More from Jennifer Kirsch
Today’s devotion talks about the frustration of taking time out of a busy schedule to help others. Those on the flip side, however, face a greater challenge: needing help when no one can lend a hand. As coordinator of a ministry for the homeless, I’ve often found myself in that situation.
Through the Interfaith Hospitality Network, my church hosts homeless families two separate weeks each year, providing meals and beds while helping guests to secure permanent housing. Turning our church into a hotel — a herculean task that requires more than two hundred volunteers — leaves me gnawing on my nails: Will there be enough food, bedding, and towels? Who will volunteer to stay overnight at the church? Will someone keep an eye on the youngsters? Additional worries plague us as well: How do we welcome guests traumatized by their circumstances? Can we engage them in conversation while still respecting their privacy?
While preparing to host last spring, the solution came to me: turn everything over to God. After reading Bryan Brigham’s “Upper Room” devotion on April 6 http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2017-04-06 , when he stated, “My success or failure as a follower of God has little to do with my abilities and everything to do with my availability,” I realized that this ministry is God’s, not mine. It’s God’s to organize, to run, and to worry about. My part is simply to make myself ready and willing — leaving the able part up to God. (See 1 Peter 4:11: “If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides.”)
I began to pray Samuel’s prayer daily: “I’m listening, God. Show me what to do.” Mini-miracles followed. First, God gave me—a reluctant public speaker—the courage to stand up during worship and talk about the ministry. As a result, we recruited several new volunteers. Next, we connected with other local congregations, forming new partnerships to augment our volunteer force. Then we planned an information session to get additional groups involved. Finally, when our guests arrived, time passed quickly. The parents exchanged cooking tips over dinner and in the background, a two-year-old laughed with pure joy as his mom rolled a ball to him.
Things didn’t always go smoothly, though. One evening the mothers sat together playing cards past bedtime. Hating confrontation, I let them stay up and continue bonding. When the children got cranky, however, and the evening volunteers needed to leave, I began to wring my hands. But then somehow God gave me—an admitted pushover—the resolve needed to break up the card game, announce, “Lights out,” and herd everyone to their rooms. Another day that week, a family that had just exited the program called, asking us to pack up belongings they’d left behind. A friend and I entered their room only to find the floor and unmade beds littered with half-eaten food, soiled laundry, loose change, crumpled homework sheets, and messy garbage. But our disbelief turned to laughter as we cleaned it all up. And we still exchange smiles over the ordeal.
I don’t expect to always see such immediate responses to prayer. God blessed us with grace, strength, and humor that week, but who knows? In the future God might have bigger plans for the ministry that don’t involve me or my church. As long as I keep lifting matters up to him, though, and remain open to serving, we’ll make it through. I definitely hope we’ll see more laughing toddlers than trashed rooms, but either way, it’s God’s ministry.