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A Place Of Refuge

One of the hardest parts of the work day is after lunchtime, right around 2:30. I like to call it the three o’clock slump. No matter how much coffee I drink (I know, I know, the health message), I can’t seem to shake that afternoon fatigue. A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk when suddenly, I was hit with a wave of exhaustion. Sure enough when I looked at the clock, it read 3:00. As a budding Philadelphian, I got up from my desk and naturally headed to the nearest Wawa for a snack.

As I neared the entrance to my favorite convenience store, I heard a soft voice say, “Excuse me.”

I was already prepped to give the homeless person I knew I would see a sympathetic smile and keep it moving. However, the person who was approaching me stopped me dead in my tracks. She was young- she couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me- and she looked scared and confused.

Her request was simple- could I give her directions to a shelter? She was going through a messy divorce and needed a place to stay. I spent the next several minutes calling multiple shelters and giving her the directions to them.

Thirty minutes later, I returned to my desk with my snack but I no longer wanted it. I was not tired anymore either. My fatigue had been replaced with a feeling of helplessness. Why had I sent this young woman to a place that most likely had a long waiting list and could probably only give her temporary housing and three meals a day? Why didn’t I know of a place where she would be welcomed, cared for, and supported as she began the process of rebuilding her life?

What if church became that place? What if our churches had the infrastructure to help people like the woman I met that day?

Ok, I know it’s not that simple. There would be A LOT of logistics to work through but hear me out.

Most of our churches are only open a few days a week. Almost every church I know is open on Wednesdays for prayer meeting, Friday nights for choir rehearsal, all day Sabbath of course, and maybe on Sunday for Pathfinders or board meetings. But all of those events are activities for members.

What if churches became places that were open seven days a week? Not just for worship services and bible studies but for…service.

What would it take for our churches to become places known for warm meals, safe housing, counseling, education and training programs, and…love? Would we be willing to do it without the promise of a baptism? In other words, with no strings attached?

Maybe I’m being too idealistic and perhaps it’s just too complicated but sometimes I fear we’re so caught up in doctrine and tradition that we’ve completely neglected being servants.

What if churches became a place of refuge instead of a breeding ground for conflict? Are we able to think beyond weekly services and move towards creating a place that contributes to its community more than just one day a week? Can church be a place that is open to everyone and especially those in need- even if they don’t claim any religion?

Those are the questions that lingered in my head for the rest of that work day. Perhaps they are just the ramblings of a dreamer or maybe we could work with other Christian churches in our neighborhoods and actually make it happen. All I know is, I never want to send someone in desperate need of help to a waiting list again. One day I’d like to be able to send them to a church where Christians are waiting with open arms.


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