Before working at The Refuge I thought I knew what it meant to “love one another”.  It only took two months into our first season to realize I didn’t understand love much at all.

Love, I quickly discovered, was not doing everything yourself for the person in an effort to “help”.  It wasn’t giving them everything they asked for. The first two years were rough for me as I tried to figure out what it looked like to love people. I still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding love.  I have learned that to love someone else you have to ask some hard questions. You have to ask yourself if whatever it is you’re going to give or do for them is really what’s best for them. You have to check your motivation. Are you doing it because you just want them to stop asking ? Are you afraid of what it will look like if you don’t help? When I started asking myself these questions I was startled to find how much I did for the wrong reason. It wasn’t out of love most times.

Since then as I’ve been studying, God has given me these glimpses of what love is. I highly recommend listening to Donald Miller’s talk called The Nature and Meaning of Love. It was really helpful to me.
I don’t have it figured out still, but I want to really love people.   So I keep asking myself the hard questions and keep praying for God’s guidance.


Is it enough?

23Dec08

I’m often conflicted during The Refuge season swinging back and forth between reflecting on the beautiful acts of God’s people and the frustration with the lack of involvment from the majority of the church. There’s more we can do, so much more.
The weather has been extremely cold and snowy, and because we are only an overnight shelter this presents a problem for guests. This is especially a problem for families with small children. Couldn’t the church with all her resources find a way to help? Then there’s the man who stumbled into the intake site cold, hungry, and suffering terrible from alcohol withdrawl. We ended up calling an ambulance for him. I’m going to visit him today. Just the evening before this incident a former guest called The Refuge’s phone line after hours. I answered because I recognized the number. This person has called before. He’s an alcoholic and he’s all alone. During this particular call, he slurred his way through a thank you for all The Refuge has done for him. I told him we’re praying for him and I invited him to come visit us. Why do I bring this up? They made their choices. We can’t make the right choices for them, right? I know this, but are we doing all we can to reach them? There’s plenty of weeknight programs being held at churches all across the county where these people can come and find love and help, right? Well then why aren’t they coming. Why would they? We all know that people are more likley to visit a place they’ve never been to if they know someone there. And how are they going to get to know anyone in the church if we are always in the church and not out there where the least of these are.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know the church is doing some beautiful things for God. The church is God’s chosen method for showing the world Jesus. And Jesus says that they will see Him when we show love to everyone. So, I’m just wondering if we are becoming complacent if we aren’nt maybe sidetracked. Let’s ask ourselves if we are doing enough , and let God lead us.


Update

17Dec08

We’ve had 8 guests so far this year. This is our 5th week of operation. These are typical numbers during the holidays. January through March will be our peak times. Our maximum capacity is 20 and we fully expect to meet that number during those months. Now is the time we concentrate on getting everything to run smoothly. It is a challenge with so many different volunteers involved. It’s great for practing dependence on God and patience!


Friday night I was helping out at our intake site. One of our guests came into the office area to tell me what was going on with him that day
He said he was going to go stay with a freind and that this was his last night with us. He was excited because he was hoping that now that he wasn’t a guest maybe now he could be a volunteer with us.
“I love this place. You guys are wonderful. I want to be a part of this.”
I love it when our guests have had their lives touched and then want to give back. We have five former guests who are now a part of helping to touch someone else’s life.


Mike’s Story

10Dec08

This story comes from a former guest last winter. He is now a regular volunteer with The Refuge. He attends one of our host churches and helps in many of their ministries. We are so proud of him and thank God for the priviledge of being his friends.  He writes:
I had $40.00, a truck, a job…and no place to live. It was December, it was cold, snow was falling and there was ice everywhere. I couldn’t sleep in my truck because it was too cold. So I went to the intake site at the Refuge Homeless Shelter in Lapeer County. I felt shame, down, depressed and was asking myself how and why I had ended up there. During the first couple of weeks, I hardly said anything to anyone. Then I got to relax and started thinking about what to do about my situation. They couldn’t shut me up! I really made people smile and laugh when they were down. I got an opportunity to get a place of my own, but that didn’t happen. I was depressed, upset, hurt and one person talked to me and gave me hope again. She also gave me the courage to keep pursuing my dreams.  The best part was that she showed up and asked me almost every day if I was okay. That showed me if she can take the time from her life to see if I was okay, then I could find the courage to keep trying. She actually made me comfortable and confident to put my feet back on solid ground. She made me think, “I can do it.” And I did! I saved enough money to find another place. I basically spent two months or more at The Refuge. I have recently purchased my own home, I still have my job, I go to church every Sunday and I am very active in the life of my church.

I want to thank everybody that volunteers at every church that hosts the Refuge.


Encouragement

07Dec08

From the bulletin to our volunteers:

I was recently asked in a church interview what motivated me to be a part of starting The Refuge. I mentioned the passage in Mathew 25 where Jesus tells His followers that whenever they care for someone who is forgotton and ignored that it’s Jesus — they are doing it for Jesus. I was thinking about that. I was thinking that these “homeless” we serve aren’t a problem to be solved.  They aren’t even homeless. That’s just the situation they are in. They are people. They are fellow men and women made by God, loved by Him, and according to that passage there’s more to them than meets the eye. I’m thinking that I need to remember this ’cause it’s easy to be distracted, isn’t it? We sometimes get high and lofty thoughts that we’re really doing something.  We run around “doing things for God”.  Good works are important, yes, but according to Paul no matter what we say, what we believe, or what we do, we are bankrupt without love. So, I’m glad God reminds me often that it’s all about Him–about loving Him and, from that starting point, He does the good works through me.


I frequently hear the comment that it would be great if we had our own building to house the homeless instead of rotating from church to church. I don’t agree. I wonder if that happened would we still have the help of the Church. You see when The Refuge was formed it’s sole purpose wasn’t to just provide shelter for the homeless. We feel very strongly that our purpose is three fold – provide the love of Jesus Christ, provide shelter, and keep the responsibility firmly in the hands of the Church where it belongs. Jesus speaks very plainly about His followers taking care of the poor and oppressed. Read Mathew 25. We need to be careful that we aren’t looking for ways to “help” that may just be passing the buck.




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