Our family ate dinner in our local homeless camp.

Good Evening Gorgeous Friends,

On Sunday my family, a few close friends, and I spent the afternoon with a group of people our local news recently called, “an eyesore”.

Our family has been serving the homeless community just since this Valentine’s Day when my husband and I both had the same idea to bring them donuts.  And from that initial meeting just a few months ago to now, our eyes have been opened to so much. We have learned more about their needs and we have heard their stories.

If you were to gain one gem of information from this post, it would be that every single person you encounter has a unique story woven of past experiences. And of course the same is true for people who are without housing. They are precious, valuable people who have a story.

I have learned that they are people who are widely misunderstood.

I have learned that eye contact, a handshake, or even a hug mean alot to a group of people that others generally avoid.

I have also begun to admire their resiliency and their ability to keep going even when so much has battled against them.

They are people who have a wide variety of past traumas, yet they are overcomers.

They have an ingenuity about them that aides in their survival despite every obstacle in their way.

They have a drive to survive, and despite all that the world has heaped on them, they are rising everyday.

And Sunday night, we were given a unique opportunity to not just serve them, but to sit and dine with them!

I felt Jesus all over it. He was there touching hearts and forming relationships. As I saw my children eating and laughing with the community, my heart felt like it may burst open.

The twins were getting bicycle rides, Addy was chatting with the women, and Ayden helped set up and tear down.

This community hasn’t always been so trusting and open to us.

May I give you some background?

We started visiting this camp just about 6 weeks ago. And on our first visit, we met lots of distrustful stares and most of the residents stayed in their tents. They have been through alot, and trust is earned, not given freely.

On this very first visit, we drove up and brought supplies and a hot meal. Most of the people wouldn’t come over to the van. And we respected their space by staying on the pavement which is a good distance from their tents. We let them know what we had available for them.

One young man who was tall, over 6 feet, with bright, kind eyes approached our van. We told him what supplies we had and also told him we had some clothing if he wanted to look through it. He skipped right over any men’s clothes and was concerned for his two sisters. He told us their sizes, looked through what we had, and took meals for them back to the tent. This was our first meeting with him and he touched our hearts. He shared a few things he needed and we returned the following week to share more items with him. My husband and him talked and they made plans for him to receive a bike the following weekend.  He was walking over three hours a day, and a bike would really help….Yet again and again in each conversation with us, he was more concerned about meeting his sisters’ needs or the needs of other people in his tent. It took prodding and pushing to find out what he needed. He was so loving and concerned for others, and he really touched our hearts. At home, we started talking about him by name and sharing about him with others.

The next weekend was a breakthrough weekend in that when we pulled up, we were ushered by the residents to drive right up to the camp. This time they allowed us “in”. The same people who had previously looked away when we came, invited us up and close. We drove up on the grassy area right near their homes, opened up our van, turned on worship music and began to serve. 

We had food, clothes, supplies, and also a bicycle for our young man that had touched our hearts. We were all bursting at the seams to see him.

We never got to see him or give the gift to him because as we served and talked with the community, we learned that he had passed that week. My dear friend Paula dropped to her knees sobbing. We all felt it. The grief, the pain, the “Could we have done more?”, the what ifs, and the realization of just how vulnerable these people are to tragedy.

And we grieved for him right alongside of his friends. We listened to their stories of how he would literally give away the shirt off his back even when he didn’t have another one. We learned of his hurt and how hard life had been for him. And we told them that with their permission, we would return the following Sunday to honor his life with dinner and fellowship.

And my friends, I know this post has already been long, but just after this precious life was lost, the same community experienced two more hard blows. Our county passed an ordinance that now it is illegal to hold a sign in intersections asking for help, and law enforcement has begun to enforce and write tickets. And the second loss was that news media began reporting that they are being evicted from the strip of land where they are currently living in tents. The news media cast them as hostile and an eyesore to the community around them.

So whether you are someone who believes they should have the right to hold a sign or not, can you imagine for a moment the trauma they’ve endured in just one week’s time?

The sudden loss of a family member/friend.

The loss of financial aide from the community.

The beginning of an eviction from their home which will mean a loss of their community with eachother.

Now, they could be asked/forced to leave at any time and they may have nowhere else to go.

So that brings us to this Sunday, we went to honor their lost friend and to share a meal in his honor. And we did!

Instead of just serving meals individually wrapped in togo containers, we brought shade tents, tables, chairs, and dinner served buffet style.

We didn’t pass out food and leave, but instead stayed and ate alongside of them. We sat at the same table and “broke bread” as fellow humans. We laughed and enjoyed eachother’s stories. We prayed for their safety and their healing. We asked God’s protection over the camp and that He would touch hearts and meet their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. We formed the beginnings of friendships.

Friends, this didn’t always come natural for us. But we heard a small still whisper a few months ago that said, “Go. Just bring donuts and meet My people.” And God has provided again and again and again. He has provided opportunities, relationships, provision, and guidance.

To my fellow Christians, I boldly challenge you to step out in some way and move beyond what is comfortable. It doesn’t have to be the homeless community, but our faith in Jesus gives us access to an empowering grace. And that grace is available so that we can minister in ways beyond our natural capacity.

This faith life keeps me clinging to Jesus for dear life, because He has me doing things that I could NEVER do without His Power.

I believe the Christian walk is meant to be filled with such a passion for Christ that it fuels compassion for others. The type of compassion that makes us move our hands and feet into realms we never would have without the empowering Holy Spirit alive inside of us!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Awaken us to more! Show us where you are calling us. Teach us how to lay aside fear, pride, self doubt, and anything else that keeps us in the boat rather than walking with You on water. Lord, call each of us out of the boat and into spaces that are only possible with Your Holy equipping. Make us a BOLD people willing to serve beyond the comfortable.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Lee County Friends!!!

*If you feel led, here is a list of most needed items. We are also collecting coolers for summer. If you are willing to donate any items, please reach out to me and I will make sure your donated items get directly into the hands of someone in need.

**Anyone who would like to go with us and minster/hand out items/ serve a meal, you are welcome!

***And wherever you are reading from, please keep this community in your prayers. Please pray for us to be able to minister the gospel in a way to them that they are receptive. Pray for lives to come to Christ and miraculous healings to take place.

11 thoughts on “Our family ate dinner in our local homeless camp.

  1. Praying for you and your family, and praying for all the people at the camp. Praise God for this ministry! My favorite time of ministering was serving the homeless on the streets of Denver. Those times changed my life and helped me truly understand God’s heart. God bless you all!

  2. There are so many lessons to be learned from what you have been sharing. I feel many of the same things that you have talked about here when I am doing jail ministry. I have not been able to go into the jail since the stay-at-home order went in place last March. My heart grieves for all the missed opportunities.

    I’m proud of what you’ve taught your family about showing love to ALL people!

    1. Yes, I can see how many of these things would be similar in jail ministry! God is so good and I know He will open that door again soon. I bet you are such a bright light as you encourage and share Jesus!

  3. Truly awesome Vanessa! A powerful ministry to both those you bring such care to and to your family. In my opinion, this is the most important type of ministry we can be involved in. You and your family are faithfully ministering as Jesus did; right where the people are! I can imagine that the reaction of the Woman at the Well was consistent with some of the reactions you have seen.
    We are praying that this grows, finding more folks to bring care to and more workers to help carry the load.
    With much respect,

  4. I love what you and your family did. And its sad to know that he passed on. I am just meeting with his persona via the read, but he is a blessed hearted man. 😓
    Bless your hearts for extending love to these ones.
    By the way, I am saving your last image. I love it. 😊

  5. It is funny how we go out to bless someone and end up being more bless just by listening, hugging, and showing his love, grace and mercy.

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