For the past year, I have been volunteering at the St. Stephen’s Film Club in Shepherd’s Bush. Each Thursday evening, with the help of Streetlytes, about 15 volunteers cook and serve a hot meal to homeless folks in the community and then, after dinner, we watch a movie together. Last week we served 48 meals to the guys (vast majority are men) and watched First Blood with Sylvester Stalone – not the greatest movie but entertaining.
This past Thursday I also witnessed two quick scuffles. No punches were thrown, but this was the first time that an incident resembling a fight had broken out during the times I have served there. The men were quickly separated and each time the primary instigator was asked to leave.
These little incidents were a good reminder for me that working with the homeless is not just cool, “sexy” or something that just makes me feel good. These men have dignity because they are made in the image of God therefore serving them is a worthy endeavor. That image is still there even though the life that God intended for them is broken because the brokenness of this world combines with their own sin and the sin of others against them to twist life into a tangled mess.
Each man has a different story, but combinations of mental illness, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and a community which doesn’t love the the outcast is a toxic mix. Movie nights are not the sole answer to these folks lives. But there is hope.
One of the encouraging part of my volunteering has been the friendships which have formed with the other volunteers. Several of the guys now showing up each week to set up, serve dinner and clean up have themselves spent time on the street. These guys are a living testimony to me that God does bring change to the lives of people.
This change doesn’t happen quickly. This change is not guaranteed through my efforts. But God is committed to bring change to lives that are broken. That is change that I can believe in. That is change I can work for. That is change I can share with others.