We sometimes think of the residents in the shelter as neighbors in need that our church is helping out. And there’s truth to that. But is the picture so simple? Are the relationships that one-sided?
You might be surprised to learn how much some of the men in our shelter do around church to help us out. This is of course nothing new. Each year, a few of the men from the shelter become known to many of us (even though we aren’t for the most part around the same hours!) because of their helping out our community. And some of them even end up sticking around and joining our church community permanently…
All the men staying in our shelter call Old First home for the winter and take pride in maintaining their living space. Each resident is assigned morning tasks for cleaning and maintaining their space by Bethesda Project’s Night Supervisor. Many of the residents go above and beyond what is asked to help with the upkeep of Old First. They have a sense of wanting to give back.
Jorge and Orlando and Hectors are our kitchen crew this season, almost permanent fixtures in the kitchen. They handle the dishes each night. And work hard at maintaining our institutional kitchen that is so heavily used. Making sure that leftovers are packaged, labeled and refrigerated or frozen. Cleaning and storing away equipment and supplies, ready for the next group to use our kitchen. The kitchen has stayed in really good shape this season, and it’s a result of their efforts.
Orlando, pictured below, when asked if he does all he does because Bethesda or Old First ask him to explains, No, I do it because I like it, and it needs to get done.”
Lindsey had become a special helper for Mindy, coming back during the day to clean out closets, wash sheets and blankets, washing the Social Hall floor, and most recently, even fixing a broken rack in one of the ovens. Lindsey also volunteers at the Vet Center down the block at 4th and Floral Street. I am happy to report, as well, that Lindsey is getting permanent housing.
When it snows, Gideon, Orlando and Lindsey work as a team to shovel and salt our walkways so all of us coming to church and our neighbors just walking by can get where we are going safely. (The brick becomes treacherously slippery with just a bit of ice or snow.)
A group of shelter guests helped Mindy haul all the greens upstairs for the greening of the Sanctuary. And then Gideon stayed around and joined people from the congregation as we did all the decorating. He ended up actually holding all seven of the big wreaths in place while we attached them to the balcony railing. And, though he participates in another church community, Michael noticed him in church on Christmas Eve.
Speaking of the Christmas season, guys from the Shelter have helped out with the animals, feeding and watering and walking them each year. And if you haven’t noticed, shelter guest have been among our wise ones for the last few years.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten other examples, but you begin to get an idea!
There is always a lot to be done around Old First. And we are grateful for the help that men from the shelter offer us. It’s probably not only true, but spiritually healthier to realize that our shelter guests do as much towards supporting us as we do for them. I am grateful for an economy of service that is much more unified than we realize. At the annual meeting, we talked about the southern African concept of Ubuntu. How nice that it turns we already are living it out in many ways…