Green grass and colorful flowers are right now only a promise hidden beneath the stark coldness of winter. We make due, persevere and even learn to enjoy these frigid months, knowing that in days to come we will again feel the sun's warmth and marvel at the beauty of the earth in bloom. But for some the chill never vanishes and the dawn seems far from coming. Their storms lie in their souls, their lives resembles a barren and hopeless landscape. Each year thousands of men, women and children find themselves residing at a local rescue mission; their purpose in life marred, their hopes dashed, their possibilities limited. Yes, these people need money, they need jobs, and they need a home. But by and large they need grace … the grace that feeds the famishing and heals the hurting, the grace that forgives the failure and clears the criminal, and the grace that lavishes love on the lonely.
This month call your local rescue mission or homeless shelter and ask if your small group could come prepare and serve a meal for the residents. Because many rescue missions and shelters are staffed by volunteers, your offer should be welcomed. Consider serving at the mission or shelter three to four times a year. Meet briefly at your host home afterwards to share your experiences. Pray for the people you served that night. Pray for an opportunity to invite a resident to join your small group. If it is possible for a resident to attend your weekly meetings you will need to obtain permission from the Mission director and you will need to provide transportation. For everyone's protection make sure that at least two of your members go together when transporting the resident.
Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-36, 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Stepping out of your familiar group setting into the presence of those who are suffering can be a holy experience for both you and your small group. Ponder these words of songwriter Chris Rice as you plan for this outreach activity, "How did I find myself in a better place? I can't look down on the frown on the other guy's face, 'cause when I stoop down low, look him square in the eye I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing with the face of Christ."