This month (December 2016) we celebrate the third birthday of SafeHouse. For those who may not know, SafeHouse is a community outreach to the poor and homeless who “live” in the city of Lafayette. Over the past three years SafeHouse has provided over 10,000 hot meals at our SafeHouse campus on St. Antoine (where our average attendance is about 150) and with our hot dog cart at a downtown park (we serve 50-100 people) that is considered “home” by many. The dedication of all our SafeHouse volunteers has made it all possible.
SafeHouse is also the umbrella that covers our Celebrate Recovery program and Jail Ministry. Every week, our volunteers are privileged to meet with almost 200 or so people who have made bad choices and are now paying the price for them. Then there are those who are in Sheriff’s Rehab who are trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. We feed them hot meals, have meaningful conversations with them, hug them, and let them know they are loved unconditionally.
Someone approached me not long ago and said, “You know that most of these people you are giving this food and stuff to, are taking you for a ride.” I replied, “I know that some might be doing that but the majority are wonderful people who are grateful for our kindness.” I went on to say, “We understood the risk when we started this outreach and we decided it was one we were willing to take.”
It has been a few months since that conversation. Today at our Landmark 10 AM Sunday service, I watched as people responded to the preaching by streaming to the altar. Over 75 hurting, broken people had heard a message of hope and deliverance and now they stood there, hands raised, hearts open, with tears flowing down their faces. Standing with them were others who had come through SafeHouse, CR, and rehab who’s lives had been impacted by the beautiful people of Landmark and changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart did a double back flip as I witnessed this incredible ministry moment.
It was in that moment that it hit me. SafeHouse is not about the hot meals or the coats or the mosquito dope or the shoes or the toiletries or the articles of clothing we give away. It’s not about the hours spent loading and unloading our SafeHouse trailer. It’s not about the money spent on equipment, food, and fuel. SafeHouse is about building relationships…even with the ones who are “taking us for a ride.” When I saw that, all of a sudden nothing else mattered. So what if they are taking advantage of our kindness. It just might be that that little “sacrifice” of selflessness will give them a glimpse of Jesus. If it takes them “taking me for a ride” for me to show them where hope is, then so be it.
Another person said of our SafeHouse ministry, “Y’all are just dumpster diving, looking for half eaten hamburgers.” I pity the person who said that. They will never know the pure joy of seeing what God does at the bottom of the pile. Here’s the deal…the way we see people, in their poverty, addiction and need, is what Jesus sees when He looks at us. “All of us are just,” as T.D. Jakes said, “beggars showing other beggars where the bread is.”
As I looked at the scene around the altar I thought, “What an incredible honor it is to serve them, to serve with them, to love them, to call them my family. They are no longer “those people,” they are my people, and I love them so much. They are not encumbered with the usual trappings of religiosity. They’re just desperately messy people who have found hope at the foot of His cross. Yes, some of them have lied to me. Some have taken my kindness for granted. Still others have abused my generosity and most of them have relapsed so many times I’ve lost count. Yep, they are a mess but they are my mess and I will defend them, fight for them and stand beside them. And, I will celebrate with them when they win.
Matthew 25:35-40 NLT
35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’