What's It Like To Serve the Poor?

...A Peek Inside “Community Outreach”

She hunches in front of the shelves, busily scanning clothing bins. Avoiding eye contact, she forgoes the handshake. I smile and hand her a shopping bag for her finds. She keeps hunching – lurking almost – searching through bins, not wanting to be seen.

“I don’t go to this church…” she offers, flipping open a lid.
“Neither do I” I shrug.
She sifts through clothes quickly, as though prepared to flee.
“Uh… I … we … haven’t really found a church yet…” she says to a box of shirts.

And I think I hear it. I’ve felt that same back-bending pressure; that claw-back giving.
Suspicion grows for good reason when surrounded by ‘nothing’s free’, and ‘I’ll give to you IF’, and all the conditional love that isn’t love at all.

She closes the lid and flips open another. I wrestle for something to say, finally blurting, “This has nothing to do with church.”

She lifts a shirt out of the box and inspects the logo. It must sound insane. We are, after all in a church building… But it makes perfect sense to me.

An outsider myself, I’m welcomed as a friend here at Community Outreach. No one has asked me, “So what church do you go to?” They don’t ask because it’s not important.

I watch her grin at a T-shirt she holds up. I desperately want to tell her that there’s no obligation here – to join this or any other church. It’s not a marketing scheme or some clever ruse. It’s about love, not requirements; giving, not gain. I want to shout, “We give as Jesus gave – with both hands open! Isn’t He great?!”

God promised to inhabit our bodies, not our buildings. We’re not a collection of clubs; we’re family. We are known by our love for each other. Lucky for all of us, that love spills outward into the world.  And it’s free!

“Your love for one another will prove to the world
that you are my disciples.”
John 13:35 (NLT)