A good friend of mine, Bryan Fillette, came in from Houston to experience part of this Lenten journey with me for a few days. Bryan is a smart man. (Not for living with me on the streets…but what he has accomplished before today.) Bryan graduated with a 4.0 from LSU, attended Baylor Medical School for one year, then transferred to Duke University to attain a Divinity degree (that’s where I met him and we became roommates), and then he went back to Baylor Medical School to complete his M.D. in Psychiatry. He is now both a Reverend and a Medical Doctor…and he allowed himself to experiece life at the “lowest level.”
Bryan attends a church near the Houston Medical Center where he leads Sunday School and leads the efforts to provide assistance to the homeless near his church. He calls it “Common Ground.” I like that name.
When Bryan arrived at the outdoor shelter it was time for dinner. Usually dinner is simple and you can only get one plate from the churches that provide the meals. However this night was different. Last night, River City Community Church (their website is www.reallife.org … I also like that name!) served us the dinner…and it was amazing. First off, it was the first time in 8 days that I was greeted by the church volunteers in line before we were served and they asked me “What’s your name?” before we were seated. Let me type it again.
They asked me, “What’s your name?”
They cared enough to know my name…some random homeless person needing a place to eat. They cared about the downtrodden, the addicts, the hookers, and the lonely. For a moment, they look past the shaggy hair, torn clothes, and smelly bodies…and they see Jesus Christ.
They didn’t have to ask. All the churches before didn’t find it neccessary to ask that question. I bet they are all great churches…but River City Community Church got it right. They saw the image of God in every single one of us. The humanized homelessness.
It was the first time we also were allowed to have 2nd, 3rds, or even 4ths. They brought that much food! And did not hold back. They had ground beef, white rice, beans, pickles, jalepenos, bread, milk, tea, cheese, and juice. It was a banquet. It was a great banquet.
Last night the dining room had a different feel than the nights before. The residents were laughing, hugging, sharing food, and praying for one another. This might happen quite often here…but it was the first time I experienced that type of spirit in the outdoor shelter.
Maybe it was luck.
Maybe it was the weather.
Maybe is was the 2nds.
Or maybe it was the love River City Church had for everyone regardless of social status…how they dropped their fear of the homeless and saw in us the Image of God.
Maybe it was because they asked, “What’s your name?”