For those who serve with Family Promise at NSCBC, Sunday was a goodbye (of sorts). We finished our week of hosting—sharing dinner, playtime, and overnights in the church with four families currently experiencing homelessness. As the program moved on to the next church, two precious families also graduated from the program (after many months of hard work) into permanent, stable housing.
As we prepare for host weeks I am often nervous. How will it go? Will we serve the guests well? Will we meet their needs? It feels like a privilege we have not earned to be allowed into their lives—into the intimate day-to-day of eating, sleeping, playing, and cuddling their children. Being up that close, we’re reminded just how hard it is to be homeless.
Through Family Promise many of us have come to know—and even love—individual families who are experiencing homelessness. But all of those interactions are not easy (at least not for most of us). Homelessness is more unsettling than most people know. That’s because financial stability buys more than a place to live. A home represents freedom to come and go as you please; the option of choosing your next meal; the privacy to have a bad day alone instead of in front of people you hardly know. Being without a home—especially with children—is a traumatic experience.
On Sunday, the sermon considered that Jesus’ willingness to humble himself and descend into human reality is actually what made him so Godly (Philippians 2:1-11). On the cross Christ exemplified God’s qualities by lowering himself. As the sermon so beautifully put it, he lowered himself to grab on to us and pull us up. He surrendered all the stability and comfort he had for the sake of people he dearly loved. And Christ calls his children not to revel in that love only, but to let it motivate us to pick up our own crosses and follow him into the service of others. When we recognize that the dominant narrative we live with is one of self-fulfillment and of finding oneself and chasing one’s own dreams, a humble God is stunning.
It is my prayer that as NSCBC serves with Family Promise—trading free time and warm beds to sleep on cots alongside homeless families—we are identifying with Christ and demonstrating the gospel. It is my prayer that in doing this we will nurture the mindset of Christ in our individual lives and in our congregation. May we let it draw us out of ourselves toward the complicated, unsettling realities that others face. May we meet the Lord Jesus in humble service and push others upward. This is what God did for us.
Sarah Bartley is NSCBC’s ministry coordinator for Family Promise. Family Promise North Shore Boston is an interfaith hospitality network that provides temporary shelter, meals, hospitality, and case management for families experiencing homelessness on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Learn more about Family Promise.