On Tuesday, November 5, the second Serving & Outreach Equipping Series event, “Understanding Our Homeless Neighbors,” featured a panel of leaders connected to ministry to homeless people in our city. Through shared testimonies, hard questions, and honest answers, we all learned much more about what it is like to be homeless and how to help those we encounter who are currently enduring this struggle.
The video and audio of “Understanding Our Homeless Neighbors,” as well as a handout of information, can be found at cumcmemphis.org/equipping.
Sarah Griffin, a CUMC member who attends the Cornerstone Sunday school class, came out for the discussion.
She is already committed to helping those who are homeless, having over the past year served with two of the ministries highlighted during the event—Jacob’s Well and Team Laeth. She says she didn’t plan on sticking with homeless ministry long-term; she was just going to help at Jacob’s Well with her Sunday school class, but she has become so involved that she is now friends with many of the people that she serves.
Just the day before my conversation with her, she had gone to hand out coats, blankets, and socks. She even knows many of the people’s sizes so she can plan accordingly. She’s always telling her friends, “Don’t throw those clothes away—I’ll give them to someone.”
Sarah’s mother was also at the Equipping Series event and has accompanied Sarah for the past three months on her visits. She mentioned to me that night with a slight smile, “Our carport is a perpetual clothes closet.”
On Thursday nights, Sarah fills baskets with cookies, graham crackers, and peanut butter and hands them out. She says the people she serves are so grateful, and that she never has never had a bad experience. In fact, she has been delighted at their graciousness and courtesy.
“When we go downtown to serve dinner at Team Laeth,” she said, “The people we’re going to serve help my mother out of the car, and watch after her. They take care of us as we help them. They unload the tables, they set up, they pick up every piece of trash and leave the parking lot cleaner than when we got there.”
She describes one time when they went downtown to serve dinner and they left their emergency lights on so long that both of their cars were dead. Five of the people who came to receive dinner helped them, looking after them as it got dark until the situation was resolved. “They never left until we were in the car, driving off.”
Beside the clothes and food which she gives out on her own time, and handing out food with Team Laeth and Jacob’s Well, helping organize the clothes closet at Jacob’s Well, Sarah even takes clothes once a week to our partner ministry the A Way Out program.
Sarah’s advice for those who hesitate to get involved with helping people who are homeless: “They’re human just like everyone else.”
And when I asked her for her thoughts about “Understanding Our Homeless Neighbors,” she said, “I hope you do this again. We said enough and we said the right things, but the most important thing: Learn as you go.”
You can visit Jacob’s Well’s website here.
If you are interested in being a part of how Christ Church is currently exploring how to better help the homeless in Memphis, contact Nathan Brasfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 261-4386.