Steve and I have been feeding the homeless every Sunday for near 20 years. We believe in the sort of “religion” that gets us in the workfield by setting our tithes aside and using them to feed, shelter, and give care to those in need, as instructed in Malachai 3:10 “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.“
In other words, we took 10% of our money every month and purchased food, paper plates, bowls, a huge coffee maker, and rent on a little fire hall in Bremerton, WA and cooked a breakfast on Sunday morning for those in need, those who would not ordinarily go to church, and whoever strayed in on a rainy day. We have been doing this for almost 20 years.
My husband has recently been dealing with cancer, and his strict and debilitating chemo therapy has put him in a place where we can no longer do this. Last Sunday we told our people goodbye.
20 years is a long time.
We’ve seen babies born, children grow up, old people die, young people kick habits, people move, people come back, people get clean and get a home.
We took one young lady off the streets literally and helped her get her disability. In return she joined us for a few years in the kitchen and has since found work and good people to be around.
We’ve encouraged folks to go to school, to set up boundaries in their lives, and we’ve been a sounding board for them to vent on.
There are still plenty of places for folks to get a hot meal when they need one. But I think the relationships we developed over the years have made the greatest impact.
The hugs were the hardest part. The “I’ll miss you’s”. The testimonies of what this little pancake breakfast meant to them, even when we were serving biscuits and gravy.
Man, a lot of people have come through Joy of Freedom and I love them all. The babies that grew into young men and women and came back, the ones that didn’t . God bless you folks.
To those who have touched my life in that little fire hall:
You taught me so much. You taught me that homelessness is not an identity. It’s not a tag, or a name or who you are. It’s just what happens – to good people, to mixed up people, to innocent people, to those struggling who don’t know how to climb out of the pit because someone up on top keeps pitching dirt in it. You have my heart and I will forever speak on your behalf.
To you who are musicians who sang and played guitar, your saxophones, your clarinets, raising your voice in worship like you once did in your youth when times were good to you, when the sun shone in your life – in those moments, in that funky little room, a ray of hope filtered into your souls.
To the children who looked forward to the piles of whip cream on your pancakes, who might not have known what whip cream even looked like, or felt like, because your mom or dad could never afford the luxury.
To the old men shivering from lack of body weight, limping, coughing, sweating, who only wanted a hot cup of coffee – who were once accepted into churches because you had nicer clothes before the war, or before the divorce, or before the illness, or before the arrest, or before whatever took your dignity away. You longed to hear the words that we were able to say to you: that God loves you.
Jesus was homeless too.
Your dirty clothes, your used suits and ties from the thrift shop, the shoes that don’t fit. The wet blankets.
The socks, and mittens and hats we gave away at Christmas time. The roses we gave away on Mother’s day…to you men who wanted to give something to your mom, or your sister, or your girl.
The PayDay candy bars we handed out on father’s day whether you were a father or not.
The tears we shed when we asked all of you to stand up on Veterans Day if you served our country, and how almost the whole room stood.
Man I’ll miss you all. You were good to me and Steve. You shook our hands, you thanked us, you told us how we blessed you. You prayed with us. We said the Lord’s Prayer together, all of us every Sunday.
You took your hats off for God. I love you. I’m going to miss you.