Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not What We Expected

This wasn't exactly what we had in mind when we started our service on Thursday nights. Common Grounds was going to be a way for us to reach out to college students at Marshall. But it has developed into an outreach to those who are on the street and those who are seeking to get their lives back after being on the street. It has turned from a way to minister to students away from home into a viable and effective way to minister to those who have no real home.

This Lent we have been doing a series called Journey to the Cross...first person reflections on Jesus' journey to the cross. As the worship team sat down to dinner before the service started, one of our regular attendees, S, came over and sat with us a while. He has been coming since the service first started and has brought a lot of people to worship with him too. He's been on the street and now lives with friends near the church.

He talked about how wonderful the service has been for him and looking around pointed out how many people who are starting out on their own are coming to the service. He said that he knew the service was going to be successful because we hadn't run him off. We started talking about how sometimes the welcome isn't so sincere when someone looks, dresses or seems different. With tears in his eyes he thanked everyone around the table for welcoming him and his friends into the church.

S has a often we talk about wanting to be welcoming to those who are different...we look to Jesus as the example for love and acceptance. But in the midst of that sometimes we allow culture and other things to get in the way...and the welcoming becomes more restricted.

I thank God that I have had the opportunity to meet these folks that otherwise would most likely have blended into the background. Some folks are easy to ignore/disregard, but this service has brought them into the forefront and made them more visible. Their stories are interesting...amazing even.

Some have been homeless for quite sometime...some live on the riverfront...others have been abused and have sought safety....still others have been maimed by their lives on the street. But one thing stands out for each and every one of them...they are bringing others into the church to experience a warm meal and potentially a worship service. We have new people each and every service...all because they are inviting others.

It wasn't what we had expected, but God had a different idea. Thank you God for thinking outside the box...thank you God for guiding us to those you wish us to reach.