Earlier this month the Texas District Board of Mission Administration visited the Haven for Hope in San Antonio. The Haven for Hope is the largest homeless shelter in the nation and serves as a key ministry venue for Rev. Dr. Ely Prieto and a team of able volunteers from LINC San Antonio. Hundreds of children and adults have experienced spiritual retreats, Bible studies, fellowship meals and caring Christ-centered relationships through the efforts of LINC San Antonio.
After entering the room filled with about twenty-five men, we experienced something completely surprising. We sat around a table with men who were ex-convicts—some still dealing with difficult legal issues. Gathered in that room were recovering addicts, both young and old. Some of the men there struggled with mental illness. They were engaged in the Haven for Hope’s program for recovery because they walked in brokenness, joblessness and homelessness.
But as we began to introduce ourselves, the room came alive with warmth and welcome. After each of us shared our name with the group, we were greeted by name with an enthusiastic hello from the men. After one of the board members briefly shared his joy in Jesus, the group of men broke into applause. During the Bible study, participants shared eagerly and spoke of a life in the footsteps of Jesus. As the study concluded, a man volunteered to close with a special prayer. The Haven for Hope men joined in the prayer, speaking the words from memory.
These men were outcasts. They didn’t fit the mold of a typical church. They lived in places and hung out with people churches would probably have no access to. So the church, through LINC San Antonio and volunteers from local congregations, came to them. Even more, these men brought God’s grace to us. They opened their arms for strangers. They encouraged brothers and sisters in Christ.
After having dinner at Matthew the tax collector’s house and being criticized by church officials for eating with sinners, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12–13 NIV).
That night, we were given the welcome of the forgiven. May we be stirred by God’s grace to know, believe and do the same.
By: Rev. Mike Newman
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area C