Last August or September, our Church began a trek to Philadelphia in hopes of reaching people through bagged lunches. Our idea was simple: Make bagged lunches, carpool to the city, hand out lunches, talk to those who found themselves in homeless situations, build relationships, talk, listen, pray, and go home. It isn’t rocket science. Yet, through the grace of God, we had met so many people who were willing to sit and talk with us. They would share their stories – many of which I have posted in the past. It seemed as though, throughout this past year, we were called to be there. I am glad. It challenged me and stretched me to be open, vulnerable, and transparent. I am not very successful at doing any of these three much, so the challenge was worth it.
It wasn’t until a girl from our church shared about her trip overseas, I began to wonder if what we were doing really made a significant difference in the lives of these individuals. Since the excitement and the “spiritual high” wore off quickly, I found myself wondering if we had a purpose and a reason for being there. The other day, one of the pastors said, “What is a sandwich worth to a homeless person?” These are some of my thoughts concerning this question.
First and foremost, a sandwich is a sandwich. We make them all the time and put them in plastic Baggies to pack in brown-paper bags. Two pieces of bread are put together with peanut butter and jelly in between. That is what our sandwiches looked like. Not fancy – the simpler the better.
For others, and myself it was more than that though. It was a key. It was a key that opened doors for others to come and listen and love. It allowed us to reach out our hands and touch another person. It allowed us to receive a smile and a “God bless you” every once in a while. After several weeks of sandwiches, friendships were made and grown. More people came out and experienced something unique that was happening in Love Park. There was a buzz about this group that came down on Monday nights to hang out with homeless people. So many homeless people would ask us, “Why do you come here? You have a nice home with heat and a TV.” That’s exactly why we need to be here,” I told someone. I know I don’t thank God enough for all He has given me the luxury of having. I am as selfish and capitalistic as the next guy. Give me more or give me nothing – I am an “all or nothing” kind of guy. Hanging out with homeless people changes that though. Allowed to only have one “personal” bag with clothes and other items, capitalism, even at its best, isn’t working for them at all.
That when we come in. We can’t fix anyone. I am not a doctor. I don’t have a manual that fixes homeless people. I can love and pray for those who live on the streets. I can stop feeling sorry for them and attempt to do something – even if it is something small like making sandwiches.
It isn’t about the bread or the peanut butter or the jelly.
One thing I am glad we did not do is put some “spiritual” message on the water bottles or places a tract in their brown bags. I think we need to display our actions and love for God before we attempt to throw it down someone’s mouth. If we aren’t living it well, why on earth should we expect others to follow suit? That is ridiculous. Hopefully our lives are displaying the love of Christ and giving out a sandwich or two will open the doors we need open to display the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the flesh. That is what we are called to do anyway.
It might just be a sandwich but it might be something greater than that. It might actually be an open door to a relationship and a friendship with someone you have never met before. Perhaps it will provide a small meal for someone who needs it. Perhaps they will think about you and I as they eat it. I wonder what they would say. So, while the sandwich is not the most important aspect of the ministry, it is nonetheless significant. I have seen something as simple as a sandwich invite people to share their lives with me. That is awesome. I feel so grateful. God is so good.
My motto is: Make a sandwich – change a life. That actually doesn’t sound too bad.