Why Should I help? And what can I even do?

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Empathy and compassion are core tenets of humanity. They’re evident in the life of Jesus not only from His words, but perhaps more importantly from His actions. The poor, the sick, little children, the mocked, the scorned by society. These were the comfort zone of the one after whom we aim to model our lives, and yet they can seem foreign and fearsome to us.

We become shocked when we, who have grown up never having to fear for our loved ones’ safety or wonder how we’ll fill their empty bellies, witness acts of cruelty being visited upon others. If we perceive violence or pain, our first instinct is to jump in and rescue. Be the hero, save the day. In our minds, we are all the type to step in to trip the bandit getting away with someone’s handbag before they get too far out of reach.

And yet the homeless receive our apathy at best and our scorn or annoyance at worst. Their need offends us, when in reality, there but for the grace of God go I. As with all things in life, we mistrust what we do not understand, and our goal with this blog is to talk through misconceptions about the homeless and the true struggles they face.

But talking only gets us so far in solving a problem. First we talk and understand, then we act. Once we are made aware of this problem, what can we do to help?

There are two ways to help: financially, and physically. For some of us, volunteering in person just isn’t feasible at this point in life. Maybe you’re a stay at home parent with small children and no childcare, maybe you’re unable to leave your house due to health concerns, or maybe this is just an insanely busy season in your life and you want to be there in person but you just can’t right now. Donations are always welcome, and spreading the message of the Dream Center and Charlotte’s homeless is a great way to stand in solidarity with those less fortunate than you.

When you give to the Dream Center, you’re giving to all the great things that the Dream Center is doing in Charlotte. On Sundays, we transform The King’s Kitchen restaurant into the Restoring Place Church. Our doors are open to all, and attendees engage in fellowship through worship and Biblical teaching while children play in the children’s ministry.

On weekday afternoons, the Kings Kitchen closes from 2pm to 5pm and opens to the homeless and low-income community members for a bible study where all are welcome.

We also provide daily care through a discipleship program. This is really the heartbeat of our ministry. It’s a year long program designed to provide participants with upward mobility, accountability, structure, support, and job training skills.

If giving financially is what you are able to do, then you’re contributing towards furthering these great causes and making real changes on the streets of Charlotte.

For many of us, we could schedule time to volunteer if we set our minds to it, but we find ourselves only hesitating before we take the plunge into showing up for those in need and being bodies in the street to show love and support to our sisters and brothers in Charlotte. Volunteer! Show up! Nothing is quite as fulfilling as helping people. And why is that? What is it about giving of ourselves that makes us feel good in return?

According to psychologists, we get a “helper’s high” when we volunteer. This excerpt from Psychology Today has some staggering information about the benefits of volunteering:

“Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying—and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church; it means that volunteering is nearly as beneficial to our health as quitting smoking!”

Forbes magazine also talks about volunteering as it benefits the person with a busy schedule. For instance, “volunteering your experience helps build your experience,” and “volunteering your love makes you feel more love.”

Scientists and intellectuals in the modern day aren’t onto some new idea that we’re just realizing. The Bible is rife with parables and admonitions to help those in need, and give to those who have less than you.

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” – Matthew 5:42.

 

In our post entitled “What Is Homelessness,” we talked a little bit about the homeless population in Charlotte. If this is your first time checking us out, be sure to head over to that post to read a little bit about the demographics of the people that we’re working with; the people with whom we want to partner so that they can succeed in life just as we succeed in life.

But where do YOU come in? Where does the Dream Center need you? Forming relationships with people and meeting them where they’re at in life is one of our main passions. When you get to know people and visit with them on a regular basis, they feel more comfortable opening up to you and making their needs known. In this way we reach out to people with our foundational Adopt-A-Block program. Our goal is to bring hope and transformation for Charlotte’s most at-risk neighborhoods through consistent and dedicated home visits, relationship building and physical acts of service.    

If reaching out and forming real relationships sounds like the thing for you, and you’re available Saturdays from 11am to 1pm,  click this link and start filling out your information so we can get in touch with you about meeting up on a Saturday and diving right in.

Saturdays don’t work for you? On Friday evenings, we coordinate volunteers in two shifts to make and distribute chili cheese dogs to our neighbors living on the streets. Street ministry aims to meet physical needs of those experiencing chronic homelessness, and again build relationships with people so that all of our lives can affect and receive the greatest change.

What about Sundays? Do you have a group that wants to help out on a Sunday morning? Following services at Restoring Place Church, volunteers feed a free sit-down meal to homeless and low-income church members.

For more information on Friday street ministry, the discipleship program, weekday Bible study, Restoring Place Church and the Daily Care Discipleship program, head to the Outreach page of our website.

Get involved because a safer city for one of us is a safer city for all of us. Get involved because people out there need you. But most importantly, get involved because it’s the right thing to do.

Sources

“What We Get When We Give” Psychology Today
“5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering” Forbes
“How Close is Charlotte to Ending Homelessness” Charlotte Magazine

A Profound Meal

A Thanksgiving story from Dream Center volunteer Sam Carson.

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I am extremely thankful that my family and I were able to host another family for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was serving one Sunday morning at Restoring Place Church when I met a child named Jayden for the first time. Jayden asked me if he could have Thanksgiving with my family. Immediately I said, “Yes,” and silently questioned whether or not he was being serious. I see now that it was beyond Jayden just asking to eat with my family, it was God working through Jayden to plant a seed in me.

Thanksgiving was still a few weeks away when Jayden made his request to have dinner with my family, so I spent those next few weeks thinking through if this was a realistic request  and what preparation would need to happen in order for it to work well. All along I had been thinking that I would just go pick Jayden up and bring him to Gastonia with my family. Then my sister, Tasha, asked if his entire family could come. I immediately felt overwhelmed. In over my head. “Sure, one extra person we could do, but an entire family?” I knew that God was already working when Jayden asked to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I put my plan before God, and I was trusting that He was working to establish my steps. I trusted that God was leading me.

A few nights passed before I called Joanne as a way to get in touch with Jayden’s family. Joanne reached out to the family to see if they would be interested. The family said that they were, so Joanne connected me with Jayden’s Mom, Shareeta. I called Shareeta and asked her if she and her family wanted to come over to my house to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. She told me that she would bring Jayden and herself along with her fiancée, but her daughters would be going with their grandmother. I was filled with excitement of what this could mean for their family as well as mine. This was an opportunity to share with people who may have never felt this sort of hospitality. This was going to be an exciting experience for both families.

By the time Thanksgiving day came, Shareeta had adjusted her plans to include her two daughters as well, Jaloria and Jamiah. Through this whole series of events I grew more ecstatic to have our two families collide, for the children in each family to play with each other and for us all to just be able to spend time together. Shareeta arrived with her fiancée, Will, and her three kids. It was a cold afternoon, so they came bundled up in jackets and toboggans. I welcomed them inside and began introducing them to my family as the food was finishing cooking. After a few minutes, our two families together circled up in the kitchen to pray and give thanks to God for the food that we were about to enjoy, as well as giving thanks to God for providing us salvation through His son Jesus.

The conversations around the dinner table were filled with pretty average small talk. But the Thanksgiving dinner altogether was far from average for both of our families.

God loves His creations and expresses this daily in tangible ways. My hope for Jayden’s family is that they would have felt the love God has for them through our service to them. My hope for my family is that we will grow in our service to God and to others, and that through our obedience, more people would come to be known by our Father.

God provides. Ask and you will receive. Knock and it will be opened to you.

 

Go With the Flow

A blog post from the heart of our associate director, Joanne Lowry.

It is easy to just go with the flow, to find a place of comfort in your relationship with Christ and others. When we are in this ‘go with the flow’ mentality we aren’t being intentional about pursuing all that God has in store for us and has prepared for us. “Spiritual growth requires an intentional effort. Spiritual stagnation and decline require no effort at all.” When we fail to exert these conscious acts we don’t receive all of the things God has for us. On a larger scale, when we aren’t intentional in our relationships with others, it is easy to make them feel like they are people of convenience not of worth.

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It is part of our mission to make each and every person feel wanted, needed and accepted despite their situation. Intentionally loving others and making them feel like they BELONG, in the midst of what ever lifestyle they may be living paired with speaking and BELIEVING truth over their lives has the potential to produce a radical change in BEHAVIOR. We see growth in ourselves and in our community when we deliberately choose to help those around us. The goal is to be a group of people who live and love by decision, not by default.
One way you can choose to live intentionally is by donating your time to The Dream Center.  To volunteer, click here.
ShawnMassey

Shawn

Shawn’s is a story of forgiveness and hope. After serving 12 years in prison following a wrongful conviction, Shawn was exonerated, thanks to the help of a team from the Duke University School of Law committed to helping those misidentified and wrongfully prosecuted, in 2010. But his situation leaves him feeling as though he is still in prison here in Charlotte.READ MORE

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Kevin

Kevin has been homeless since the age of 13 – more than 30 years ago. Since then, he’s been nicknamed “Slim” on the street and created a home for himself at the bus stop by Discovery Place where he stays 5 nights a week.

About homelessness, Kevin says, “You ask yourself, ‘What am I doing? Did you put me out for a purpose? Did you make me homeless?’ Not doing anything gets to you. It’s like your life doesn’t mean anything. You sit there morning and night, go get something to eat, sit, wait for people to give you money and then keep going.”

Kevin found out about The King’s Kitchen & Bakery and the Dream Center through a volunteer at a local church. Since then he’s attended Bible study as well as Restoring Place Church. “They actually care about you like you’re part of the family. They pray for you, sit down and talk with you, and give people opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Kevin says.