BY ANNA BEAUCHAMP |
Matthew 25:35 – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”.
Imagine that your home floods and you have no insurance to cover the damage. The home is unlivable and you have no relatives with which you can stay. Imagine you are in elementary school and your friends want to come over and play at your home but your home is a room in a run down hotel. Imagine being at work and your co-workers want to go out to dinner, they say that they will pick you up, however you do not want them to know that your current home is a day center with other families who have no place to call home.
These are the lives of the families and children who are in the Family Promise program.
Family Promise is a national organization with a local Davie County, NC presence. Their goal is to take families with children who have no home to call their own and provide them with the ways and means to get back on their feet, and a safe haven until they are able to. The organization partners with local churches who commit to either hosting families or providing support for those churches who do. Each week, the families who have been approved for the program rotate to a different church where they are provided dinner in the evening, overnight sleep in the church (Family Promise provides comfortable rollaway beds for the families and two beds for the overnight volunteers who stay with them), and then breakfast and lunch are packed for them to take with them each morning when they leave around 7:00 a.m. When they leave the church each morning, they return to the day center, which is their central location (and their current permanent address so that they can receive mail, have an address to use for job applications and such, and a place to shower, launder clothing, and hang out during the day).
The organization works with the families to find them work, transportation, and a home into which they may move. Before a family is admitted into the program, they must pass background checks, drug screenings, and must sign an agreement that they will abide by the rules and work with Family Promise staff as required.
My church, Macedonia Moravian, found out about this program about 1 ½ years ago. Our pastor, Zach Dease, asked them to do a presentation at our Church Council meeting so that we could determine if this was a local mission with which we could get involved. At the church council, though some church members still had some concerns about doing this, it was voted by a majority that we become a host church. We had a whole set of rooms above our fellowship hall (former classrooms) that were not being used and this would give us plenty of room to safely shelter these precious families.
I decided to move ahead with it and attend a Family Promise coordinator meeting to learn more. I phoned another of my church members, Eileen Dunn, to ask if she would like to attend with me. She gave me an enthusiastic yes and off we went! We learned what was involved in coordinating for our church and she and I became co-coordinators for the program for Macedonia. We began cleaning out the rooms, with help from some other church members, setting up 3 as bedrooms, 1 as an activity room, and 1 as a dining room.
In preparation for the first hosting, which was scheduled for the week of July 1st, 2018, we began creating schedules for overnight stay, meal donations, and move in and out help. We were blessed with a few donations of snacks, water, meals, and even lamps and other needs to help our guests have a comfortable stay with us. The overnight volunteers are provided a bed, can bring their own linens, and all that they do is sleep and be present for the families for any needs during the night.
On Sunday, July 1st the Family Promise trailer was brought to our church. That afternoon, with the help of the Smith Grove Fire Department and other volunteers, we unloaded beds (for the family and for overnight volunteers) and their belongings and moved them upstairs.
We were hosting a mother, father, and a little girl this week. The family arrived that evening to stay with us. The father was studying on-line for his bachelor’s degree, the wife worked at Goodwill, and the little girl was in school and loved horses. We had some horse toys in our activities room and she had a wonderful time playing with them before it was time for lights out. We found out, in being a quiet presence with them after evening meal, that they had a fire at their former home and they had no insurance.
In the Family Promise hosting rules/volunteer guidelines, we are asked to not ask questions. We know that for some, it is not a comfortable thing to speak about and we let them decide if and when they wish to share their journey and thoughts with us. We are to be there a loving entity for them if they need us.
A wonderful thing happened for this family and they were only with us Sunday and Monday night. On Tuesday, they were able to move into a place of their own! Family Promise had worked to find them an apartment and furniture and they were able to sleep in their own place on Tuesday night. We managed to make it through our first mission effort with the families.
Since then, we have hosted four more times. Our hosting in May 2019 brought us close to a sweet grandmother, a 70-year-old former nurse, who was taking care of her 13-year-old autistic grandson. We were impressed that this woman had chosen to make a better life for her grandson with special needs and whose parents had basically abandoned him to be involved in their own lives. We had a wonderful time getting to know them, playing card games and other activities with them. They shared many joys and struggles with us because they felt comfortable being with us, rather in their last living arrangement which was a hotel room. We spoke to them about our Lord Jesus Christ and gifted both grandmother and grandchild with Bibles, which they happily accepted.
On the Sunday that they were to move on to the next church location, they chose to stay and attend our 11:00 a.m. service with us. Many of the congregation did not realize who they were as they sat with me in the front pews. However, they were just like any of us. They were normal human beings trying to live a life that they have been given on this earth. Their journey may have taken a few more twists and turns than some, but they are not unlike any of us. We all have struggles of some sort. We rely on our Lord to see us through. We hoped that by our demonstration of our lives and our caring for them during their stay, we impressed upon them that he is watching over them during their journey too.
With our most recent hosting on July 28th, we were a bit anxious. We had four families coming to stay with us – four parents and nine children ranging in age from 2-15. It would involve lots of preparation, more food, and maybe a few more eyes to watch and be sure that their stay was safe and comfortable. We were not sure that we would have the support this time due to many being out of town on vacation.
With determination and faith, we moved ahead, stocked up, and donations began flowing. We were so humbled and blessed by the many who came forward to help. Eileen mentioned that it reminded her of the story in Matthew 14 of Jesus feeding the 5000. Out of what we thought was going to be very little came something amazing and wonderful! We had the support of some continuing volunteers, new volunteers, and we officially partnered with the Episcopal Church of the Ascension as our support church. They, as well as other generous volunteers, provided huge amounts of food for our families to enjoy. In return, we gave Ascension any food products that we had left that would expire before our next hosting so that they can share at their Our Daily Bread food pantry. What a wonderful and joyous thing to be able to work with others in the community to serve as Jesus Christ would want us to serve.
With this last hosting we celebrated our 1-year host anniversary. We have gone through many emotions and many prayers during this mission effort, but it continues to bring us joy and comfort knowing that we are helping God’s children with providing safe haven and nourishment in many ways. We have committed to hosting next year too and Eileen and I are very thankful that we continue to have people learn about this mission and then want to help. We hope that we are demonstrating our faith in being present with those in need of love, care, and Jesus’ presence in their lives. We keep in remembrance Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
If you wish to learn more about this special local mission, please visit www.familypromisedc.org. You may also contact me at [email protected] for more information. Our next hosting will be the week of November 10. I welcome you to contact me and stop by to see our facilities (which you may do before then), meet the families, spend time enjoying a meal with them, stay overnight, or just observe to learn more.
We also appreciate continued prayers as we work on this special mission. We are grateful for anything that you do for this effort and we know that you will receive the blessings that we have in offering the families just a few moments of your time.
About the author
Anna Beauchamp is a member of Macedonia Moravian Church and is the Co-Coordinator for Family Promise at Macedonia.