On a beautiful mild autumn Sabbath afternoon, a multitude of volunteers from Metro ventured to Franklin Park to feed some of D.C.'s homeless. As Franklin Park has become a popular location for our homeless brothers and sisters to congregate, particularly on the weekends, the park has become the go-to site for church groups to feed and distribute clothes and personal care items. October 20th proved to be no exception.
When we arrived after service, we observed evidence of previous groups having already been there, but as Pastor Johns reminded us at the park, Jesus did not stop supplying needs. In the gospels, when crowds formed Jesus provided. Our homeless brethren actually did not seem to mind that yet another group was there to feed as they had formed a line before we even unloaded the tables from the car. Perhaps their hunger was more than physical.
While we were setting up and waiting on the food and remaining supplies to arrive, Minister of Music Theo Milford introduced the church group and then led everyone into a mini praise and worship, which included a song request from a fellow sister in Christ. As soon as the water and the rest of the provisions arrived, volunteers hustled and bustled to finish setting up the tables. Before we started serving, we (the Metro volunteers and the homeless) all held hands forming a circle to pray giving me an impression of "we" and being "one big family", not us vs. them.
We served approximately 170 people. There was a sense of gratitude and excitement among the homeless when they realized they were being given hot food - something different from sandwiches and soup. The line was not very long at first, but word soon got around that good food was being served. The menu consisted of macaroni and cheese, steamed vegetables, Caribbean flavored yellow rice, jerk chicken wings, dinner roll, and bottled water with ROOTED tags. We provided delivery service to some brethren hanging out in a smaller park nearby. Volunteers brought spiritual literature to share. Our children were particularly eager to assist providing food and water to those who did not want to leave their positions in the park. "I was so happy. I want to do it again," exclaimed 12-year old Peterson Francois. There were inquiries of when and if we were returning. All in all, we served, socialized, had misconceptions dispelled and learned.
We learned creativity in serving where we actually had to place a plate of food in a trash receptacle in order for one of the gentlemen, presumably with mental health issues, to accept food. He would not take food from anyone's hands. Some of us were reminded of how it is truly by the grace and mercy of God that we do not share the same circumstances. Ibrahim Sesay had a conversation with a gentleman who subsequently became homeless because of a crucial error made when he worked as an engineer. He was preoccupied with a family situation that resulted in the mistake that cost him his job. I was informed of some of the inhumane treatment the homeless sometimes receive and how we really ought to regard them as one of our own. Ms. Belinda shared with me that on occasion groups will give them spoiled food or drink which, of course, would make them sick. We also learned that sleeping on the street is sometimes a choice. Many of the homeless have to sleep on the street due to lack of shelter beds. Mr. Martin, however, chooses to sleep on the street on account of crime in the homeless shelters.
As grateful as our homeless friends were for the food, conversations, and being valued as human beings, they need more. They need opportunity and homes. "God didn't intend for His people to suffer like this...We need somewhere to go. I need a second chance at life," one of our guests told Theo. Mr. Martin commented, "I am a handy fellow. I can paint, clean, whatever. I just don't know how to get back on my feet." My question to all of us...What can we do more of as a church to help fellow sheep of His fold?
Thanks to all the volunteers who showed up and to all that helped in any way, shape or form! Most importantly, thank God for His guidance and favor!
[We are distressed to report that we experienced a glitch with the majority of our pictures from the feeding. We hope to have the problem fixed over this weekend (Nov 24-25) and will update the blog with the link once they are available to view. In the mean time - enjoy these below]