August 30, 2006

Without Words

Have you ever had one of those times when words just don't really seem to do an experience justice? This is one of those times for me. I've been trying to process a few hours of time from Tuesday for two days now, and I've still got nothing of any real value to say. It's almost as if my fingers have lost their feel for the keyboard, like my tongue and lips can't remember how to make the words come out; like I'm mute.

Tuesday was my first day at
Urban Seed, an organization in the city with whom I will be interning/volunteering for a while, likely until January or February. I've never worked with the poor and homeless before, except once when I volunteered at our church's extension ministry, and even then, I didn't really do much.

The day started with coffee, as Chris (my new mentor) tried to find out a bit about me and tell me a bit about what I'd be doing. Mostly I was worried about the evangelism part; I'm horrible at it. I may have mentioned this before, but I'm not one to recognize a chance to tell somebody about Jesus unless it smacks me across the face, and sometimes, not even then. This may make you wonder how it is I ended up as a missionary in Australia in the first place. Keep on wondering, and if you figure it out, let me know.

Then I was put to work in the kitchen. Basically, Urban Seed has two main ministries:
Credo Cafe, and their Alley Project. I'll be working with Credo, which is essentially a community soup kitchen of sorts, but without the soup. It all started when a bunch of homeless people started sleeping on the steps of Collins St. Baptist Church, and somebody decided, instead of kicking them out and tightening security (as most other churches would have done), why don't we feed them? Credo was started, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The idea is this: anybody can come and paratake, and usually do. I met all sorts of people, from the homeless to drug addicts to former drug addicts to lawyers to bohemians; all at one cafe. The odd part was, I couldn't tell them apart by appearance; mostly, it didn't matter. Except the lawyers, they were a dead giveaway. But at Credo, nobody is better than anybody else; it's a level playing-field, and all are welcome.

I spent about an hour working my way through two grocery bags full of carrots, chopping them up and dumping them into a giant pot of boiling water. Then I did the two bags of broccoli. It was around my second bag of broccoli that I realized, who needs to worry about the evangelism? If this is it, I'm good to go! I can't persuade somebody to follow Jesus using words, but I sure as hell can cut carrotts and broccoli.

As it turns out, that's how most of these people seem to have decided Jesus was worth their while; a bunch of His followers who cared about them. I haven't gotten to listen to many stories yet, but the few I have heard (and most of them will gladly tell you everything) have been stories of redemption from drugs, abuse, and alcohol. One guy, Snowey, is trying to get custody of his son for the first time in years; he's finally been heroin-free for a year now.

I still don't know what to make of this. I've never been sure how cutting up veggies could be serving Jesus, and yet somehow, it fit while at Credo. I've also never had much compassion for the homeless; I think that's why I've been mute the past two days - I didn't know what to say. I still don't.

After cooking, we had a small devotion. They asked me if I played guitar, pointed me to a grungy-looking classical guitar in the corner, and asked if I'd play under the song they were going to sing. I'd never played the guitar or the song before, but despite the quiet singing, the out-of-tune-ness, and the fact that my hand cramped up about halfway through (classical guitars have a neck about twice as thick as my own guitar does), it was ... moving. Everybody there was part of it, and drew me in like I'd always been there.

Then we served lunch. Seventy people in a tiny little place takes a long time to serve, but we did it. Nobody went hungry, but we did use every little bit of food available. It got a bit loud; laughter, conversation, forks and spoons clanking as they hit the plates, and of course, creaking chairs as, one by one, people sat back to say "wow, that was tasty, I'm full."


Greg said...

Great stuff, Chris. Sounds like an amazing time. I loved the comment about the "level playing-field". I think that's how Jesus looks at the world. God does not show favorites, good or bad, as we so often do.

Your post made me think of a few quotes from the Bible (especially regarding sharing Jesus with people, I guess...)

While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. - 1 Cor 8:1

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. - John 13:35

Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, F143 you were doing it to me!' - Matt 25:34-40

You may not be using words, but my understanding is that genuine love is far more powerful than words.

So... good on ya! :-)

Chris said...

Thanks Greg. :)

Mel said...

great post, chris. there is something so beautiful and powerful about just showing up and doing something. it's a wonderful thing to actually feed and clothe someone rather than saying be warm and well fed...oh and Jesus loves you. look forward to hearing more of your experiences at Credo.