Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Under the Billboard ... Hope to the World

I asked my friend Carol to share about our visit to a shelter to deliver Scarves for Knoxville from our Women's Ministry. It is a beautiful and challenging testimony of bringing of hope to the world ... not just via a manger, but via people like me and you. In Carol's words ...

If you are driving west on I-40 through downtown Knoxville, you will see a huge, well-lighted billboard advertising a famous brand of whiskey. It caught my attention last night as I stood outside in a nearly-empty parking lot. But what was directly under the billboard also had my attention, and in truth, has thoroughly captured my heart. For underneath the festively decorated billboard with the picture of the large whiskey bottle, stands the Knox Area Rescue Mission. I, along with four other ladies from our church, had just stepped out of the mission into the cold night, to get into our warm cars, drive home to our warm, comfortable homes, and get into our soft, cushy beds. But the homeless women we left at the mission were sleeping on borrowed beds made with borrowed sheets, and after a shower, dried off with borrowed towels. What little they owned was stuffed into a backpack or grocery sack.

My friends and I were at the mission to deliver Christmas presents to the women—beautiful, warm scarves that the ladies from our church had been donating over the past several weeks. As I handed out the wrapped gifts to each woman, and said, “Merry Christmas,” the responses were all different. Some smiled and returned the greeting as they eagerly tore into the wrapping. Others sat quietly and held their gift, unopened. One woman was almost as excited about the shiny, metallic paper as she was the gift. She folded it very carefully, and put it in her bag. Some were chatty and wanted to talk. A few of them did not speak at all, but pulled a blanket over their head and tried to go to sleep. I noticed a few sitting in their bunks reading a Bible. Two that received scarves were a mother and her high school daughter. How sad to be a teenager and be living in a mission for the homeless.

But as I left, one thought hit me hard…were people out there somewhere missing these women? Were there husbands, parents, or children that were missing their wives, their daughters, or their moms?

If I had not made it home that night, my hubby would have been driving all over town looking for me. He would be very worried if I did not show up when he was expecting me. He would be making phone calls, asking about me. And he would not quit looking till he found me. But was anyone looking for the lady who was now the proud owner of some shiny wrapping paper and a colorful scarf?

And what are their stories? There were 44 women in that one room, and that means there were 44 stories. I wish we could have heard them all. We know what some of them were—a college-aged gal two years off drugs, with a body scarred by abuse from a boyfriend. Another grew up in an abusive home, and is now disconnected from all her family. Still another woman was there with her autistic daughter, a teenager who dreams of getting an education to work with computers.

But that night, they all had one thing in common—when they had no place else to go, there was KARM—the Knox Area Rescue Mission, waiting to provide a hot meal, a hot shower, and a safe place to sleep. KARM’s mission is to meet the needs of the homeless and poverty-stricken people of Knoxville, and no one is turned away. Hopelessness is replaced by optimism, confidence and opportunity. Lives that formerly had no defined purpose or direction are now being transformed as the folks at KARM extend the hands and the heart of Jesus Christ to all who came through their doors.

In Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol", Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. He explains to Scrooge that during his life all that mattered to him was money, and making more of it. Scrooge compliments him and tells Marley that he was always had a good head for business. But Marley shouts back at him, “Business! Mankind was my business!” Powerful four words…mankind is my business. Every day since 1960, needy mankind has been the business of KARM, and they have been faithful to that calling. But it is also my calling…the spiritual and physical needs of mankind is also MY business, and YOUR business. And not just at Christmas, but 365 days a year."

There is probably a different billboard and different shelter and different hurting woman in your hometown, but maybe in this new year we will have the joy of bringing hope to those who have yet to know that when Jesus took on the form of a baby man in a tiny Middle Eastern town, it was meant to change their life. I hope so...

3 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Anonymous said...

Very powerful - thank you for sharing and reinforcing our true mission as Christians in the world . . . and inevitably the whole reason Jesus came. MERRY CHRISTMAS and may the Lord bless you. Jenny C.

Ann said...

Amen! I so agree that we all need to work a little more to reach out to others though out the entire year, not just at Christmas. Thank God for coupons, I am able to help so many people. I was able to donate 8 bags of food and other items yesterday and this Christmas I was able to help feed 3 families in need. I thank God everyday for the blessings he has given us but most of all I thank Him for the way I am able to help bless others!

Julie@comehaveapeace said...

Jenny - so true about our true mission and why Jesus came. Ann what you shared is a great example of "compassion in action," using our homes and abilities as women to have the freedom to share with others. That's awesome!