In October I ended up serving at Winter Relief, although it was not quite my plan for the night. I came for the youth Bible study, but it was cancelled because the church was hosting the Winter Relief guests. I decided to go up to where Winter Relief was happening and I met a man with a...
At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family...
A Winter Relief Story As Pam wandered around the Dollar Tree looking for Bingo prizes, she never imagined how God would use one of the items to bring a smile to Nan’s face. No Bingo this year. That was the word passed down from who-knows-where. The Winter Relief guests and volunteers...
“Good Morning, Morgan” was something Daniel Lenhert uttered out of obedience but without a ton of conviction. That is, until after serving at Winter Relief changed his perspective. Daniel serves in the Army and works at the Pentagon. He rides the Marc train to DC, then takes the Red...
There, in the middle stall of the second floor women’s restroom I stood in front of a gleaming toilet asking God to forgive me of loving the Winter Relief guests more than my family. Winter Relief >> Needs >> Housekeeping. That’s where I found myself signing up to help. After getting my kids off...
In October I ended up serving at Winter Relief, although it was not quite my plan for the night. I came for the youth Bible study, but it was cancelled because the church was hosting the Winter Relief guests. I decided to go up to where Winter Relief was happening and I met a man with a really heartbreaking story. He told me about how he loved to work. He explained to me that his son was a heroin addict, and his life had gone downhill. He used to be a great student, physically fit, and very smart. He could have been a programmer and had a good life. Instead, addiction had destroyed his life, and he was living on the streets.
This man told me he was working so he could get his son off the streets. Every day he would give him money so he could rent a hotel room, or buy food. Of course, addiction tends to affect priorities so the money would often go to drugs instead of housing. Still, there wasn’t much else this man could do, every day he could he would bring his son to the addiction treatment center, but if he didn’t want to join the program, no one could make him.
So, here was a father who was just doing everything he could to give his son a chance to recover his life, even at his own expense. It vaguely reminded me of the prodigal son; his father didn’t care what he was wrapped up in, he only wanted his son to be okay. As I listened to this man talk, more and more I wanted to pray for him. This was kind of a new and weird experience for me, because I’m not the best at praying for people and I get nervous about praying in public. But God wouldn’t take away the feeling I was having that I had to pray for him. Eventually I asked him if I could pray for him and his son.
Lately I’ve been in a lonely spot in life, and that’s made life depressing for me. When I started praying with this man though, it was really strange…I felt like I suddenly had a real connection with someone. In that short moment I wasn’t lonely. Having that common relationship and trust in God, and having the willingness to call on him together brought us closer in that moment, and that destroyed my loneliness.
It seems to me that when we connect with other people and do what God is calling us to do, we can feel more fulfilled and happier.
At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family.
First and foremost, there is power in serving Jesus together as a family.
The world has a way of sucking me into believing that I am the center of the universe—that it’s all about me. Often I end up translating that into my family too! My world begins to revolve around my family and my priorities become my wife’s needs, my kid’s needs, schoolwork, soccer practice, family dinner and girl scouts. These are all wonderful and important activities. But serving as a family is different.
We prepared two large honey baked hams, then brought them to church and helped serve the homeless people who had gathered there. Doing tangible service as a family together meant that everything else had to be put on hold and serving other people took priority. It was a challenge and each person had to sacrifice something they’d rather be doing in order to serve. That’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about, choosing to follow him instead of my own desires.
Second, my children got to see me model service.
The reality is that my family is always watching me. They take notice of everything; what I do, what I say, what I like, what excites me, and my attitude towards something. Sadly, I often fall short in the example I want to set for my children and my wife. But this was one night where I felt confident in saying, watch me and do what I do. As I began to truly enjoy serving and interacting with the people at Winter Relief, my family followed suite. Soon I looked over at a table and saw my daughters (aged 9 & 6) taking seats next to a lonely young girl sitting by herself, offering to get her a drink. My son (aged 16) was doing a wonderful job serving everyone who came through his line. My wife was bringing people anything they might have missed like utensils or napkins.
Third, my family was able to encounter real world brokenness and offer the love of Jesus in response.
Before we went to serve for the evening, my wife and I had to have some meaningful conversations with our children about the homeless. They don’t encounter homeless people very often. While all humans experience disappointment and brokenness, homelessness is a very upfront and external brokenness. I wanted to teach my children that it doesn’t matter if the brokenness is internal and hidden well or external and visible to all, the answer is the same. When people are in need, Jesus calls us to serve them in whatever way we can to reveal him.
Serving at Winter Relief was undoubtedly a meaningful and positive experience for my family. Even though we had to step outside our comfort zone and make some small sacrifices to get everyone there. In the end, we were able to do something to tangibly serve others and we had some wonderful and very meaningful conversations along the way.
At that moment, when my whole family was serving together, I couldn’t have been more content.
Winter Relief will be here again soon! There is a big need for Severn Runners to fill—bringing food, cooking, serving, and most of all connecting with our guests. This is an amazing opportunity for our church community to Love Well and Live Jesus! Get more information and sign up to fill a need when you follow this link:
A Winter Relief Story
As Pam wandered around the Dollar Tree looking for Bingo prizes, she never imagined how God would use one of the items to bring a smile to Nan’s face.
No Bingo this year.
That was the word passed down from who-knows-where. The Winter Relief guests and volunteers alike were crestfallen. Playing Bingo for a chance to win prizes is the highlight of the week for many of the Winter Relief participants.
Pam and a few other volunteers decided that everyone NEEDED some Bingo in their lives. Pam climbed into her car and headed to the Dollar Tree to pick up some prizes. Right away a decorative sign with a saying about friendship caught her eye. She passed it by thinking that a decorative sign was probably the last thing a person without a home would want.
She continued to pick up more practical items. Fun socks, pretty headbands, scented lotion… But her heart kept going back to the sign. She finally added it to the pile in her basket thinking that surely no one would want it.
Later, as Pam set up the prize table for Bingo Nan, a Winter Relief guest, was immediately interested in the sign. Pam recalls, “How I just wanted to say ‘go ahead, and take it’ but it wasn't my place to give away the bingo prizes and so I just prayed that she would win it. “
Pam didn’t stick around for Bingo as she had to run some errands, but upon her arrival back at church she noticed that the sign was absent from among the prizes. “I asked around as to who had won” Pam said, “and when I heard that Nan was one of the winners and that she picked the decoration, the one thing that I was for sure nobody would want, my heart was filled with joy.”
Such a simple thing.
Pam adds, “Now I know that it was God who was leading me to select that item for Nan and I'm so glad I listened. She was so very happy. When you consider the hardships that our guests go through on a day to day basis, and that something so simple as an item from the dollar store could bring such joy - well, that is what serving at winter relief is all about - seeing that joy.”
You never know how God is going to use you to bless others, or how this serving opportunity can bless you.
“Good Morning, Morgan” was something Daniel Lenhert uttered out of obedience but without a ton of conviction. That is, until after serving at Winter Relief changed his perspective.
Daniel serves in the Army and works at the Pentagon. He rides the Marc train to DC, then takes the Red and Blue Metro lines to get to work. He begrudgingly believes that God has him commute on the metro to teach him patience and humility as he is jostled about by fellow humans.
Where he disembarks from the Marc train at Union Station he often passes by Morgan. Morgan is a homeless, double amputee that sits inside the station on a regular basis. Daniel always says “Good Morning” to Morgan, and eventually, God moved Daniel past his aversion to touching this man to embracing him with a handshake as he said those words.
Many people would say that Daniel’s actions are already above and the beyond what the normal passerby would offer this wheelchair bound gentleman, but Daniel would have you know that he interacted this way mostly out of pity and obedience.
Having the gift of compassion, Daniel had always been burdened over the issue of homelessness, but he was never sure how to get involved. When the opportunity arose for Daniel to serve at Winter Relief at Severn Run in February, he was excited to have the chance to interact with the homeless.
Having the gift of compassion, Daniel had always been burdened over the issue of homelessness, but he was never sure how to get involved.
He prayed about how much time God would have him give. As he prayed about taking a day or two off work, he felt the Lord say, “Daniel, why are you messing around? Do it all!” He put in for a week of leave and contacted Pastor Steve about where he could serve.
Pastor Steve assigned Daniel to work overnight. The first couple of nights, as Daniel observed those he was serving. His eyes were opened.
“The guests were no different than me. Maybe they’ve made some mistakes or taken a different route in life, but their needs are the same as my needs.”
Daniel realized he was guilty of a judgmental attitude towards the less fortunate. God began to melt his heart. He began to see the less fortunate as God sees them.
“They’re just so grateful”, Daniel says. “Grateful to be seen, treated with respect, and cared for”.
Now, when Daniel sees Morgan, he doesn’t speak to him out of pity or obligation, but with respect and a genuine interest. They’ve had a few conversations and Morgan has asked about Daniel’s Fight Club bracelet. Daniel looks forward to the day we he can share Jesus with Morgan.
Is there a Morgan in your life? Have you been guilty of judging someone that Christ loves just as much as he loves you?
Let God melt your heart and allow you to see them through his eyes.
There, in the middle stall of the second floor women’s restroom I stood in front of a gleaming toilet asking God to forgive me for loving the Winter Relief guests more than my family.
Winter Relief >> Needs >> Housekeeping. That’s where I found myself signing up to help. After getting my kids off to school, I committed to serving two mornings. When we invite guests to live in the church building for a week it makes for much more custodial work. While Allen does an awesome job year round, it’s not really fair to add so much to his usual workload for the week of Winter Relief.
“Housekeeping” is one of the many ways that Severn Runners can share the load. If you click on that serving opportunity, it means you come in for an hour or two after the guests leave for the day and clean the common areas upstairs where the guests live. For me, it involved cleaning the upstairs restrooms that the guests use during their stay. I was happy to serve and do just a little to help Allen.
In the bathrooms I emptied trash, refilled soap bottles, cleaned the counters, sinks, toilets, wiped down faucets, door handles, towel dispensers, trash cans, and swept. (As a side note, contrary to the bathrooms in my home where the boys outnumber the girls, the women’s restroom required a little more work than the men’s.)
With every dunk of the cloth into the cleaning solution I was focused on doing the best job I could. I wanted things to look nice and be sanitized. I wanted to show the guests they were loved and cared for. (And I wanted to make sure that Allen was impressed with my cleaning skills.)
As I went from trash to counters to toilets I prayed. I thanked God for a church that allows their facility to be used for Winter Relief. I thanked God for our staff. I thanked God for Allen who does what I was doing and so much more every day. I prayed that the guests would open their hearts to Jesus. I prayed that they would be released from the bonds of addiction. I prayed that God would heal and restore their family relationships. I prayed for them to acquire and keep jobs. I prayed that they would be able to become independent and support themselves.
Then, although I was jamming to the praise and worship music drifting from my phone in the hallway through the door of the restroom and into the stall where I was cleaning, I heard God speak.
I wasn’t prepared for what he said. What I wanted him to say was, “Thank you for loving others! You’re the best!”
But what he whispered to me in the most loving way was, “Daughter, you are doing a great job. I love that you’re using this time not only to serve others, but more importantly to talk to me. You know, you wipe counters, sweep floors, and clean toilets at home too. Rarely do you tackle those things with such a good attitude. Rarely do you have such a glad heart about maintaining the building where your family resides as you have about maintaining the building where the church resides. Rarely do you use cleaning time to pray for your husband and your children as enthusiastically as you are praying for complete strangers right now.”
As the cleaning rag fell limp in my hand, I stood in the stall and I had to ask for God’s forgiveness. I asked him to forgive me for grumbling every time there’s a mess for me to clean at home and to give me a grateful heart that I have a home to clean and a family to clean up after.
Many times I feel like I’m honoring Jesus or blessing others when I serve. The truth is that usually it opens the door for God to teach me things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
Consider serving and let God speak to your heart.