A Hand Out or a Hand Up

26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:26-27 (NLT)

When we started out with Jesus Was Homeless we really wanted to end hunger and homelessness in our community.  I really wanted to do that and thought it was possible but now I wonder if that is really what God called us to do or was it just something we wanted to do to make us feel good about serving with an end result?  I’ve been told at times that we need to, “make sure you are a hand up and not just a hand out” or “you need to empower people not just provide free stuff”.  I get that we want to help people improve their lives but is it really an improvement just by moving a homeless person from outside to inside?  If we take a poor man and educate him to become rich are we successful in providing a hand up if he made the journey without God?  I must admit that I’ve wrestled with this the past year but what always leads me back to the answer about what our mission should be is the TWO greatest commandments, to love GOD and love PEOPLE.  At first I thought all we were providing was a “hand out” with a free bag of food but what I’ve come to believe is that we are providing a HUGE “hand up”.  It’s a spiritual “hand up”, both for the people that we serve and the volunteers serving.  Does it solve their hunger issue with only 1 bag of food a week?  Maybe for a moment but ultimately they will be hungry tomorrow.  What I have seen it do though is offer hope, love, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, compassion, and kindness.  Just last week there were about 40 volunteers wrapping up for the night when we had a little old lady, Jean, in a motorized wheelchair come up to us and thank us for coming each week.  Not for the food but for the visit.  She doesn’t get out much and she told everyone how much she appreciated people stopping by on Thursday.  I found out today that two of the high school teenage volunteers stopped by on Saturday, brought her some cookies and took Jean to the park just to hang out with her.  I would say that’s a “hand up” for everyone involved.

How about this story.  A bus load of people that live at the motels came to get a $25 Slusher Foundation voucher at Church Army on Thursday but they also wanted to help make the meals that they have been receiving.  When the vouchers were gone before everyone could get one due to the overwhelming need this year they kept a positive attitude and started making meals and toiletry bags.  Here is what Dawn’s email to Amy said about the experience:

Thank you so much for letting us help. Please send pics so I can show everyone. I am so proud of everyone for stepping up and helping. Despite the whole Country Mart thing I saw a difference in spirits which was still showing this evening when we picked them up. Quite a few asked if we were going to do this every week or not. I told them we would see where God directs us. Oh how I feel so much pride in them. I saw a huge sign of God today and my visions were made a whole lot clearer.

Love you,
–Dawn Marie

The list just goes on and on.  Our friend Mark that has cancer was in need of a wheel chair so that he could get outside of his motel room for some fresh air.  Before I could send an email request, one was donated. He was so grateful.  Again, how can that be a “hand out” when his spirit was lifted up?  I think there are some wonderful social services agencies out there that do a tremendous amount of “handing up & handing out”.  We just don’t want to get so focused on the task that we miss the greatest opportunity for the “hand up”.  By just providing love and relationship with the individuals that we want to help could be the greatest gift of all.  So when asked this year if we are a “hand out or a hand up” my answer will be both.  We will give them a “hand out” of a bag of food and “hand up” to God.

*VOLUNTEER AND FELLOWSHIP NIGHT*
All volunteers, donors, givers and anyone that wants to learn more about Jesus Was Homeless, we will be having a “Connect with Us” night at Golden Corral on March 5th at 6:00 pm until whenever you leave. Golden Corral has given us a special rate of only $9.00 per person including buffet, drink and tip. Just let them know you are with us. Come hang out, get to know your fellow volunteers, fellowship, and learn more about our dreams for 2010!

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