Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Volunteer's Point of View

Serving Our King

In Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus describes righteous service to our King:

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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

About a year and a half ago, I was studying that scripture during the holidays. I desperately wanted to know what that kind of service looked like in my life. Who did the Lord want me to feed?  Who did the Lord want me to clothe? During that study, I noticed a flyer hanging in my office break room. The Stewpot needed shoebox care packages for the homeless. "Start there," I heard the Spirit prompt me. 

After gathering shoeboxes from friends and family, and I headed to the Stewpot to drop them off. I recognized the Stewpot immediately. It was the scary building that I avoided. Why did so many homeless people gather there?  I didn't know, and I didn't plan to find out. I waited at the side door hoping someone would see me and take my shoeboxes. Someone did. Betty Heckman invited me in. I tried to just give her my shoeboxes, but she immediately started giving me a tour. She described the dental service, the medical service, the ID service, the voicemail service, and many other services. She introduced me to various Stewpot volunteers and employees. As we walked, I heard the Spirit's voice: "Look around! This is what it looks like. I live here."

I left the Stewpot with a clearer vision of my service to the King. I wanted to serve at the Stewpot, but what I could do? My answer came the next morning. I opened the Dallas Morning News and saw an article describing the Stewpot's representative payee program. Many homeless people are eligible for Social Security benefits, but Social Security often requires a disabled person to have a representative payee. The representative helps the disabled client manage their benefits. With the help of volunteers, the Stewpot acts as a representative payee for many clients. Volunteers meet with clients every week to discuss the client's budget and financial needs. Perfect, I thought. As an accountant and lawyer, that job suited me perfectly. A few months later, I met my first Stewpot client.

My favorite part of working at the Stewpot has been getting to know the clients. I've learned that it is difficult to help someone manage their money if you do not know them. My first client, for example, had recently emerged from a decade-long alcoholic haze. During that haze, he lost contact with his daughter. He had not spoken to her in years. He thought about her often and wanted to repair his relationship with her. Because I knew how important his daughter was, I encouraged my client to visit her.  We prepared a budget for the trip, and he visited. He returned from that trip with a new sense of joy. His daughter had graciously accepted him back into her life.

My time with payee-rep clients has taught me that the people lined up outside the Stewpot are not scary hoodlums that I should avoid. They are kings. Our King lives in them. He calls us to serve Him through them.

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