Monday, April 23, 2007

A Super Saturday

Head Chef Cedric Rowe of Woodward Park mans the grill. The burgers and hot dogs he cooked watered the mouths of all the servers and the folks in line.

Mandy and Lorry Boe get all the fixins' ready to serve. Tori worked in between them all morning long placing the cheese for the burgers on the plates.

A glimpse of some of the homeless from Fresno in line to receive their lunch.

Another view of the line working through. About 300 people were fed.

On Saturday morning, about 30 from the Woodward Park Church of Christ met in downtown Fresno to feed the homeless from tent city and those who live near the Rescue Mission and the Poverello House.

Mandy, the girls and I joined the group and it was a heart-warming experience. We were able to meet and interact with many different people who, for one reason or another, have been displaced. The faces you see in the pictures are those who have been pushed to the margins in our city, whether by luck, circumstance or poor choices.

Our purpose wasn't to judge their plight but to serve their needs. In the introduction of Jesus's ministry, he opened a scroll to Isaiah 61.1-2 and proclaimed, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."

For some, we were able to speak good news. We were able to witness to the difference Jesus can make. For others, it was simply the meeting of a basic need, nourishment, that provided their Saturday with a ray of good news.

I'm grateful to be in Fresno and grateful to be a part of a church with a heart for the less fortunate. In the past, speaking of the justice of God in benevolent acts was very theoretical.

In Fresno, it is very real.


As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, one of the discoveries I made was how depth relationally is built among brothers and sisters in Christ who share a common passion. Simple acts of compassion, when done in community with other brothers and sisters, not only helps the needy but strengthens the bonds of fellowship in a tangible way. Shared compassion has a way of developing relational depth and appreciation within the body of Christ that is unlike many other fellowship avenues.

To learn that lesson first-hand and to know that my daughters learned from the experience as well is something I cherish.

As I shared with the church on Sunday, my heart is convicted by the need to take the church to those in need of hope. When I was in Lubbock in January, I was touched by the efforts of the Greenlawn Church of Christ. A Wednesday night Bible class had committed to move their Wednesday night class to a city park in the poorest section of Lubbock for the express purpose of being salt and light to the less fortunate. From that one endeavor begun last fall, several baptisms and untold contacts have been made. Kingdom seed has been sown and the kingdom has grown.

I'm thinking the area around Ventura and G Street in downtown Fresno is ripe for the same type of ministry...the same type of outreach.

For those of you from Woodward Park, plans are already underway to go downtown again in May and duplicate our effort to be salt and light by spending a Saturday feeding the homeless. Many of you responded to me privately of your desire to be a part of the next effort -- whether by your personal presence in service or by donating to offset the cost of the food. I do hope you will continue to pray for this ministry and plan to be a part of the next opportunity to serve.

It just might be the most valuable mission trip you ever experience!