I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music. I was pleasantly surprised...
As she walked around the corner at the train station, a man who appeared to be homeless, made eye contact and began moving toward her. He seemed to be inebriated. As he mumbled to her she heard, “I wan’t to be delivered from my addition today.” Walking to him, she placed her...
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...
I occasionally serve on our church worship team. Part of the process for me includes practicing the selected songs, printing out the lyrics and finding a possible part to sing. On one recent week that I was to serve I went to the website to begin working on the music.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover a song I’d not heard for a very long time had been selected. It’s a beautiful song sung by Jenn Johnson. It’s message is sweet and the words are poetic. Phrases like, “Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one for whom you love and gave your Son. For humanity increase my love.”
As I listen to and digested these words, singing them in my car as I drove home or during my lunch break, I thought, that’s it - this will indeed be my prayer for 2019. I was excited. I had been trying to find a theme for the year to focus on. This theme was so fitting for the times we are living in when love is often based on appearances. We judge need and people by how they look, where they live, the words they say, and the job they have or don’t have. I asked God to increase my love for humanity.
When I arrived at rehearsal for worship team later that week, I discovered that the song was no longer on the schedule. I was a little sad as I thought about those stirring lyrics that would not be sung that week. The congregation would not hear, “Help me to love with open arms, like you do. A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth. So that when they look into my eyes, they would see you. Even in just a smile, they would feel the Father’s love.”
Those thought quickly fled and I moved on. I figured a better, or more fitting song for the week had been chosen.
The rehearsal moved forward. A time of devotion and prayer starts us off. This particular week one of our worship leaders shared with the group something with which she had recently been challenged. She wanted to challenge us as well. It was quite simple actually yet it had the potential to be life changing. She simply asked, “If you had no fear, what would you do in 2019?”
She looked around at the faces in the group and repeated the question. I hoped she’d not planned for volunteers to share as my mind was blank. I egotistically thought to myself, “There’s not anything I am not doing because of fear.”
I was so very wrong and God was about to make that very clear to me.
I decided to continue to sing “For the One” even though it was off the schedule. It was going to be my 2019 theme after all and I loved the words, “Oh how he loves us from the homeless, to the famous and in between. You formed us, you made us carefully, ‘cause in the end we are all your children.” That would be how I’d live my life. It didn’t occur to me yet how much I needed to change.
During my lunch break the following day, I was humming these words as I drove to a shopping area near my work. As I approached a major intersection to make a left hand turn, there he was. He stepped off the curb and began walking amongst the cars as they waited for a green light to complete their turn. He held a sign, a sign such as we have all seen—usually made from a tossed piece of cardboard. As I glanced at him, not wanting him to see me looking, I saw the typical words:
- God Bless
An old recording from my past played once again, “Don’t give them money, they just want to buy drugs or alcohol. It’s better not to give them anything if you don’t have food to give.” I had once heard this from a director of a homeless shelter. It had been my mantra every time I saw a panhandler. I kept my eyes focused forward and drove past.
He had a slight limp and was dressed in ill-fitting clothing. I noticed he worn a winter hat and his sign dropped to his side as he walked back toward the intersection to wait for the next group of cars. He appeared to have not been very successful in his collection attempt.
As I drove through the stoplight, making my turn, some of the words I had been humming popped into my head. “Oh how he loves us, from the homeless to the famous and in between. Let me be filled with kindness and compassion for the one, the one...the one for whom you love and gave your son.”
I was stunned. What had I just done? I began to make excuses:
- It is too late now.
- He probably doesn’t even have a baby.
- He might even have a job.
- Maybe his next stop is the liquor store.
How wrong these thoughts were, and that and there was something completely wrong with this picture.
What was wrong was me.
Later that day, as I drove home from work, the image of the man and his sign came back to me and wouldn’t let go. That’s when it all came together. That was my fear and it would keep me from loving humanity like God does. I was so unkind and lacking compassion. How could I love those lyrics, commit to loving like God, and yet do nothing when I saw the man and his sign?
As tears welded up in my eyes, a list of fears poured into my mind. I was afraid of:
- Looking foolish.
- Being taken advantage of.
- What others would say.
- What they use the money for.
All very real and very ridiculous. Was the man today really looking for food or a fix? Did he have a baby? Was he sincere or guilting with “God bless”?
One might think God had finally gotten his point across to me. He was not quite finished.
In the church lobby the following Sunday he brought to my attention all the serving opportunities coming up for Winter Relief. I couldn’t miss the large display of information pamphlets. I took one home. I will be volunteering.
Again God was still not finished with me. On the following Monday, as I did my morning Bible reading, I landed on Matthew 25:45. Here Jesus is speaking in parables to the crowd and explaining what it will be like when we are before the king at the final judgment. Talking about himself he said “...‘ I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”
I had refused to help. I had refused to help Jesus. How does 2019 change starting out like this?
I change by taking action. Feeling my fear and doing it anyway. Seeing Jesus in the eyes of everyone. It changes when I stop judging the worthiness of those in need.
Maybe these are your fears, maybe not. Whatever your situation, I challenge you too - what would you do in 2019 if you had no fear? Maybe you think fears are no problem like I did at that night at worship team rehearsal. Think about it, pray about it and see what God shows you. He just might have a plan to change you in ways you didn’t even realize needed changing.
As she walked around the corner at the train station, a man who appeared to be homeless, made eye contact and began moving toward her. He seemed to be inebriated. As he mumbled to her she heard, “I wan’t to be delivered from my addition today.” Walking to him, she placed her hand on his shoulder and felt God move.
Jill Poldervaart was at Union Station in the heart of Washington DC. She was handing out blankets to the needy and offering prayer to anyone who would accept it as part of her Blanket the City ministry. Over the years she had meet and spoken to many people living on the street. She knew immediately that this encounter was different than any she’d had in the past.
It begin in Colorado with a lunch-hour invitation. It seemed innocent enough. A co-worker invited her to join their group serving the needy and homeless that day simply by handing out food and offering prayer. On one particularly cold and raining day the group was heading out at usual. Jill considered not going due to the elements. The warmth of the office was inviting and comfortable. Despite the taunting in her mind, she choose to go. As they handed out food one of the recipients made it clear, it’s not just food that he needed, it was cold, he needed a blanket. He laid out where he’d be should someone such as Jill be willing to return later with a blanket. Circumstances as they were, a long drive home and a long drive back all while not knowing if the man would be traceable, made it impossible to fulfill with the request.
That’s not where it ended as it was through this man, Filling the Void Ministry was launched. An annual event lead by Jill and her family to reach out to those who were cold and living in the streets. With a few volunteers to help procure and deliver, new blankets began being gifted on an annual basis to those in need living in the Colorado cold. Although the blanket is a tangible gift, some may recognize the gifts that are given of even greater worth - a conversation, an exchange of names, and a look into the eyes of the recipient with an offer of prayer.
The ministry in Colorado continued and impacted numerous people over the years. God then moved Jill and her family to Maryland. Not knowing the area, their first winter in their new home left Jill wondering if the ministry could continue not just in Colorado but could it come to this area as well? During the second winter, the Holy Spirit prompted Jill encouraging her to take a step into a new ministry in the area she now lived. This lead her and her family into Washington DC. January easily created a homeless population at Union Station of people needing blankets. People needing conversation, People needing prayer. Jill, along with volunteers from her connect group, boarded a train to their destination seeking out those in need.
It was on one of those trips that as she sought out people to gift with a blanket that she encountered the addict needing deliverance that day from his addiction. And that was the day, the power of God reach through Jill and into the man. Jill could feel the Holy Spirit move through her and into the addict. Jill’s husband who witnessed the event was certain he’d never seen anything like it.
A huge smile came across the addict’s face. He appeared to relax immediately and it seemed as though something had left him. They exchanged a few words and parted ways. Had God healed him? What became of the man? This we will never know, but God does know. There’s peace and confidence in believing that God has healed and that he has provided for the addict touched by the Holy Spirit through Jill.
Through this experience and many others Jill sees clear evidence of God's agape or unconditional love. God's love that is always giving and impossible to be taken away."God loves everyone and we should treat every person we meet in the same way,” explains Jill.
Blessed. Righteous. Selfless. These are just a few words that describe taking to the streets and gifting those in need. In Matthew 25:35-46, Jesus reminds us that when we take the time to feed, clothe, give drink, and visit the “least of these” we are doing these things to and for him, Jesus Christ. To those righteous followers, the Bible tell us in verse 46 that they will be rewarded with eternal life. Jill, her family, and the volunteers of Blanket the City are touching the lives of the needy.
Not only is this act of service changing the lives of those being served, it is changing the lives of Jill, her family and each person who participates. They are witness of God’s great love while being his hands and feet. As Jill explains it, "Those in need are more than the people who appear homeless…we are all in need, we are all broken."
Want to get involved? People can support the ministry by donating small, new, inexpensive blankets easily carried. Jill will also tell you, "If any other group would like me to take them out to do a Blanket the City they can rally their folks together and I will be happy to show them the way!"
For more information, reach out to our offices at The Church at Severn Run @ 410-551-6654 or find ways to serve on our website at http://severnrun.com/serve/.
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.