Almost exactly two years ago to the day, Anthony Rowell (my husband) and Matthew Ray had been working together in outreach ministry and decided to put themselves in the shoes of those they ministered to by going homeless in downtown Wilmington, NC for a weekend. So, armed with all they could fit into one backpack, they left their wallets and all the comforts of their own lives behind for the cold streets of the inner city.
Those 48 hours would leave them both changed forever as they gained a deeper understanding of a kind of life they had never experienced before and had connected with the humanity behind the faces of the poor they encountered.
But what no one expected was the ripple effect their bold deeds would have on the lives of those around them. I, for starters.
After hearing of their experiences on the streets during those two days, one thing became clear – the physical needs of the people were great. Yet the spiritual need is so much greater.
A few short weeks after that weekend two of my girlfriends and I began discussing the idea of making a home-cooked breakfast one week morning and going downtown to serve the homeless who were out on the streets.
On the morning of November 20, 2010 that’s exactly what we did. That first morning word had obviously spread as we drove up to a crowd of around 60 homeless standing in a single file line waiting for their warm, home-cooked breakfast. Unprepared for the numbers, we actually ran out of food and had to leave to get more so that no one would leave hungry.
We left that morning with empty hands and full hearts, knowing that our work was not finished and that this morning would not be our last. For we had come face to face with the essence of what it means to live fully and we have known every since that nothing else we will ever do will matter more than finding ways to give our own lives away for those whom Jesus first loved.
It’s been almost two years since that day and we’ve never missed a Thursday morning downtown with these people we have come to know and love as our friends. The Love Project is so much more than a ministry but more a family of volunteers along with the ones we serve loving, connecting, serving, doing life together. It was without a doubt the ripple effect of a small acts of service of others who were willing to step out of the four walls of the church into the world Jesus walked and lived amongst.
Below is a video montage of our last two years. Who knows what the future may hold for The Love Project? But Jesus has called us to be faithful to love and serve this group of people, so we press forward. Even on the days that we wonder if our small acts of love even really matter than much at all. Somehow, some way, we always get reminded that it matters – so more than we understand and see right now.
We are called to be the church – because Jesus and those who followed Him on earth were the church, the kind without walls. Everywhere He went, He first loved the people by meeting their most basic needs, only then were their hearts opened to receive the truth of the message of Salvation He came to bring.
We are called to love and point the world to Jesus, not by shouting on street corners. But more times than not, without even saying a single word.