The homeless ministry of Central Christian began when several people from the church got together and began to take sack lunches out into the community to distribute food directly to the homeless in our valley. That ministry still exists today, and it has also grown to include a weekly dinner that is hosted at the church and open to anyone that needs help, a full stomach, and encouragement. I did a bit of checking and was shocked to learn that as of 2009, there were nearly 2,500 people known to be homeless in the Antelope Valley alone. I had no idea that there were so many people in our area in need of so much. When I learned that there was a ministry aimed at meeting those needs I had to check it out. As a result, I showed up at the weekly dinner to see what I could learn, and to see what the church was doing to help out!
I was not sure what to expect that Thursday, but I was amazed by the coordination of volunteers and food providers, the number of guests, and the scope of the endeavor as a whole! I quickly learned that there are several ways for individuals and small groups to get involved. The church is on the lookout for people to help out by bringing the food, serving drinks, manning food stations, staffing the kitchen, and even enjoying a meal with the guests as a table leader. Thanks to a sophisticated online system, the available positions are listed, updated, and easy to sign up for. In fact, if you choose to bring food for the other volunteers to serve, the system will even show you where to get it, what to get, and how much it will likely cost! Fellow tech geeks rejoice! My wife accompanied me on my visit and volunteered as a table leader while I attacked the other volunteers with questions about the ministry.
Although the weekly dinners are a fairly recent development, the word is quickly getting out. The dining area was outfitted with seats for 80 guests, and by my estimation, we had barely enough seating for all those that arrived. At about five o’clock the folks that volunteered to bring the food began to arrive. Any food that is meant to be served hot is brought to the church ready to serve and kept in the kitchen until needed out front. Just before the doors opened at 6:00, all of the volunteers met for a quick word of prayer for the meal and the guests. As we joined hands in prayer, I looked around the room and was overcome by the joy so plainly evident in the faces of those that showed up to serve. So many people in the church are looking for the missing piece in their spiritual walk. So many people come to church, tithe regularly, attend Sunday school, and wonder why they still feel empty. I would suggest to you that finding a way to serve in the body of believers and working to advance God’s purposes may be what you need!
When the guests began to line up, the first thing that I noticed was the diversity of the people that needed help. Elderly folks, families, and small children all stood in line and expressed their gratitude for the food and the friendly faces that were there to serve them. When their plates had been filled, they made their way to one of several tables and sat down to enjoy the meal. Place mats with bible verses and drawings were provided by the young children at the church and brought a smile to many of the guests as they were seated. Volunteers who opted for the table leader position were in place at the tables to chat with those who wanted to and to encourage those that needed it. Although my wife is very shy and not nearly as outgoing and obnoxious as I am, she ended up at a table with the task of striking up conversations with the guests. I knew that was way outside of her comfort zone, but she was determined to grow and had a great time!
As we headed home at the conclusion of the night, my wife told me about the prayer requests from a couple at her table. She had tears in her eyes when she told me that although the couple was in obvious need, every one of their requests was for the needs and hurts of someone else. What a convicting eye-opener! There are so many things in life that we take for granted. A car to drive us to work, a computer to write an article, shoes on our feet, and a roof over our heads can seem to us like the basic necessities of life, but those things can all be gone in an instant. True contentment flows from God and is something that we should all be striving for on a daily basis.
If you or your small group would like to get involved with this or any other ministry opportunity, please contact Cyndy Chapin (email@example.com ) at the church office and sign up today!