Each night I lay our baby down in his crib.
He has a warm blanket and a roof over his head. Strong slats on his crib. Andrew and I lock our front door, and know our son is secure in our home as we fall asleep ourselves. We are protected from the elements and we are protected from danger. This is something every parent wants.
This is something that I always took for granted.
Last thursday our small group went and served at a homeless shelter. For families. The average age of a person who lives at this shelter is 8 years old. There are many, many children, babies and toddlers who live here.
Our group made and brought dinner to feed 70 people.
Each couple brought enough food to feed 20 people. Children, mothers with their babies and fathers all came through, humbly accepting what we had to offer.
(Andrew and I brought mac and cheese with a head of broccoli and a zucchini chopped up and boiled inside, mwahahaha! And a salad. Gotta get those kids some greens! I may or may not have also forced children to put these lovely leaves in their mouths, when they told me, “I don’t like salad.”)
(Here’s hubby, about to pray for everyone and the food)
It’s called North Coast Solutions for Change. I sat with a woman who had just had her 2 year anniversary of being in the program the day previous. “It is the best thing that has ever happened to me and my family,” she said as she looked at her daughter with blond bangs who was in third grade, eating some mac and cheese with hot dogs in it. (Good one, mom!)
The shelter is a three step program that actually helps to cure homelessness for families. When families first arrive, the are housed in a small area, with just a sheet separating families into small living quarters. Once the parents reach personal goals set by the organization (Parenting classes, money saved in the bank,securing and maintaining a job, test free for drugs, etc.) they are moved on site into a small, but actual apartment. A place where they can put their children down to bed, and lock the door from the outside world. A place where a warm meal is provided, and classes are offered to better themselves. Thirdly, they reach pre-independence. The organization purchased apartments together, and reduce the rent. Once families have reached their goals, they can then move out into these affordable apartments and they are no longer homeless! What an amazing day that would be as a parent. A parent who has struggled. A parent who feels hopeless and miserable, knowing that at one point they weren’t able to provide basic shelter and protection for their kids.
After a delicious meal, and even seconds and thirds, our group did childcare while the parents went to a life skills class.
Some took care of teeny babies.
(Oh my goodness, this little one was sweet!)
Other’s helped wrangle the toddlers (And I mean wrangle…)
(A few tears, a few boogers, but overall very sweet. They were able to get some one on one attention from the people in our small group, and you could just see them light up about it)
And others went out to play with all the older kids in the “back yard.”
(Look at these cool guys hanging out with these cool boys)
I invited my parents along on the service project with our small group. Sometimes, my dad would consider himself a “shy guy.” After dinner, I couldn’t find him in the baby or toddler rooms, and went looking for him. I found him in the “back yard” where he had set up, by himself, a soccer game with some of the older boys. I couldn’t believe it!
Some of these boys might be considered “rough around the edges,” but my dad was right in there giving them sports advice and playing with them. You could tell that they coveted his advice and praise as they played. It was seriously–so awesome. “Kick the ball over here, keep running! Good job!”
What a great dad! He just dove right in.
I am SO beyond blessed to be a part of our amazing small group. Once a week we do a potluck dinner together, then next two weeks we read God’s word, then the 4th week we serve. I loved seeing everyone dive right in and helping people. I loved seeing the children’s faces get so happy and excited when one of the “cool” guys asked to play soccer or frisbee with them.
What else would we each have been doing on a random Thursday night? Watching some lame show, surfing the web, being boring? I know, right? I am so glad we got to serve–it’s one of those things where you’re not sure how it will be, but God always blesses each person involved more than we can ever expect.
(Part of the team. God is awesome and knows what’s best. He doesn’t ask us to serve others cause he hates us and wants us to have a bad time, but because He knows it brings true fulfillment, joy and heck–it’s fun! It also brought our group closer together)