When I read the Scripture in Matthew 25:35 – “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 ask how is my church fulfilling the needs of “the least of these”?
Like every church, we are delighted to welcome folks for our Sunday services and weekly Bible studies, but what do we do if someone is homeless? We have neither the facilities, staff or licensing.
We found a way.
Our church tithes on our revenues and we send out checks to an overseas mission we support and a ministry here at home in Augusta – The Salvation Army. Our church doesn’t have the funds or ability to operate a homeless shelter, so we financially support The Salvation Army, which does.
Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are very expensive and arduous to operate – which is why we are losing more shelter beds than gaining in Augusta. The 2016 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Housing Inventory Report stated Augusta-Richmond’s emergency shelter housing beds have decreased from 536 in 2015 to 489 today.
In addition to regular financial support, our church also does drives for The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope ministry. Canned food drives, laundry detergent drives, pillow and sheets drive, whatever their need is.
I would encourage other churches to adopt a backyard mission and support a local Christian mission that offers hot meals, shelter for homeless, financial assistance with rent or utilities, and a faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
There are other ways to support The Salvation Army, by volunteering to help in the soup kitchen, or the Family Store, or bell ring at the Red Kettles this Christmas.
There is always a way to hear “The King reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
The writer is an elder at Wildwood Christian Church and director of development for the local Salvation Army.