Measuring Success

Over the past 9 years, I've gotten to be involved in a weekly meal for the homeless and low income people of our community. It's been a wonderful experience! We begin with a short devotional shared from scripture, we sing a hymn, and then we share prayer requests and pray for each other. There is a clothing cart where they can get clothes. There is a resource table where they can get information about employment, a place to stay, rehabilitation, other food resources, etc.And then we share a meal together. We have a great team of cooks and servers who take turns lovingly preparing and dishing out a great meal. Seated at each table in our Friendship Center are people who are homeless, people who are barely hanging onto their apartment/trailer/house, as well as, Bethany members. They eat and engage in conversation together. Over the past 9 years, significant relationships have been formed around these meals. We have formed community through these meals. It's really something to see!Recently, a friend asked if I felt like our meals were being successful. I had to think for a second and then I answered, "It depends on what I am looking at." If I am looking at people who have significantly turned their lives around, then it is easy to get frustrated. Sure, we've been able to celebrate a few who have gotten jobs, some who have chosen to enter into rehab, even several who have gotten apartments to live in. Those times of celebration have been sweet, especially because of the hope that it gives to the others in our community. But because it is so difficult for people in these conditions to turn things around, especially when there is addiction involved, the percentage of those making significant change has been small. But if I look at the relationships that have been formed, I say, "Yes! We have had success!" I think of people who come timidly at first. People who would barely make eye contact. People who anticipated being treated like an object of charity...someone who needs to be fixed...someone who is not worthy of friendship. I have seen them blossom and grow in confidence. Some even take on "leadership roles" within the community.It's happened because some special Bethany Church members have decided to invest in the lives of people that others have chosen to look at as throw-away people. They have chosen to value them as people worthy of respect.The ultimate sign of success? Over the years, a few of the long-term members of this community that we've formed have become members of the Bethany congregation. They didn't stop attending our weekly meal because they are now in the position where they are giving back and investing in others' lives. But they've chosen to also become a part of the Bethany community because they have felt loved and learned first hand what being loved by God feels like.And to that, we shout "Yahoo!"  - Pastor Lon Wagner

Last modified on Thursday, 14 April 2016 00:32
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