True Church Stories - #29
Our church (Celebration Church, Tampa) is very involved in outreach to the homeless, unemployed and working poor. We have what we call our "Recovery Service" every Saturday where we provide a hot meal to all attenders as well as groceries for the week, and clothing and shoes for those in need. We reach out and minister to countless people in Tampa who need help in this regard.
One thing that we do not have currently is assistance in the way of housing. We know that this is a need and thankfully there are ministries in our city meeting this need. We generally refer those who inquire to those places that are equipped in this regard to help them. We've had many people inquire about "staying in the church" but of course we can't allow people to be spending the night in the church, if for safety or liability reasons alone. I say all this to say -- please understand we do have a heart to help people, and we do help them. And, "spending the night in the church building" is not wise way to help nor a viable option.
One evening Larry and I were at the church after helping guest evangelists set up their equipment. We were on our way to take them to dinner when a homeless lady stopped us in the parking lot and asked my husband if he could open the church so she could stay overnight there. My husband told her that we could not allow people to sleep in the church, however he did know of a few places where she would be able to stay overnight. She quickly dismissed that and didn't want to hear what he had to say.
My husband was loving but firm with her about this despite her getting very angry, he wouldn't unlock the church so she could sleep there. She suddenly became very out of control and started yelling at him, "THIS ISN'T YOUR CHURCH! IT DOESN'T BELONG TO YOU! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TELL ME I CAN'T SLEEP IN THIS CHURCH! THIS IS JESUS' CHURCH! NOT YOURS!!! IT BELONGS TO JESUS CHRIST!"
My husband just calmly looked at her and said, "That's fine, m'am. If He stops by tonight, you can ask him to give you the keys."