Throughout the Mat-Su Valley, a wide array of faith communities open their houses of worship to help shelter those without houses of their own. Family Promise Mat-Su coordinates the church shelters and congregation volunteers who serve as evening or overnight hosts to the guest families, who donate food and prepare meals to eat together. Family Promise also provides guest families with case management, help with transportation and childcare, while they work toward getting established in permanent housing.
I recently read a letter from a man who had spent an evening at Family Promise with a few of the guest families who sheltered there. He currently serves as the bishop of a local ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I share his letter with permission although he prefers to do so anonymously.
Earlier this year, my wife received a phone call informing her that the intended volunteers for a night of service at Family Promise were not available. She was asked if our family would fill in the slot and help feed a few families that Friday night. My wife, who is more kind, more giving, and more loving than I am, said yes and started making preparations for the menu.
When she told me that she had volunteered our family to fulfil this service opportunity, I was, initially, happy to do it. But soon I began feeling that I was losing my Friday night of fun with my family. I was not thrilled at the idea of having the night planned on our behalf. I was having a great internal tantrum of selfishness.
Friday night came around, and my wife had prepared a wonderful meal. When I stepped into the Family Promise home, all of those feelings of selfishness melted away. As I set the table, talked to the guests, and served the food, I felt gently and clearly that I was blessed to have this opportunity. There was no better place for me to be with my family on this night. No night of skiing, movie watching, or board games would have been better than this.
I even found a purpose while I was there. Within minutes we noticed that a few lightbulbs in the kitchen had long ago burned out. I took two of my kids to home depot and selected some LED bulbs so that they would last for a long time. The kitchen was full of hot food and bright light. We had a great time.
As we played a few board games with the guests, I noticed that there was a small copy of Gideon’s Bible on the table. I told my son, “I’m going to randomly open the Bible and see where my finger lands, and I’ll read whatever verse it is.” The verse was 2 Corinthians 5:1. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
I suppose it could be a coincidence that I found a scripture that talks about losing your home, losing what is dear to you, and having a hope for something better from God in the future. It could have been coincidence or fortune that our family filled the empty volunteer spot that night. But I think God was confirming to me that he wanted me to be there. I walked away knowing that God is aware of all people—homeless people and selfish people. Sometimes He uses one of them to help the other. That night, I was being helped.
Family Promise Mat-Su mobilizes community resources and local congregations to provide compassionate care through shelter, meals, and case management to families without housing. To volunteer with Family Promise, find them on JustServe.org, or call (907) 357-6160.