Our brother in Christ gave me permission to share this. It should definitely cause us all to consider if we are truly being the hands of Jesus.
It’s funny how a single phone call can change your day. Last evening I was working the desk at Truth Ministries, checking in the 40+ men who would spend the night in the shelter, when the phone rang. “Truth Ministries,” I answered. “You’re a homeless shelter, right?” asked a woman’s voice on the other end of the phone. “Yes, ma’am,” I responded, wondering what was coming next, but only half paying attention as I kept an eye on the men milling around the desk. Then it came and captured my full attention. “I’m looking for a place for me and my daughter for the night.” My heart sank as I sank into my chair and digested what was happening. Were they fleeing domestic violence? What kind of crisis would drive a mom to seek shelter for herself and her daughter at 9 o’clock on a rainy Saturday night? But that wasn’t the worst of it, at least not for me. I heard myself saying, “I’m so sorry, ma’am. We’re a men’s shelter. We’re not equipped to take women.”
Finding emergency shelter on short notice for a mom and child is a challenge on a good day, but at 9PM on a Saturday night is even harder. I gave her the names and numbers of two local agencies most likely to be able to respond quickly to her situation, tried to encourage her and reluctantly hung up the phone. Work called. There were late-comers to check in, beds to be assigned, notes to be made in the desk log. I had a homeless shelter to run.
Soon my shift was over and I headed home. But all the way home I was haunted by the nagging thought, “Had I done all that I could do to help that woman and her daughter?” I just couldn’t find a way to tell myself, “Yes.” If Gale and I were in a position to take them into our home, I would have resolved the problem without a second thought. But we aren’t and it wasn’t an option. If we were in a position to simply get them a hotel room for a few nights and give them some time and space to think about their next step, I would have done that. But we didn’t have the resources for that, either. Then my thoughts turned to the Evangelical pastors and churches in our city. I wondered how many Christians had empty guest bedrooms that Saturday night, or who had the resources help. Where are the church networks of people and families who have moved beyond making excuses for not getting involved and are available, on-call and ready to get involved and make a difference when needs like this arise? Where’s the short list of people to call? Answer: There isn’t one. And sometimes it’s heartbreaking.
As for me, I’ve decided to spend a few days fasting and praying about these things. Yes, I’m praying for that mom and her daughter, that God will keep them safe and meet their needs. But beyond that I’ll be fasting and praying for a day when moms with children and families in distress no longer have to sleep in their cars in a WalMart parking lot because Evangelical Christians understand that obeying Jesus’ commands in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry and to befriend the stranger apply to themselves and not to someone else.
It’s funny how a single phone call can change your day.