The New York Times published an article recently that found, “people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves.” (July 8, 2012, New York ed., headline: Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.) The point was that more money will not bring you joy, but sharing with others certainly will. We would like to thank all of our donors and volunteers for making this year so full of joy. It has truly been an amazing time of community, service, and love. The following is from Joshua Shiver, a regular volunteer with First Fruit Ministries’ Street Outreach. Thank you Josh for all you do. May the Lord continue to change your life as you serve!
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”-James 2:14-17
I had always thought that feeding the hungry and serving the poor was a novel idea. It was something that all Christians should aspire to do. I was always too busy though: too wrapped up in Bible studies, prayer meetings, and recreational activities to actually do my part to fill the empty stomachs of society’s castoffs. The problem of homelessness was always very cerebral to me: some people make good choices, while some people make bad choices. Those who made bad choices, of course, ended up on the streets.
Everything is cerebral until your own world collapses. When mine collapsed a year ago, God showed me the great disconnect between my faith and my works. I was so adept at leading Bible studies, preaching, and teaching, that I neglected the weightier matters of “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).
One day at work, I got on my computer and searched for local homeless ministries to volunteer with. It wasn’t long before I stumbled across First Fruit Ministries. As I read about the programs offered and as I heard the stories of those who have been changed by God’s work through First Fruit, I knew that this ministry was different.
They weren’t just throwing food at people in the hopes of assuaging their guilty consciences. Rather, this was an organization that wanted to see God mend broken hearts across Wilmington. Nervously, I filled out the volunteer form on their website. I have never looked back since.
Over the past year, the most amazing part of my experience at First Fruit Ministries has been the handful of people that I have had the honor of working with. They proved to me that God can make hearts bigger than you could dream. Week after week the faithful service of these volunteers and staff-who toil to clothe, feed, and love those whom society has chosen to ignore-has had a profound effect on me. For this handful of God’s faithful, comfort and safety were not a viable option. They wanted to be outside the walls of the church, where God’s love and the world’s brokenness would collide. Of course, they wanted to bring others along with them.
From these few volunteers and staff, God has grown the Street Outreach program to include groups from across Wilmington. In God’s inexorable grace, He has pulled people from around Wilmington (who otherwise would have never known each other) and brought them together to face the issue of poverty head on. They are no longer able to look away: as the homeless become more human to them, they become more alive to their own humanity.
This fact was never more real to me than when one day, as I was watching some volunteers serving, I heard a loud thump. As I looked over to my left, I saw a man flinging open the lid of a public garbage can and pulling out a can of Spam (that most likely had long been expired). As he stuck the can in his backpack and walked away, I grew very uncomfortable. I knew that later that evening, I would be going home to a fine meal, a warm house, and a comfortable bed. He, on the other hand, would have to survive off of what he could find in a trashcan.
For the past twenty-seven years of my life, I have always looked the other way. For me, life has always been black and white. People have always been divided between those who made good choices and those who made bad choices. But in God’s Kingdom, there is no room for these distinctions. Everyone, no matter their age, gender, or socio-economic status, is made in God’s image and by the authority of God’s power. Every week, as I come in contact with “the least of these,” I find that I am not so much transforming their lives as they are subtlety transforming mine. All of my pride, ambition, and problems mean nothing to the man that I serve. But the hand that reaches out for his, the hand that fills his plate to overflowing-this means everything to him. In that fleeting moment, God’s love is made tangible…and the world is changed.
If you would like to be part of a community spending itself in love and compassion for others, go to our volunteer page and register to volunteer!