I was hungry, and you formed a committee and discussed my hunger.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your own health.
I was homeless, and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me.
This unsettling quote is pinned to the noticeboard of the Jesus Centre office I’m typing in now. It’s provoked me.
I often momentarily pass many people in the corridors- café customers, Jesus Centre group members, skills class students, homeless drop-in visitors, volunteers, art-deco architecture admirers, admin staff, room hirers, event riggers, you name it. All of us have a part to play, in some varying measure, in the work of the Jesus Centre – meeting need, building capacity and supporting the work of the Jesus Army.
However, when working in the back office I sometimes feel a mile away from the ‘sharp end’ of the work, out of contact with some of the people we’re here to serve- the less fortunate of society, the hungry and the homeless. The quote above seems too close for comfort. On the other hand, I know how the ‘sharp end’ volunteers can get bogged down when they feel all they’re doing is trying to deal with a never-ending flood of ‘people problems’.
In a charitable organisation like us there’s always a risk that volunteers at any position in the team can lose a sense of purpose in what they do, we can become disillusioned or tired. The minutiae of tilling the ground eclipses the fruit of our labours as vocation loses vision and becomes weary work. I’ve seen it happen.
So what’s the solution?
Don’t lose heart.
It was John Wesley who said:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can
I can do what others can’t, they can do what I can’t. The fundraiser needs completely different skills to the centre manager, and the guy who runs the alcoholics support group shouldn’t have to worry about the bills. We must all do very different things to fulfil the one vision. The key is to remember why we do what we do and to appreciate one another.
So yes, form a committee if you must. But also feed the hungry.
Furthermore, don’t just feed the hungry, but work against the causes of poverty.
Yes, help people into financial security but also enrich their lives with the good news of God’s just society, His family, His community.
And going full circle- tell the homeless of God’s love but don’t send them away with empty bellies. Maybe to a hungry belly the gospel tastes like a warm meal.
This article first featured in Jesus Life magazine Q3 2005.
The Northampton Jesus Centre has witnessed some remarkable events. Jesus Life reports.
HEALING RAYS, the name of the group, comes from Malachi: ‘But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,'” explains team member Dave Howell. “In a book on healing, I discovered ‘wings’ could also be translated as ‘rays’.”
Twenty-nine years ago Dave was told he had the ministry of intercession. “After a while I realized it was my particular ministry, and moved into a healing gift,” he recalls. “The first brother I prayed for, we were amazed to see the pain went!”
Every Tuesday morning Dave, together with Ann and Tony, assemble in one of the Jesus Centre’s skills rooms and wait to see who will come through the door.
“The three of us work very well as a team,” says Ann. “Tony is very prophetic. Dave brings healing and deliverance. And I have discovered a gift of discernment.”
All sorts of people, Christian and non-Christian, come looking for healing for their body, soul or spirit. Ann has seen many ‘God happenings’ with the group.
“One lady was obviously very distressed. People are usually reticent but she just sat down and started talking. She had grown up knowing God (her dad was a vicar), but had rebelled and delved into the occult and hypnosis. Now she was climbing walls, literally, was about to be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, and was really scared. ‘Help me please,’ she said to God.
“We spent the whole two hours with her. She arrived stooped and sad, and went out glowing!
“The next week she was back with a friend who wanted to get herself right with God. We encouraged them in their vision to start healing ministry in their own church.
“Another week, two elderly ladies came in. One had severe sciatica. I had a word of knowledge: ‘By this evening you’re not going to have any pain.’ And she didn’t – not that we knew that for some time afterwards!
“A young South African was referred to us by another church member. He had been very badly damaged, first by rejection from his birth mother, then by abuse from a step-parent, and finally, by a very bad trip after eating some magic mushrooms. We did our usual praying bit. Dave led him through a prayer of repentance, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he started to speak in tongues.”
Church members are welcome to join the group too. “One member with HIV has been so much better since he has been receiving regular prayer. His doctor says he’s the healthiest HIV patient he has!” says Ann.
“We are just the channels of God’s power,” says Tony, “and as we are obedient to Him, He can do what he wants through us.” “Being an intercessor has given me more empathy for people,” concludes Dave. “And seeing results is a tremendous encouragement to believe for more things to happen.
“We just want more people to come along!”