Yesterday was packed full from beginning to end. In my place of worship and fellowship we believe in serving others in our community and also in some of the larger communities nearby. Naturally, the larger communities are the places that people often don't want to venture to, due to unfamiliarity, notable skin color differences, and fear of crime. And naturally, we like to stay with what's familiar. Why, even in the animal kingdom more often than not, animals seek to be with and stay within their own safety zones and generally the only thing that drives them way out of their own dwelling space is hunger. Hunger drives us. It can't and won't be ignored.
The culture of Facebook is an entity of it's own and you hear of folks who either scoff at it or live and breathe by it. I like Facebook for a selfish reason ~ 8 siblings. Some live near and some live far and we've opted to use Facebook as our point of contact. It seems rather pitiful that this is our mode of operation and yet, when we need to share a concern or celebrate good news, it seems like the best place to make sure we pass the word. A few years ago to my surprise, which has turned into my delight, I came across a childhood friend on Facebook via another friend's account. I saw her name and thought to myself, "that can't be the Karen I know, can it?" so I clicked on her name to see what I could see.
I've mentioned before that Detroit had such a white flight out in the late 60's/early 70's that our secure foundation of family and friends was shaken to its core. Imagine if you will, standing in the midst of a great gathering one minute, but by the time you turned 360 degrees nothing seemed or looked the same. Ninety percent of those familiar faces were gone. We were scattered in all directions and those who you weren't tightly connected with seemed to have vanished into thin air. So now, nearly 40 years later, when I clicked on her name I read about a life I didn't know at all. Her story was so familiar to me now after dealing with an addict in my family and yet it just didn't match the girl I knew from my past. Reading along though, I quickly realized we had a real connection beyond anything I'd known about her before.Suddenly we could talk about recovery and the saving grace of Jesus and truly connect as if not a day without contact had passed between us.
Karen Robak Gates is a biker chick that spent many a year in the streets and on the stuff. She lived in the warmer states for many years doing her thing until one day she called out to her Higher Power and got a clean body and a redeemed soul, too. Forever thankful for what God is doing in her life, she eventually found her way back to Michigan and began a foundation to serve the forgotten, thrown away people in the city we grew up loving, Detroit. So as I poured over Karen's story and pictures with faces that were so real, my heart was tugged upon to come along side and see what I could do. A team was formed from my church and we have been going once a month to serve on the sidewalk in front of the decrepit, desolate and deserted train station in Detroit. Where once a grand matriarch stood so proudly, now a forgotten old relative is abandoned and left to die alone. Yet weekly The Ark Association stands on the sidewalks along side her, feeding the hungry and homeless a hot meal right on the sidewalks. There's no shelter from the cold, rain, snow or blistering heat. Shadowy figures come from nowhere like clockwork knowing that someone will be there without fail. It may be the only guarantee they have in life right now that doesn't quit. And although The Ark Association is not a religious foundation their work is rather Biblical as we give food to the hungry and clothing to the naked, whether friend or foe.
Once a month our team assists their weekly outreach in bringing food and clothing to others who are hungry or need something to wear. It was there a few weeks ago I met " Miss T". A woman maybe near 40 whose story involves a history of an abusive husband who is now deceased from cancer, a pit of depression and drug usage and children with children who share her home, which she just received through assistance. Miss T also proudly tells me she is now in college and studying for her finals! But as I heard her story, I realized she has an apartment but not much else. Driving home that day I shared this information with my team and before the weekend was done an array of items were put together for her. A bed with bedding, a couch and tables, a few dishes and a little holiday jar of candy. along with a small artificial Christmas tree. A little basket of items for her three year old granddaughter was gathered as well. Yesterday we delivered these items and met her sons. We were busy for less than an hour and later on Miss T left me a message stating that she was humbled and blessed to receive these items. We've helped her for a moment, but have been impacted for a lifetime.
The Scriptures never direct us to find out how people got into this situation, although if a friendship is cultivated that may come up. It just directs us to share what we have. Maybe we weren't directed to ask because that would put us in a judging frame of mind and that's a place where I surely don't belong.
Ministry and service work go hand in hand. One meets the physical need and one meets the spiritual need and I'd say the giver gains more from the exchange than the receiver any day.
God bless you and keep you, Miss T.