woman named “Q,” who usually with only a couple of other volunteers makes morning and evening meals for about 300 people daily. She does so much with so little but has the biggest heart and best attitude of all.
I was thirsty....We served cold water in the lobby at Gateway on a hot July day. People were so grateful to have a cold drink. One woman came up for a glass of water and Lori noticed the cup was dirty so she offered to get the woman another cup but the woman took the dirty cup and said, “Honey, this is a lot better than what I have been drinking.” and she took the cup and drank it all and thanked us as if we had given her the finest wine. She was so thankful we had come and that we would spend time talking to her. We felt honored to meet her. Her humility made us aware that this was bigger than we were, God was there. We were serving our Lord.
I was a stranger...Walking in the park was a little intimidating at first but we met so many who would have been strangers if we had simply walked by. It wasn’t comfortable but it was what we were called to do. We met Jesus in the faces of those who others passed by. We acknowledged the invisible and gave them an opportunity to be seen and we valued them for who they are, children of God, brothers and sisters.
I needed clothing...The number one thing that gets taken on the streets is shoes. Also they wear out so fast because living on the street involves a lot of walking from place to place. One of our youth gave her shoes to a person who need them more than she did. She walked in her socks until we got back to the church so that someone else could be comfortable. That is ministry in action!
I was sick...Many of the people we met were ill. Some had physical issues, some mental, all had a story or a heartache but the best medicine in the world is a friend, a listening ear, someone who cares. We prayed with and for so many people and it was amazing to see their spirits lifted even for just a moment. We were able to share God’s Love.
I was in prison... Some of the people we met were in a prison of sorts, a vicious cycle of substance abuse. We learned that most people are not addicted to drugs or alcohol prior to being on the streets but turn to those things to deal with being homeless or to fight off the cold and harsh elements. Once addicted though they have a hard time getting back on their feet and they are imprisoned in that lifestyle. M-25 is training and an outreach, we learned so much that we were able to bring back to Birmingham.

Advent is a time of preparation for Christ’s birth. M-25 prepared us to serve. Christ prepares our heart. As you gather gifts this season, don’t forget one of the greatest gifts you can give is your time. Share Jesus with someone this season and all year long!

Lord, please continue to prepare our hearts and minds for service, equip us and send us out. Amen.
Angela Brooks 

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