Feeding Addicts Produces Breakthrough
With my wife managing our church’s food pantry and both of us serving twice a month at a dinner for the homeless, we have considerable experience working with the down-and-out.
Repeated exposure to those who are “milking the system,” traveling about in search of handouts, or showing up at various occasions besotted or high on some strange substance, can easily harden your outlook. Our pastor used to comment on the people who showed up at our church, asking for “gas money to get back to my family” a week or two after using a similar plea.
That’s why I was so encouraged by a recent story shared by a member of my men’s group, which meets at a different church than the one we attend.
Feeding the Homeless
Years ago, this particular church started a Thursday evening meal and worship service called “Common Grounds.” Like so many downtown churches across the nation, it has seen its congregation aging and dwindling, with fewer young adults coming up to replace them.
The idea behind the alternative service was to offer something that would prove more attractive to Marshall University students and other young adults, and hopefully persuade them to join the church.
Few students came. Instead, alerted to a free dinner, a host of street people responded. Naturally, many faded into the woodwork, but as time went on and volunteers formed relationships with guests, a number of stories of helping and breakthrough surfaced.
One of the most encouraging took place a few months ago. A member of the church went to get a flu shot, but when the nurse administered it, the needle went a little too close to the bone.
When the member commented on the pain she felt, it touched off a conversation with the nurse. Turns out the nurse was a former drug addict.
After years of living hand to mouth, she got tired of that existence and decided to seek help. Not only did she and her husband get their lives straightened out, she enrolled in school and is now living a productive life.
The nurse commented that although they had been through a lot of hard times because of their drug use, the one thing she and her husband always knew they could count on was getting a decent meal and welcome hospitality at Common Grounds.
When a member of the men’s group shared this story recently, it prompted another to comment on how he thought the weekly meal had helped draw the community together. Not only is the church extending help to people who desperately need it, other churches are now pitching in to help serve on a monthly (or more often) basis. Others want to take action in their own neighborhoods.
Granted, there are times when helping can hurt more than it helps. Enabling people to continue a dependent lifestyle isn’t doing them or the helpers much good, but beneath the repeated failures are stories of breakthrough and progress.
There’s at least one nurse in our city who can attest to the positive outcome from feeding street people.