Written by Ben Story, AmeriCorps Member
Jesus is recorded, in the Gospel of Matthew, as saying ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Many great organizations, and caring individuals, feed, cloth, tend to, and visit those who are in need, but how many of us really invite strangers into our homes. What is it about this piece that makes it so much harder?
Inviting people into our homes takes things to a whole other level. When they are on ‘their’ territory it is pretty easy to do stuff for others, because we can always leave when it’s done. When we invite people into our homes however, we are inviting them into our lives. Once this is done it’s much harder to ask them to leave and to disengage ourselves.
Faith Family Hospitality gives us a great opportunity to invite people onto our turf and into our space, when we host them in our congregations, and through this experience we have the chance to begin to get to know families who we might not otherwise interact with.
Within the structure of the FFH program this experience is contained within the ‘safety’ of knowing it is only for a week. For the families that we serve, every week makes a difference, but lives aren’t transformed in a week, or even over a few months. Lives are transformed as we journey with people, day in, day out, in committed relationship.
During my work with families I have to admit I’ve struggled with how to do this. I had the opportunity a while back to let one of our families into my life as I shared in the pain of theirs and if it had been left to me they’d have been staying in my home that night. It was probably both the hardest and the best day with FFH so far, yet it still left me feeling like I could have done more.
Committed relationships are both more messy and challenging than one time acts of service but they are equally more rewarding and provide the chance for greater growth in our own lives. FFH is defiantly helping us, as the faith community, move in the right direction but when we as individuals keep our own doors closed we are robbing ourselves, and those we serve, of the richness that comes with committing to engage with people for the long haul.
There are no cookie cutter, or one size fits all, solutions to the challenges we face when serving and working with those experiencing homelessness, but then there are no formulas, and no guarantees, when it comes to building relationships. We don’t need to throw wisdom to the wind, but we do need to start thinking outside of the box and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones, if we want to see real change in both our communities, and ourselves.
If we are willing to open up our homes, and our lives, to those in need, our community as a whole, and our individual lives, will be better for it.
If you’re up for the challenge, the Matthews House HOST Homes program, is one way, locally, of doing this.