What A Relief: Worship ❤️ Relief Bus
Recently, some members of the Worship Team served with Relief Bus, a Christian organization that operates out of Elizabeth, NJ. From that hub, they send out the titular Relief Buses to various urban locales to provide hot meals, prayer and practical connections to resources for the homeless.
After arriving at their hub, we headed over to Newark Penn Station. Michael was tasked with parceling out food. The rest of us - myself (Rich), Eric, Jenny, Helen, and Deborah, were sent through and around Penn Station to invite people back to the bus. Many curious eyes were on us – not only the homeless but also regular commuters. It was clear - and a little surprising - that some disapproved of our presence.
That said, many of the homeless greeted us cheerfully, radiating a tremendous warmth and dignity. It took me by surprise. In one case, one of our team members met a gentleman who did not want to come over to the bus because he felt others needed the food and supplies more than himself. In another case, a man would not come over to the bus because he was unwilling to leave his sick companion for even a few minutes. Likewise, another woman was unable to move from her spot due to a leg injury, but she thanked us with such joy and gratitude even though we had done nothing for her. I saw that genuine affection was simply who she is, and she really did not want a single thing from us even in the midst of her difficulties. The streets were just overflowing with this simple, radiant holiness. I couldn’t shake the sense they were extending charity to us, in some mysterious way.
After we had completed our run through out the Station we returned to the site of the bus. While Michael toiled away in the bus/soup-kitchen, most of us spent our time talking with the homeless and praying with them. Jenny – our in-house vocalist and coordinator of the visit - forced me to bring a guitar and it was then she made me do some public praise music. I admit I was nervous as I had never done worship in public before, but after half a song it felt like any other Wednesday or Sunday ... well, except for the cold and dry weather. It was then I caught a little whisper from the Spirit – we are stronger in faith than we know we are (Matt. 17:20). But if you’re silly like me, you’d never find out unless you tried, which probably requires a little fear.
Lastly, I want to mention one of the souls we met – a man named Angel. He wore a baseball cap pulled down low, and had a scraggly grey-white beard. He reminded me of John the Baptist. He was so friendly and earnest, well... we all just wanted to help him, talk to him, make him feel known, acknowledged, valued. But for all this, he only spoke a little English. We could not communicate well, let alone in depth. Eventually, he settled in nearby as we sang praise songs through the evening. Before he walked off into the night, we laid hands on him and prayed for him, but I am not sure he could understand any of it at all. Even through his difficulties I only have a vague sense that he was somehow unsafe in the shelters because of harassment.
All my skills and education and bible-knowledge felt tremendously useless to help this man. I felt tremendously useless to help him! As I reflected on this experience, I think Mother Teresa must have known this same feeling well, for she wrote, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” How true!
Metro, if you are reading this, would you pray for this man Angel, even briefly right where you are, ‘with great love’? Since we can do so little, God must make up the difference. And better yet, I believe He wants to do it (Matt. 21:21-22). Heavenly Father, remember your child Angel!
I am tempted to write a conclusion here, but that seems improper. Such experiences should not be isolated events with beginnings and conclusions. They should only be continuations. Therefore, with all hope in ourselves and in you, I will only say: “to be continued...”
All love and blessings,