It’s one thing to be grateful for how God has brought you out of a bad situation and into a better situation.
It’s another thing to go back to where you came from and give back to those who need what God has done for you.
For the last ten years there has been a coalition of eight inter-faith churches in the San Gabriel Valley who have found a way to get past doctrinal differences to work together to provide a winter shelter for those experiencing homelessness.
For eight weeks these eight churches all take turns hosting 150-200 people experiencing homelessness in their neighborhoods for one week at a time. Then volunteers from all eight churches serve meals and provide clothes and conversation.
On the last night of the winter shelter I showed up with a couple of our graduates to inform and invite the guests to come to the mission to get longer term help to find employment and permanent shelter.
Last Friday night I took Charles and James with me. Both of these men spent time on the street. When I asked Charles about how he got to the mission he told me that he was homeless in the San Gabriel valley sleeping in parks and attended this very winter shelter for three years.
The first two years he heard the pitch to go to the mission but did not take the opportunity. Finally the third year he did. Now, five years later he is going back to tell his story in hopes that it will inspire hope and encourage others to take that step as well.
Charles was telling me how he was looking forward to coming and had planned out what he wanted to say. He said back in the day when he was living on the street he was ashamed and couldn’t look people in the eye or make conversation.
Charles said, “Back then I couldn’t stand up and talk to two people in a room. Tonight I’m going to stand up and tell my story in front of 150+ people and I’m glad to do it. God has restored my respect for myself.”
Both Charles and James did a fantastic job sharing briefly but specifically how they were once in those same seats. They said they were not excited about going to skid row. They knew if was a very tough neighborhood that more than lived up to its reputation. But when they heard someone say it’s a tough neighborhood but at the mission God changed my life it resonated with what they wanted deep inside.
On the way home they thanked me for inviting them to join me. They felt it a service to God to go back and give back. They were not ashamed of where they came from because it displayed the glory of God for where they are now.
The next morning 12 men and 4 women got on the vans to come down to skid row and check into the rescue mission seeking help, hope, and some a new direction in life. All I did was share the information about what services the mission offered but it was Charles and James whom God used to generate the energy for those 16 to get on a van that would lead them to a very dark place where a bright light of the gospel awaits them.
Please pray for these 16 souls to stick it out and seek God out... Pray for the other 150 who went back on the streets of San Gabriel Valley who aren’t yet ready to give up the lifestyle… and thank God for Charles and James who gave back by going back to the place where God first drew them to himself.
– Pastor Dan
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