Today was another very full day! Our first work stop was the Presbyterian Night Shelter, which is a huge complex of ministries for and with men, women and children who are experiencing homelessness. After a tour of the main facility, we worked in the building that houses women who have children. Under the guidance of Harriet and Stephanie, we cleaned out a large supply room and a store where women can shop for supplies. As we worked, they also taught us about the massive scope of homelessness in Fort Worth and the U.S. Their tireless work is making a difference, one life at a time!
When we finished our work, we headed to TCU where we ate lunch with Allison in her building. Then she gave us a great tour of the campus, including a stop at Admissions. We met Dr. Jim Atwood (religion prof and head of Disciples admissions) who gave us cool TCU hats!
After the tour, we crossed the street and met Jessica Vacketta (one of the ministers at University Christian Church). She gave us a tour of UCC and took us to the part of the building where they host the Wednesday guests of Room at the Inn. We cleaned and arranged furniture, cleaned bathrooms, and spruced the place up to help them get ready to receive their first summer guests. We also talked about homelessness and the power of treating people with dignity and care. It is so easy to think of homeless people as problems rather than as people, but Room at the Inn volunteers focus on our shared humanity.
After working to prepare UCC’s Room at the Inn space, we visited their Prom Dreams ministry. They have converted a house into a boutique where teenaged girls can come to shop for free prom dresses. The dresses are donated by people in the church and wider community, and the ministry gives young women experiencing homelessness or other financial hardship the opportunity to participate in the “normal” teen celebration of a school dance. Some of us tried on dresses, and we all agreed that it is a great ministry by teens for teens.
Dinner tonight was a treat on more than one level. Not only did we share in a tasty meal that included Chuck’s from-scratch macaroni and cheese, but we also got to talk with Lou — a gentleman who was once experienced homelessness himself and who now works with homeless ministries in Fort Worth. We learned so much from him about how to treat people experiencing homelessness. He also shared parts of his own story, and encouraged us to keep caring for others.
Our quote for the day (from Mother Theresa) reminded us that while it is fashionable to talk about the poor, we are rarely encouraged to talk WITH them. Today we have been challenged to really focus on talking with people rather than merely talking about them, and tomorrow we’ll have more opportunities to continue stretching and growing in our compassion, our understanding, and our striving for justice.