What was God thinking when he opened the door for us to leave mildly warm Santa Cruz and head to Spokane in the middle of winter? Aren’t birds supposed to fly south for winter?
In advance of our trip we asked our dear niece Christine, who lives in Spokane, to prayerfully consider creating a church-wide outreach where all generations from her church could get involved. The Lord birthed in her and her husband Brett’s heart a very special opportunity to “get out of our seats and onto the streets.”
It was a catchy title, but who in their right minds would hit the streets to serve the homeless in downtown Spokane on a Saturday in snowy, sub-freezing weather? Maybe a handful? Certainly very few, if any, adults over sixty.
Pastor Kent, the lead pastor at Valley Assembly, his wife Toni and their sons were the first to sign up for this outreach. Several adventurous young adults and teenagers began to sign up.
On Super Bowl Sunday in the Northwest, with an abundance of Seahawk fans eagerly anticipating the big game, Christine celebrated her fortieth birthday by sharing with the congregation her passion for that week’s Saturday outreach with Blessings Under the Bridge. It was powerful and moving.
It was so moving, in fact, that Sharon, a spiritually mature senior adult, darted from the back row to the platform and asked Pastor Kent if she could share a few words. We later learned that this was out of character for both Sharon and this church of a thousand.
It was the perfect, intergenerational ‘one-two’ punch. It was a cry for those of us 'streetless' people, older and younger, who may have never experienced living on the streets, to willingly hit the streets to share food, clothing, toiletries, compassion and dignity with those less fortunate.
Both Christine and Sharon have experienced incredible transformation in their own lives, as God challenged them to begin loving people with radically different backgrounds, including many from the streets.
They shared how God saved many of us (in advance) from extreme hardship, not so that we could:
- Sit comfortably and gloat,
- Sit sheepishly with a sense that we have an unremarkable, inferior testimony of God’s grace, or
- Sit immobilized with thoughts that we can’t relate and have nothing to offer people in such despair.
Yes, he saves us all from lots of terrible stuff, sometimes before disaster strikes and sometimes after, but He also saves us so that we can become an extension of His love to others.
As temperatures dipped below zero by mid-week, we wondered if we should possibly forgo the foot-washing station we had planned for Saturday. But we sensed the Lord challenging us to press on in spite of the weather. And He blessed us with sunshine and a ‘heat wave.’ Temperatures jumped to just over the 20 degree mark! :) And a local rental company, A to Z Rentals, blessed us with patio heating lamps and propane, free of charge.
By Friday an inspiring collage of clothing, accessories, toiletries, backpacks, and food supplies had appeared at the YES!/Blessings Under the Bridge table at the church. Some donations came from older adults physically unable to make it to the outreach on Saturday---but who still found a way to take part.
A group of women, most of whom were formerly homeless themselves, were busy preparing meals for Saturday’s outreach atChrist Kitchen, another local ministry the church was able to engage and bless through this outreach.
Brett & Christine’s daughter Anna was busy making bracelets, excited to use her hobby to bless others.
On Saturday morning a hundred volunteers showed up at Valley Assembly in Spokane Valley for instruction and inspiration. Three very special women from the Women’s Home at nearby Victory Outreach shared important perspective from their prior life on the streets.
Everything fell into place as this courageous team representing every generation within the church, arrived at the downtown serving location. Everyone found their niche, and we all had a chance to shower about 140 precious people with Christ’s love.
As you can imagine, many powerful testimonies emerged from this outreach. And the testimonies show us again how God loves to bless us in special ways as He uses us to reach out and bless others.
With countless cars streaming both east and west on the I-90 overpass above us, countless blessings flowed that Saturday in both directions under the bridge.
It was cold and heartwarming . . . the perfect storm! It was the church in action, the ‘streetless’ impacting the homeless, and the homeless impacting the streetless.
For more pictures, please visit the Blessings Under the Bridge website.