But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
~ Matthew 6: 3-4
At the risk of sounding falsely humble or awkwardly transparent, I begin typing this end of the year entry. Its officially been an entire year since I came on board as a full-time missionary at The Relief Bus. I wish I could articulate the things I have seen, learned, succeeded in, screwed up, and the relationships I have made. But I can't. I have found that over this past year I haven't "saved" anyone. On the contrary, I discovered that its not my job to “save” anyone. However, I have had the privilege and honor of traveling this road we call "life" with some amazing people. And I have also discovered that in the midst of this journey God somehow seems to be saving us all.
That being said, my biggest struggle this past year has been rooted in that verse in Matthew. What does the Master prefer: a kind act done in secret or a kind act documented for the masses? How much of the journey is appropriate to document? Many of my fellow travelers battle serious struggles such as heroin addiction, homelessness, prostitution, and mental illness. And I am left wondering where to draw the line between minister and brother... or whether a line should actually exist. I have met two men who have laid hold of the commandment in Matthew. Their names are Rod and Herb.
Every year the Relief Bus does a thanksgiving outreach to our Harlem and South Bronx sites. The two Saturdays preceding Thanksgiving, we abandon our soup containers and cater a turkey dinner. As I was preparing to set up the South Bronx outreach, it occurred to me that I had absolutely no catering experience and had no idea what I was doing. To make matters worse, I had around 25 volunteers staring at me, waiting for some kind of instruction. Then seemingly out of nowhere my friend Herb came to say hello. I met Herb five months prior and ministered to him through a difficult time. After our quick hello, Herb told me that he had previously had a professional career as a caterer. He offered his help. At that moment, a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. For the next three hours Herb helped me manage the operation. After all the food was gone, I thanked him for all that he had done. He shrugged off my appreciation and explained that this is what he does with his time. Herb is active in his church, mentors youth (without the aid or recognition of an organization), organizes the kids in his neighborhood in civil service activities, and actively takes care of five different seniors who are physically unable to go to the food pantries. Herb is also currently homeless, staying with different friends as he looks for available housing.
I met Rod for the first time in Newark's South Ward last winter. Over this past year he came to the bus once or twice a month for some soup and a hello. About a month ago, I asked Rod to tell me about himself. He is retired, living in Newark's South Ward. He also tends to the needs of the homeless in that neighborhood everyday, on his own. He told me of the different places he visits each night around ten to go feed and encourage the homeless. It happens to be one of the worst neighborhoods in Newark and not a place one would normally want to be at 10pm. He explained that it doesn't matter to him whether they decide to change, Jesus has called him to love them in their circumstances, no questions asked. After his church found out what he was already doing they recently ordained him as a deacon.
I am humbled to serve and travel alongside these men. In them I see everything I aspire to be before the Master. Regardless of ordinations, recognition, success, money, blogs, the church, organizations, or even life change for those they are serving, these men remain faithful to the calling of Christ. They are not looking to be known or documented, but to serve and to love. It is in these quiet acts of love and grace I desire to serve as well. In this Christ resides and this is His home. I look forward to all of us meeting Him in these quiet places this upcoming year.
Please pray for housing for Herb and strength for Rod.
I hope that all who read this have a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of the One who loves us very much! Grace and Peace...