I had the privilege of spending this past week visiting some friends at Lipscomb college. The entire evening was a blessing all the way around. However, the day that sticks out to me the most and that I am choosing to share with you now would be Thursday. The evening started out with my friend Nathan taking me to a spot that overlooks all of Nashville. It was absolutely breath taking to stand looking out at the lights of the city. From there we headed to Sanctuary. It is a huge college age worship that is held at a local church. We got there a little early but it wasn't long before Lipscomb students started pouring in and eventually packed the place out. It brought tears to my eyes to watch hundreds of kids my age come together not because they had to or because it was convenient but because they WANTED to. We spent an hour worshipping together in song. It was simply.....beautiful. It was the type of scene that I am certain not only brings a smile to God's face but a tear to His eye.
After it was over we joined a group of students in the parking lot as they gathered to head down town. Now you are probably thinking we were gathering to go somewhere to eat afterward or something of that nature....heaven knows it is what most college kids would be doing. However, I'm humbled to tell you that this group was gathering to head down town to participate in a different kind of worship. They were heading to go "hang out with homeless people." At the beginning of last year a group formed to weekly pay visits to some people that most have labeled lazy, illiterate, scary, or worse. However, this group refuses to use any of these names to label the people that they now call friend. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was for me to be a part of this group....even if only for a week.
I joined 30 or so others and carpooled down town. Some brought water, hamburgers, fruit, or clothes. However, they each brought love, compassion, and genuine concern for these people that they have come to know. Once down town we dispersed in groups of 4 or 5 and headed out. Most groups set out looking for that special person or group of people that they meet with each week. I was amazed to hear almost everyone calling these people by name or greeting them with a hug. The grins on their faces and the tears in both sets of eyes portrayed just how much the bond meant to both parties involved. It was a reminder that these students didn't just spend their Thursday evenings with these folks because they were doing an act of service but instead because they genuinely loved those they were serving. They looked forward to the visits as much as those being visited. As I mentioned before they take things with them. Each person has connected with someone different. Part of that connection means learning what the other person needs in order to get by....it means learning about the other persons aches, pains, and struggles and commit to praying for them. The group gathers food, clothes, and living supplies to hand out as needed. They find out what sizes are needed or what needs are needing met and they make sure they can do so. This includes getting boots, clothes, or whatever else is necessary to help the people get jobs and hopefully a better life. The group has gone into the heart of the problem. They've crossed lines that society has set as being "too far." They have actually become a part of this homeless community. They are meeting them where they are and loving every part of them.
Allow me to take time to brag on my friend Nathan for a bit. I have no idea if he even reads my blog or if he will ever see this but I want each of you to have the chance to catch a glimpse of this boy who I am so privileged to call friend. He is one of the ones that sort of leads the group down every week. I was able to ride with him and hear not only his stories of past week but the passion that poured from his lips as he talked about this ministry that had become so important to his heart. He proudly introduced his friends as we all sat around hearing the latest of what had been going on in their lives. I sat listening as Nathan made arrangements to meet one of the guys on Monday so that he could take him to do some things the guy needed to do...including taking him to get some clothes and blankets. I listened as the men not only shared with Nathan but listened while Nathan gave them his prayer requests as well. It was the beauty of friendship in one of the rarest forms I've ever seen it.
Let me pause for a moment from my story to slip in a bit of shocking and horrifying news that I was told while meeting these fine people. Just last week Nashville swore in a new Mayor. Part of this new Mayor's campaign was for a cleaner/better Nashville. Well apparently that cleaner/newer Nashville does not include homeless folks. It doesn't include having people living on the streets. All this would have been fine if his intent was to go about that by helping those on the streets get off the streets. Instead he sent a bulldozer down to a spot where a large number of the homeless had come to call home. It was found under one of the cities bridges. The bulldozer was sent to push all of the stuff over the bank and down to the river. Folks came back to find what clothes, blankets, food, and anything else they may have been lucky to have....gone. I was able to stand and look down over the steep bank where items were still in the river or were littered along its edge. When did clear streets become more beautiful than a human life? Might I also mention that in the same park area that we were visiting a new sculpture has been put up. A sculpture that costs thousands and thousands of dollars and really doesn't look like anything....but is "art." I can appreciate the beauty of art just as much as the next guy but what about the people that are practically living in the shadows of this new structure? Could that money not have been used to better their lives?
I wish that I had taken pictures or could paint a picture for you with my words. However, no matter if I had taken a thousand pictures or wrote a book about the experience I would never be able to do justice to the amazing ministry that takes place every Thursday night in down town Nashville. It was an even more beautiful form of worship than the one we had started the evening out with.