By Love Herndon Ministry
Each year, hundreds of individuals living on the streets, in cars and abandoned buildings in Fairfax County search for shelter from the often bitter winter weather. To that end, this year, Open Door had the opportunity to partner with a local organization called FACETS and open our doors for a week to provide shelter for homeless individuals so that they do not have to sleep outside during the harsh winter. Here are reflections from some of the volunteers who lent a helping hand.
Jesus declared I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35) The week of the Hypothermia Clinic happened to land on an extremely difficult week for me as I faced overwhelming challenges both at work and personally. As the week unfolded I became more and more convinced that this overlap was not a coincidence. Throughout the week in the moments of my weakness, God lovingly poured out his grace upon me to carry out His will. By taking the focus off of myself and serving and loving others, He truly restored my spirit and gave me the strength to endure my own troubles. God showed me once again that when we love with authenticity, expecting nothing in return, we will surely experience freedom and joy.
On Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to worship alongside our guests and it was the most beautiful corporate worship experience I’ve ever had. It was simply a gathering of souls and it made no difference where you came from or where you were going. It was a glimpse of what I believe heaven will be like. Throughout the evening, I experienced God’s love and hope so palpably that it cut through all of my despair and confusion. Even if for a moment, I believe that through this worship experience our guests were overcome with a sense of peace and hope that only our God can provide.
I was so convicted by the Holy Spirit as I saw some of our guests worshipping God with such joy despite all of their troubles. You would think they would blame God and be bitter but instead their hearts were childlike, sweet and open. I was humbled. It dawned on me as I heard our guests’ individual stories that we in some ways are the ones living in poverty every day. We have so many blessings in our lives and never have to worry about where our next meal is coming from but have less joy than many of them – often our tanks running low. We take so much for granted. Through this amazing opportunity to serve our beloved guests, God reminded me once more that without Jesus we are bankrupt and it truly doesn’t matter how much we have.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
-2 Corinthians 8:9
Through the volunteer opportunities and work that we do, it helps to build a stronger community both inside and outside of our church walls. I hope there are more events in the future to serve the greater Herndon neighborhood.
I had a wonderful time on Sunday serving alongside everyone. One of the guests said he had grown up Catholic and asked me about the difference between Presbyterian and Catholic. I kept it as general as possible (not easy for me!), that while we don’t have a Pope, our denominations have more in common than differences. He then asked me why there were so many smiling faces. He said it’s been so cold and painful outside. He said there was something about being in our church space that felt really nice. I told him that we were very happy to have him here and that I was glad to hear he felt welcome. I also told him that we as a church are very interested in the healing of our spirits and souls. He kind of started choking up, and I started choking up. I was reminded that we are not just Christ’s hands and feet to our neighbors; our vulnerable neighbors are also Christ to us. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Tuesday’s meeting was a dream come true.
The lame, the weary, the poor, the hungry, the lonely, the redeemed…all together in our sanctuary worshiping and connecting. Tears of joy were running down people’s faces and others spoke of how at home they felt with us.
God is amazing.
As we worshiped together, I was reminded that we are all prodigals. Some of us look a little more put together on the outside than others but in the end, we have all made a mess of it and we all need a savior. It was wonderful to serve and love them in their brokenness.
Volunteering for homeless ministry was very meaningful to me. It reminds me again and again that any of us can be homeless and not have provisions. It reminds me to be thankful and help our brother or sister in need.
When we first started the week it felt odd. I thought to myself “these people are kinda rude!…why are they so rude?” But as I got to know them, as I had conversations with them, as I heard their stories, I realized they’re not rude. They’re just real. They’re just honest. They don’t care that they have rough edges, and they don’t feel the need to smooth their rough edges for my sake. Nor should they, honestly. They are naturally in a vulnerable position so they feel no need to hide who they really are. Through this experience, I understand more about why Jesus spent his time with the people he did; the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the poor, the ill, the broken, and the homeless. It was because they were real people, there was nothing held back from him. I got a small glimpse of what Jesus’ life must have been like spending time with such amazingly real people. The people I met that week were with me, and with everyone around them, the way Jesus wants us to be with him all the time. He wants us to be real.
The week that I served at the hypothermia clinic, I felt it was a way to show my gratitude to God for blessing me with all my basic needs and seeing those who are not unfortunate to have a roof over their head. I don’t contribute a lot with money but want to make it up by giving up time.
My heart was so full during the week of hypothermia clinic. The people and their stories left a lasting impression and gave me a glimpse of God’s heart for his people.
Throughout the week, I felt the fullness, weight and beauty of Open Door’s mission statement: to be an open door to a life-changing grace.
Love Herndon X FACETS hosted the Hypothermia Shelter from March 5th – 11th, 2017.