What is too busy? What is our priority at Refuge of Hope?
By Jo Ann Carpenter
Let me set the scene… I was at the mission on Sunday night to accept a large, over 2,800 pounds, donation from Community Harvest after the party tent closed before the concert at the Hall of Fame. The resident men and I were all working to organize and put away two truckloads of fresh fruit and produce, baked goods and prepared foods.
We were busy trying to get everything packaged and in the cooler so the men could get to bed. It was already after 9:30 p.m. We had several stations around the dining room, sorting, marking/dating the food and working hard, but also praising God for the wonderful donation. (and yes, we were munching on some fresh fruit, delicious shrimp, brownies and other goodies)
In the middle of all this activity, one of the Resident Assistants came up to me and asked if I could talk to “one of the new guys.” He was crying and seemed very emotional.
This was not an unusual request for me. During my 8 years at Refuge of Hope, I have often counseled the residents or one of our dinner guests in their time of need.
I excused myself from the hubbub of the donation and proceeded to speak with this gentleman. We stepped into the shelter area for some privacy and he told me his story. His name will remain anonymous of course.
He told me he has only been staying with us for a few days, but the loneliness and depression he was feeling brought him to tears as he explained his story to me. At first, it was what his wife did to him. She cleaned out their place and bank account and when he came home she was gone. And he explained, “I am tired so very tired. I walked these streets for over 20 days before coming here. I don’t know how to be alone like this.” And the tears streamed down his face.
Now I am adding some things up in my head, comparing his story to other stories I have heard over the years and began asking him a few questions to clarify I had a true understanding of what had happened in his life.
As we talked more, he revealed to me he had become addicted to drugs and alcohol and that is why he is now homeless. And that is why his wife left him.
He also shared that while he was walking around the city during the day a brick lying on the ground triggered a thought to toss it through a window just so he would be put in jail for all the bad things he had done in his life! “I just need to rest,” he said.
I knew he needed physical rest right at that moment and as a newer resident he would be sleeping on one of our cots and the mission was still full of food and activity processing the donation. It would be at least another hour until we finish.
We made arrangements for him to transfer to a bunk in the dorm so he could check in right away and go to sleep. Jerry, our night shift supervisor, took over and would be with him all night. Before I left my new friend, I shared this with him, “God loves you and so do we. The “-hard work-” will be up to you to complete, but we will be supporting you each step of the way. You are loved and cared for here, this is time for you to heal and change. It is your time.”
He smiled and simply said, “Thank you.” I knew there was no more for me to do and I went back to see if the men left me a brownie, and of course, they did. Now I was smiling as I went back to help the men finish up so they could also get some much-needed rest.
So what I would like to share with you is this. At Refuge of Hope we all have a job to do, that requires our attention, with priorities and deadlines. But nothing takes precedence over the needs of a hurting person. Our staff is dedicated to helping others and we serve God!
Each of us has value and worth to God, despite what we have done in our lives. He has an unending love for us and a hope that we will come to Him in repentance and seek His wisdom and guidance. The truth of this great love compels us to sometimes put our direct responsibilities aside and become the hands and feet of Jesus to someone in need!
So, as Director of Development, for Refuge of Hope, my job description definitely includes taking time to counsel and help a person in need with love, compassion, and respect. And FYI, the donation did get processed, the work was completed and most importantly this man felt relief that maybe he found a true Refuge of Hope!
“And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39