I heard about First Step Ministries about a year ago and went to the preliminary meeting to learn how I might get involved. About a dozen people were there for the first meeting at the Dive Center. God had put it in the hearts of two young men of our city to begin a ministry to the homeless. They had secured permission to use the local park facilities every other weekend to serve a meal and have fellowship with those who live at the shelter. I have observed the faithfulness of these two men and their hearts of compassion for those less fortunate. They are living the biblical mandate to feed, clothe and care for the poor. Today was a testimony of how their vision is coming to pass and how much it is growing.
From the very beginning, I understood this to be a ministry that would be carried out by the body of Christ. There would be no denominational ties and anyone from any church or the community was welcome to help. There was a beauty in this I never fully realized until today. A local Baptist church was serving a veritable Christmas feast but I feel sure there were others besides myself who were included in the serving and ministering to those who turned out. In fact, I learned that several businesses are getting involved by supplying warmers for the food and also planning to provide meals a couple of Saturdays a month. I believe this is exactly how God wants to work through His church to bring His love to those who don't know Him. It was the most heart warming thing I imagine I will see this Christmas.
As a host of volunteers arrived toting Walmart bags filled to the brim and men began carting in a load of 30 or 40 boxes (estimate), the snow began to fall. Large flakes began to come down and everything began to be covered with snow. The temperature began to drop and steam was rising from the food that had been prepared. It was difficult to think that some of the folks we were serving would not have a home to return to where they would be warm. Some arrived on bicycles and needed a ride to the place where they would stay inside a tent for the night. However, after talking to one woman who came to get a hot meal and a pair of gloves, I'm happy to report she was able to choose from boxes of hats, scarves, coats, sweatshirts, gloves and toiletries.
Joey, one of the founders of the ministry, stood on one of the tables and shared a brief message of how we have all failed and come short of what God has for us. He reminded us all that we are like clay in God's hands and He wants to mold us and make us into the person He can use. He also reminded us that God can make us white as snow, using the circumstances surrounding the event to speak into the lives of these men,women and children. Everyone including volunteers were invited to accept the love of God and His son into their lives. It was beautiful to see how this ministry has gone from simply feeding bodies to feeding souls in the space of one year.
Santa was there sharing treats from his bag to children and adults while snow was falling all around the shelter. The scenery became that of a typical Christmas card. I saw children and adults catching snowflakes on their tongues while volunteers scrambled through boxes to find just the right size for someone looking for a warm jacket or pair of pants. One of the homeless men broke into a few lines of "jingle bells" and others sipped hot coffee or cocoa. The shelter was completely filled with people, making it difficult to know who came to serve from those who came to be served. It was only evident when you heard someone say,"Can I get you some coffee or what size do you wear?" But at the end of our time together, there were those who were not fortunate enough to climb into their own cars and drive to their own homes. My heart has such bittersweet emotions when I participate with First Step Ministries but I am so happy to be a part of it all.
As I was about to leave, I saw something that was so personal and heartwarming I decided not to take a picture. Joey, standing face to face, hands on the shoulders of one of the homeless men, was praying. Who can know what things were done in the hearts of men,women and children today because two young men listened to God and decided to follow Him and give of themselves and their time to touch those less fortunate? The spirit of Christmas was truly alive and well under a shelter in McGee Park today and perhaps someone's heart was washed as white as snow before they left there today.
|Jim and Joey... founders of First Step Ministries|