I work at a Christian school in Lebanon, Tennessee, where I teach high school Bible and am one of the campus ministers. About a week ago we had a service project with some of the students from Friendship Christian School. About 18 students, teachers, and parents went to the Green Street Church of Christ, located in downtown Nashville, to work on a Wednesday night with the homeless ministry. It was an amazing night of ministry.
Our school had collected several large bags of clothes, jackets, blankets, shoes, etc, that we took down to the church building to donate to their clothing center. We were able to have worship services with about 100 homeless people who come to the church building every Wednesday for a hot meal and for any clothing needs that they might have. These people come from all walks of life and were a joy to be around. After worship, which by the way was inspirational, we worked in the kitchen fixing and distributing the evening meal. (BBQ pork, potato salad, coleslaw, chips, brownies)
I was working the drink station, a relatively safe place to put me. My job was to fill up the cups with ice and pour coffee. I was working with another volunteer who was in charge of pouring the lemonade and ice tea (btw, here in the south you drink sweet tea, no questions asked). The visitors flowed through the line and kept our job hopping for quite some time. We were having a blast visiting with the people and just being a friendly face that night.
Once things slowed down I was able to talk with my partner. He was a student at Lipscomb University and his first time to Green Street. He was from Nashville and was a pre-med major (OK, I know what you are thinking, and you are right, we didn’t talk about pre-med for very long!). I asked him the normal chitchat questions, and asked him where he went to church. He caught me off guard when he told me he didn’t go anywhere. As a matter of fact, he told me he was an atheist.
OK, I have to admit that his statement took me back. I am pretty sure my facial expression gave it away. I wasn’t exactly ready to meet an atheist from Nashville attending a Christian college working at a church on Wednesday night helping the homeless. Sooooo, after cleaning up the ice that I spilled on the table, I casually asked why he was there that night. His response was very casual and matter of fact: “It will look good on my resume when I apply to med school.” Wow, unbelievable. He actually admitted it to me.
He was a very pleasant guy, and the conversation changed over to my life. I told him that I was a minister, taught Bible at a Christian school, and had volunteered to come because it sounded like something important that needed to be done. So, there we stood, in opposite corners. An atheist trying to look good on paper, and a Christian who was just trying to do a good deed. Interesting, to say the least.
This whole conversation only took a few minutes. As we were standing there, one of the visitors, a woman named Emily, came up and asked for a refill on her lemonade. She was probably in her late 40’s or early 50’s, but her hard life gave her the appearance of someone much older. She had beautiful blue eyes, clear as could be, and a warm smile. She looked at Matt straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you and God bless you young man.” He gave her a smile and watched her walk back to her seat. I told Matt that in the book of Job it says that God knew us before we were ever born. It is by his grace that we are on this side of the serving table instead of the other. He gave me a puzzled look; I guess he had never thought about that before. I then told him that in Matthew chapter 25 it says that whenever we help someone that is in need, we do it as if we were helping Jesus Himself. Even though Matt was there to make Matt look good, he was still being a servent to Jesus that night. Isn't it amazing that Emily saw Jesus in the face of an athiest?
We didn’t get to talk after that because it was time to clean the kitchen and get all of the trash picked up. I headed down stairs to the basement area to help with the clothing give away. We gave away a lot of sweaters and coats that night because it was really cold outside. One by one the visitors walked outside with their new possessions into the very cold night. They stayed outside the building for quite some time before they walked away. They disappeared into the darkness of the night. The group from Lipscomb was already gone.
We stood by our cars watching them leave. We were one of the last ones to go. 3 of my students rode in the car with me and we talked all the way back to Lebanon about the wonderful experience the service project turned out to be. It was wonderful. Our students had a great experience, the homeless received a hot, delicious meal, and I had a chance to witness to an atheist. I hope we made a difference that night. God allows people to come into your lives, even if it is for a brief moment in time. Take every advantage to be a light to a world in darkness.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25: 34-40