Posted by: Emily Shemwell | December 7, 2009

December Newsletter

Dear Family and Friends,

I can’t believe December has arrived! This past month has been one of the busiest so far at the Hope Program. With cooler temperatures setting in, the Day Shelter is seeing more and more guests each morning. As the year Hope Team becomes adjusted to our new way of life, we are taking on more responsibilities. One of my responsibilities in November was coordinating Jeff. Street’s annual Thanksgiving meal. Much of my time these past two weeks was spent coordinating all of the volunteers as well as the food donors. The hard work paid off as we had over 75 volunteers assist us in serving around 220 residents and guests on Thanksgiving Eve.

The day before the Thanksgiving Eve meal, I walked out the front doors of Jeff. Street at 4:45pm, almost two hours later than I normally leave. My brain hurt. My body was fatigued. I was exhausted. As I stepped onto the sidewalk, I saw a tall, dark-skinned man walking across the street. As he walked closer, he came into view. When I realized it was a former resident, Andrew, I was overcome with emotion.

Some two weeks ago, Andrew left the Fresh Start Program here. When I learned of the news from a teammate, I was shocked. Andrew was so motivated to make a change in his life. Every morning when I walked downstairs to start serving in the kitchen, Andrew would already be there, pouring cereal in the Styrofoam bowels. While all of our residents are required to do chores, Andrew went above and beyond what was asked of him. He was always willing to help when needed. On many occasions we talked about what he was learning in the Christian-based classes that all Fresh Start programmers must attend. I would see him carrying around his ESV Bible along with notes from the classes; I could see his brain turning over the new material he was learning.

I recall sitting down with Andrew in the Day Shelter cafeteria one afternoon. A teammate and I started a conversation that led to the topic of relationships; we got into a discussion about what a Godly relationship looks like. Andrew was astonished at the commitment my teammate and I shared at pursuing God’s will in all of our relationships. For over an hour, we discussed the subject… not as a staff member and resident… not as a superior and a subordinate… but as equals… as friends. I saw God working in Andrew’s life.

So when I met Andrew on the sidewalk that cool November afternoon a myriad of emotions overtook me. There was some disappointment and confusion (because I didn’t know why he left the program), but there was also joy and happiness; joy and happiness to see my friend once again. He asked me how I was doing and I shook his hand and responded, “Okay.” When I asked about his whereabouts he replied that he had to do something different right now. Knowing that was a surface answer, I kept my mouth shut and just smiled, holding my tears in. Then Andrew said, “Just keep doing what you did for me, Emily. Keep helping these people out, like you did for me.” I smiled and quickly replied, “I have to go, Andrew.” My eyes filled with tears as I left him and walked to my car.

What am I doing here? Is the effort and lifestyle I’m living, really affecting those around me? Andrew said I helped him out, but am I? I thought I was making a difference in his life, but then he just up and left one day – no explanation, nothing. While it’s easy to feel betrayed, while it’s easy to judge, that is the last thing Andrew needs from me now. Although Andrew’s decision to leave the Fresh Start Program was not wise, the last thing he needs from his friends is judgment. The last thing any person needs is a friend just waiting to judge, especially the fragile folks I interact with daily. They are looking for someone to truly be their friend. They are searching for someone to listen. They are seeking for someone to care. They desperately need someone to love them through the eyes of Jesus Christ.

In the book Chasing Daylight, Christian author and speaker, Erwin McManus, says that “we are all broken vessels with divine capacity. A part of the challenge is to never give up on people. Jesus refused to give up on us.” I’m learning that part of my challenge is to never give up on the people in my life. I’m learning that we are all fragile people, some more than others, looking for someone to love us as we are, for who we are – the good as well as the bad. I’m incapable of meeting people’s needs on my own. I can’t love perfectly, but Jesus can. And, more than anything, that is what people need… They need to see Jesus… They need to see Jesus through me. Daily I pray that they see a glimpse of Christ’s mercy, love, and hope through my actions and words. This Christmas season, I pray that you will let God use you to share Christ’s love and hope with those you meet.

Please pray for Andrew. I don’t know all the details of his current situation, but I know that he is struggling. Pray that God will continue to foster change in his life. Pray that he will seek and trust Christ. Pray for all of our residents and homeless friends. Pray for their safety, protection, and health as a new season – a hard season – arrives. Also, pray for the Hope Team. Pray that we can be Christ’s light in the dark world. Pray that God will be glorified and honored in all that we do.

Thanks for your faithful prayers and loving support!

Blessings this Holiday season,

Emily

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