What will you give?

Last Saturday my small group volunteered at a church that was serving lunch to minister to the homeless, and we had a number of conversations with people who live on the streets of Indianapolis.  One of those people was a man in a wheelchair–his clothes were old and torn, what was left of his hair was tangled, and he clearly hadn’t bathed in quite some time.  Here right in front of me was a homeless, retired soldier, a long way from home, without the means to take care of himself.  This broke my heart.  My mind was racing with all the possible reasons for this outcome in his life.  Was it something that he couldn’t help, like a mental disability?  A pattern of bad decisions that left him with no one who trusted him or wanted him?  Honestly, I don’t know.  After the lunch, there was a drawing for prizes, and he ended up winning a new backpack filled with snacks and a few cans of soda.  I was struck by the joy that such a simple gift brought to this man.  He was so overwhelmed, he was brought to tears.

I knew this backpack wasn’t going to truly fix his problem, nor was this lunch he had been served.  At the end of the day, he would still be homeless.  That night he would camp out again under an overpass or huddle near a fire to try to keep warm.  We weren’t really fixing the greater problem, we were just alleviating some of the pain in this person’s extremely difficult life.

Too often in response to some of the world’s greatest problems, like poverty, we feel the need is too great, so we do nothing.  I want to suggest the problem isn’t that we can’t change the way the world works, it’s that we use this as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the hurting around us.  It was Mother Theresa who said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  A seemingly small thing to us, like a backpack, can make a huge difference in the life of someone else.

Zechariah 7:10-11 says, “Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart. But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.”  God doesn’t call us to change the way the world works.  He does call us to do whatever good we can in it.  I do fully agree the only true win is heart transformation, but people don’t care how much you know until the know how much you care!

Take a moment and share your thoughts–a way you have ministered to someone, or an idea a family or small group could use.  

Remember Jesus states in Matthew 25:40 “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

16 thoughts on “What will you give?

  1. Something that my fiancé E.J. I have done and really love to do at Christmas is to purchase gifts for people in need on behalf of someone else as their Christmas gift. For example; organizations like world hope have gift catalogues for the Christmas season where you can buy things like goats, mosquito nets, or chickens for a family over seas or you can donate gifts for needy children through an organization like Samaritans purse. Spend the money that you would usually spend on your significant other and in your Christmas card to them, explain the amazing blessing that your gift will have on someone in need. We’ve found that giving in this ways has been much more rewarding than any giving or receiving of worldy gifts that we could ever have during the Christmas season.

  2. This reminds me that the true peace and happiness I now enjoy comes from serving and not trying to fill the emptiness with the “pleasures of the world”. This season I’m going to give McDonald gift certificates to the homeless.

    1. I live in Dallas and there are a few McDonalds in downtown. I don’t know why I never thought of this. I’m totally going to do this.

  3. On October 12, 2011, my wife and I took a family of three into our home who was without money, hope, and separated from God. The family consisted of a Father, Mother, and a young son, who had been homeless at different times in their lives. We purchased airfare tickets with our retirement income and relocated the family from the East Coast to Texas where we reside.

    We were enjoying life and living comfortably alone in our home, just after sending our last child of our 10 children to College. Shortly afterward, out of no where, the Holy Spirit pricked our hearts to do something for a needy family, for which we were obedient.

    In summary, the family is coming close to survive on their own accord. The Father has a job, the Mother is studying to take her final Cosmotology exam, and the young Son has adapted very well to his new environment. There is a saying give a man a fish and he will eat for one day, but teach a man how to fish he will eat for a lifetime. However, the greatest that has occured is the Father gave his life to Christ and was Baptized (Mother had already received Salvation and Baptized) and the entire family joined our Church.

    My wife and I are Grateful, Blessed, and thank God for giving us the Freedom to help someone in need.

    “Never letting the left hand know what the right hand is giving”

    were obedient

  4. I have been knitting hats for some time to give to the homeless this winter. Giving of my talents. I also always get involved in a blanket drive that a friend does. I donate and then use my networking skills to get clients and co-workers involved. I could do more and in the coming days I will be praying about this and thinking on it. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. I love this Mike, this year our family is going about purchasing gifts that make differences in other peoples lives…and I think if we as the church did what we were called to do, then we would not have the issues we have in our culture/world. It’s time we stand up and do something.

    Keep pluggin’ away!

  6. I was in a city far away from home and family at Christmas, and my husband was dying. Strangers provided funds so we could pay a small amount for a room. Others provided a warm cooked meal for those staying in this home. It was a Christmas marked without a tree or gifts. Yet we were surrounded with music, shelter, and good food that was provided by strangers who gave, just because. Those people gave without knowing who would receive their gifts. I am thankful they gave and each year since that time, we have given and passed on to others the blessing we received. It is a joy to be able to give.

  7. I went with Pastor Mike on Saturday and this service opened my eyes to a couple of things. We also handed out clothes after they ate the meal and one lady told me she would need a bigger size of pants because she was pregnant. Can you even imagine being pregnant and homeless? Oh my. A couple different people turned down the turtlenecks I was offering and one lady told me “Well, they may seem warm but when you are lying down in a tent they actually just choke you and it’s uncomfortable” These two things keep resonating in my head. So while I sometimes may complain a little if my husband has the heat a little too low in the house – there are people – pregnant and cold – living in tents 30 minutes from my cozy house (I live in Noblesville). We don’t have to go far to help those who really, really need it. Second, my daughter went with me and I talked with her about her observations afterward. She didn’t say that the homeless were dirty or their clothes didn’t match like I thought a 7 year old might say – but that they looked old and needed help. Her suggestion – let’s go down there again and help and PRAY.

  8. Howdy Mike! Several years ago, we decided to start giving above the tithe out of pure gratitude for all the Lord has done for us. We prayed the Lord would bring to us a charity or missionary He wants us to support. We started off at $100/mo. At the end of the year we discovered we didn’t really miss that money so we prayed for another we could add. Then added another following year. We’ve done that now for 7 years and continue in gratitude for the continued blessings. There is nothing but the Lord’s blessing keeping any of us from becoming like that soldier or any of the homeless people. So for as long as He provides I am going to gratefully give back. I might not ever see the impact of any of my investments in God’s Kingdom but Jesus said I should not store up here on earth anyway. I highly recommend people find a charity or missionary they can give to and serve throughout the entire year. It helps remind me 365 days of the incredible gift God gave us some 2000 years ago.

  9. About three years ago we wanted to do a service project with our children’s ministry midweek program. The CM team decided to pack shoe boxes for Samaritans Purse. We invited the entire church to participate through giving items, money and coming on packing night. It has been a great ministry for the young and old, working side by side. The first year one of our students received a letter from the person who received their box. What an impact it has made on this students life. It is an event that we all look forward to every year..

  10. Just this morning in our Men’s morning Bible study we read these words from James 4…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. … If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. Most of us are truly “rich” in this country, and who of us is guaranteed that we couldn’t “lose it all” and be on the streets. I used to be in a church where on the first Sunday of each month we brought canned goods or rice and dried beans for a local food pantry/ministry. That helped some, I am sure, but it was too easy! We then committed time and action to serve in this ministry to sort the food, distribute food and help in a “clothes closet” provided CLEAN clothes to replace what TIDE wouldn’t help.
    That is still only a small thing to do, but we need to make contact with people. As James said, “if anyone, then, knows the good they to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin”. Help and serve out of Love!

  11. So often we give money and gifts which is wonderful in itself, but I think we are called to LOVE as well. Mother Teresa also said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” I would challenge each of us to go further than handing out a few dollars or items of clothes or food and to actually share time with that person. Share yourself with those people. Just like you did, Mike, in your dinner with those people.

    In your blog you asked what could have brought him to this point? A mental disability? Or series of bad choices? It’s hard for us to imagine that sometimes, it is in God’s plan for us that we walk among the poor. You might not make a bad decision or have an illness, it could just be that this unfortunate and difficult road is the one God made you to live on during some season in life. As painful as that is to think, it is important to remember that we are all one chance, one unforseen moment away from being the “least of these”. For whatever reason God has blessed us immensely with material things and here we sit in front of our computers, sipping our coffee and reading blogs. It responsibility then to be faithful with those blessings and share and give to the least of these. And if I were (or if it is in God’s plan for me to ever be) in the position that man is in, I would want nothing more than to sit and share not only a meal with someone but to spend time with them and have a conversation and share my story as I hear there’s….I would want nothing more than for them to look at me not through eyes of fear or judgement, but with love and care. Let us build relationships with them, know them, and give our very selves, not just money.

  12. There is an organization here in Indianapolis that serves homeless families: Interfaith Hospitality Network. Three to four families are housed and fed by many churches throughout the Indianapolis area while they get back up on their feet. It takes commitment and organization by the host churches to provide food and shelter to these families. Many times it is the families that teach us more than we offer to them. Imagine being in a program where you move with your sack of belongings from one church to the next, celebrating a childs’birthday in this situation, celebrating Christmas, being pregnant, or trying to find a job. My opportunity to serve with Interfaith Hospitality Network has been an opportunity of grace and love.

  13. We went to Arizona for Thanksgiving and spent the morning at Cornerstone Wesleyan Church helping them serve their community Thanksgiving dinner. A gentleman came in named Mark. He was older and looked like he could be homeless. I brought him in and found a place for him to sit while they fixed his plate. I asked if he was from Apache Junction and he said no, he moved there three months ago from Oregon. He just couldn’t take one more winter there.
    My husband Mike had been on a men’s retreat in the town Mark was from, so I went and got him and told him that was a point of reference for a conversation. Mike talked to him a while about his service in the military (Mark was a vietnam vet) and how much they both hate winter.
    I asked Mark if there was anything he needed from the free thrift shop that CWC had set up for the event. He said he was told there would be shampoo and liquid soap. I went and found one of the hygiene packs that had been assembled by volunteers, but they contained soap, a washcloth, toothpaste, and a toothbrush – no shampoo. I found Daisy, the lady who organized the thrift shop (which also offered donated pants, shirts, socks, and shoes), and she went back and found the box of shampoo and brought Mark a bottle. I asked, “Is there anything else you need?” He said, “You don’t have any lightbulbs back there, do you?” Daisy said she had just changed to all energy efficient bulbs, and had a bag of lightbulbs at her house that she would love to bring to him. While she left to get the bag of lightbulbs, Mark shared with us that he only had one lightbulb in his place, and he only gets a social security check once a month. He had hoped that lightbulb would last until then. When Daisy returned with the lightbulbs, it was like Christmas on Thanksgiving. That’s all he wanted.
    Mark refused pie for dessert, telling us that all of the drugs he had done had given him bad teeth and he couldn’t eat sweets. But one day, “God knocked me down, literally, and I was on the floor and he spoke to me. He said I didn’t need drugs anymore. I never had a high like that on drugs. And I never touched them since. God healed me.”
    Mark had received the greatest gift, so our little bag of lightbulbs and bottle of shampoo sat on the table beside him, paled in comparison to his story.
    I thanked him for coming and Mike and I left to have Thanksgiving with our family in Phoenix. But that time spent with Mark left such an impression on me. We think, what can offer to the least of these, but we have no idea how much they have to offer us.

  14. Sometimes it is not just the homeless who are hurting. A couple of years ago our church gave each of us money in an envelope to give or use any way we wanted at Christmas time. The lady at the checkout counter in the grocery store commented on the fact that her children may not get Christmas this year because she had no money for gifts. The Lord impressed on us to give her the money for her Christmas. I have many other situations where people had needs and God impressed on my heart to give. In one situation, a family couldn’t pay their light bill, so I was able to pay it for them. If we are open to what God wants us to do, He will direct us to those who are in need and show us how we can help.

  15. Hi Mike,
    I do get overwhelmed at the huge picture. I’m a little quicker to pay for the person behind me at McDonalds or pick an angel to buy for at Christmas from the Angel Tree Ministry. But reaching out to the homeless seems so insurmountable! I’m going to be praying about this and asking for direction. Thanks for the thoughts!

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