Volume 14, Number 1, September-October 2010

by Norman Edwards

The 2010 Feast of Tabernacles at Utica, Illinois was a wonderful event for the whole family. In addition to the regular excellent Bible teaching, food, activities and fellowship, a project was organized to make a lot of repairs improvements to a nearby homeless shelter in Ontario, Illinois. Over 100 brethren volunteered to help. Several brethren skilled in construction made the plans ahead of time and had materials ready.

This short article cannot cover all that was done, but the value was certainly worth many thousands of dollars to the shelter. The brethren painted the building, both with a sprayer and with brushes. They built a shed from scratch in that single day—the progress evident at right. Cleaning, both inside and out, landscaping, heating and cooling repairs, and other vital tasks were accomplished.

A great blessing from this project was the working of people of all ages together. There were old people working inside, numerous adults working everywhere, and teens and young people all finding jobs to do. Some of the brethren were simply involved in bringing food and water to the others. The place was filled with a sense of teamwork and accomplishment.

While this may seem to be a very drab existence, it is far better than sleeping on the street. The shelter staff works hard with each of the homeless people to find other housing and jobs for them before they close in the late spring.

 

Everyone had a chance to tour the shelter and find out how it worked. The shelter was open only during the winter months when it is too cold to stay outside and the need for help is greatest. The homeless people receive a bed, a small locker and a plastic tub to store their belongings—all the personal space they get!  They receive two hot meals and a sack lunch every day, and have facilities to shower and do laundry. The living room/dining room is shown below. There is not much privacy!

The homeless people all are asked to leave the shelter during the day and go look for a job or go to the local library and use its computers to better their skills or to find a job. This is a useful function as well as a prevention for fights and squabbles that would almost certainly occur when dozens of people are cramped together in a small space.

 

 

The project taught me a good lesson that needs to be shared with Feast planners and Christian leaders everywhere: Churches do not need to organize a continual stream of social entertainment for their members. They can find good things to do to “shine their light” for others. This is especially true for young people!

Young people have a natural desire to meet others their age, to participate in group activities that bring them together, to learn to do new things, and to let their abilities, strength or beauty be seen by others. Sure, those things are usually done at entertainment outings, but they can also be done at service projects.

Even more important, Christian young people want to put their Christianity to use—not to simply sit and listen to teachings until they are some day old enough to teach themselves. Knowing that they attend a group that takes an active part in changing the lives of others is very important to most of them.

It was wonderful that these Sabbath-observing brethren helped the Christians that run this homeless shelter. Sabbatarians need to go further to begin and run their own outreach projects to help those in need. This will give them a chance to reach a diversity of people with the Bible truth they understand.

 

 

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