“Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you.”    (Romans 15:7)

The other day, we had someone stop in at the church office who was visibly upset.  She was crying and told us that she had been sleeping in her car at a local rest area and keeping her belongings there.  When she was out, someone broke the window to her car, and stole practically everything she had.  She seemed at a loss, not knowing what to do next. 

After Wendy welcomed her, I invited her into my office, and we sat and talked.  It is not unusual to get requests at our office for assistance.  When we do, sometimes it can be difficult to know if people are being honest or trying to take advantage of our desire to be helpful.  At times, we refuse certain requests, because the story we’re being told doesn’t add up, or for other reasons.  We do try to do our best though, to take every request seriously.

As I sat, listened to this woman, and asked a few questions, I felt her story could be trusted.  She shared that she has a job but is having difficulty finding housing.  We talked about some first steps she would take to get things in order.  She explained she didn’t have a purse or her driver’s license, and only had the clothes on her back.  She did have a phone still and of course, her car.  We talked about her doing what she needed to protect herself from identity theft and then steps to replace her license.  I asked if it would be helpful if she were to pick out a few things from our Thrift Shop.  She was very appreciative.  So, I introduced her to a member of our congregation who was working in the shop at the time, and she and another volunteer helped this woman get a few things, including some toiletries.  After a while, the woman returned to my office.  She had a bag of a few blouses, a new purse, and some other items.  She was extremely grateful.

The thing that struck me, however, was not only how thankful she was, but how she also said, “The ladies were so nice.  They didn’t look down on me or make me feel bad.  They treated me with respect.”   It was clear how this woman was treated was just as important as the items the church had given her in that paper bag. 

Her words have stayed with me.  When any of us have been knocked down by life, sometimes we can feel unworthy, or not “as good” as others.  To make matters worse, sometimes people can knowingly, or unknowingly say and do things that reinforce these feelings.  I’m grateful that when someone comes to this church for help, they are treated with dignity and respect, as a beloved child of God, regardless of their current circumstances.  It is such an important witness to offer.  Even those who come asking for assistance and we feel we have to say “no,” we always try to do so honestly and respectfully. 

Many of us know about the great work the Thrift Shop and Barn do, to support the ministries and mission of our church.  Some of us are also aware of how people in the larger community shop here to help make ends meet.  The Shop and Barn offer a significant service to the larger community.  Others are aware of how it is much more environmentally friendly to shop at a Thrift Shop and Furniture Barn and how having these ministries encourages better stewardship of the earth.  What many might not know is how these ministries have also helped many others, who have come to us in times of crisis.  This woman’s story is not the only one about our Thrift Shop and Furniture Barn helping someone currently homeless or going through a difficult period.   I give God thanks for the ministries of the Thrift Shop and Furniture Barn, but also for the way members of the congregation welcome all who come.

Blessings,

Pastor John