Let me begin with an exclamation of WOW. As many of you know, and as I mentioned last Friday, and a few times before then, our Sunday School class did a service project, which we called the Nativity Project, at a local homeless shelter over the weekend. The project was phenomenal; that second sentence was not.
For many months we have been collecting lightly used clothes, toys, books, movies, purses, shoes, and other things. We stockpiled our stuff into bags and boxes and then a week ago we went through and categorized it. There were many, many items to sort through and organize, and it took the ~15 people about three hours to go through it all. We managed to group like clothes together (mens, womens, teen girls, young boys, young girls, baby) and the toys were just put together as good as possible. We stuffed everything in a trailer and waited for the project.
Keisha and I got to the shelter around 6:00am so we could help unload the trailer and be ready to start the project by 9:00am. It was cold and breezy, but it didn’t get any of our spirits down. In fact, I’d say we were rather warm and willing. We all cleared out the trailer pretty quickly and then began unpacking all of the bags and toys. We had to put the stuff around the walls on tables, as we were serving in the cafeteria of the shelter and could not put stuff on the eating tables. Once everything was unpacked there seemed to be a lot of stuff, but I didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know how many people to expect.
One of the goals for this project was not just to give stuff away to homeless people. No, we were not exclusive, and in fact I’d say a decent percentage of the turnout was not homeless. Anyone that was in need of anything could come and take. We helped parents that were struggling to provide toys for their children by giving them toys. We offered gift wrapping so the kids would be able to open a gift. We had some folks ask for gloves, we didn’t have any, but we drove down to the store and bought some and returned and gave them away. Truly our class was there to serve.
I sat down with a man named Jerry before the project started. Jerry was an older man with long, bushy sideburns and a quick tongue. He was wearing a thin jacket. I found out that Jerry rode the bus to the shelter to get breakfast and lunch and then he would be leaving. I asked if there was anything I could help him look for, but he said he did not want to face the “madhouse” and that he’d just keep his coat. He said we probably didn’t have a jacket to fit him anyway. I told Jerry that I was about as big and tall as he was and that I’d look to find him a warm jacket when the project started. He said okay, but as time grew closer he decided he didn’t want me to do it. I told him it was no problem and at 9:00 I went over to the coats, found a very nice and warm American Eagle pea coat, and returned and gave it to him. I got a simple “thank you” and I knew he was pleased. I asked if there was anything else I could look for for him, but he said no, that he had plenty of clothes. We talked a bit more, and a few other folks sat around us and we all talked a bit. Eventually I found out that Jerry liked NASCAR and word searches and I left the table to go help other people.
We spent most of our time helping people look for certain sizes or items, talking with the searchers and getting to know them a bit. At one point I spotted an XL NASCAR shirt, walked over to Jerry and told him I thought he’d like it and he took it willingly. I went back and helped the people I was helping. We had a steady flow of people from 9:00 until around noon and then we condensed what was left and left it all at the shelter. Hopefully others will take advantage of what’s left, which wasn’t a lot but still quite a bit, and get some stuff for themselves.
In the end I believe our class was blown away by the project. I know I was. Seeing the joy on the kids faces, watching their eyes light up seeing tables and tables of toys, was a blessing. Helping a mother look for work clothes—and actually finding them—was a source of joy for both of us. Truly God provided for everyone seeking. It was like the fish and the loaves of bread Jesus used to feed a multitude of people. We wound up serving around 200-300 people (maybe more, I can’t remember), but many of these folks got stuff for their family members, too, bringing our output to around 700-800. And everyone (to my knowledge) left satisfied and happy.
Our pastor asked the congregation a few months ago that if Macedonia Baptist Church ceased to exist would we be missed in the community? Would people even know we were gone? He then challenged us to make a difference in our community, to not be complacent with doing little to nothing for God but to get out there and serve Him by serving and helping others. I think the Nativity Project served our community. God blessed me by knowing I was helping others. God blessed others by getting them things they desired. As always, God blesses and provides, and I pray that He blesses you, too, this Christmas season.
(A quick and unrelated note on Brandon Sanderson. I found this auction on eBay and thought I’d share it. It’s a Advance Proof 1st Print copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire. The going price is pretty low right now, but I can’t bid any more with Christmas fast approaching. However, you should act quickly, as the auction ends at 09:30:21am PST today. Good luck if you bid.)