I need to see their eyes.
In the world I inhabit, most eyes are filled with hope and excitement: there’s the test, passed with flying colors, the upcoming vacation, the new job, the grandchildren’s graduation, the pictures from the wedding, the ease of retirement living.
Eyes are a light into the soul, and most of the souls I encounter are enjoying the benefits of the American Dream, mama’s love, daddy’s money (daddy’s love, mama’s money!).
It’s too easy to think those eyes tell the story of the world, but they do not.
So when our Sunday morning to host Hope Chapel worship rolls around every other month, I have a hard time saying no. Hope Chapel is a little church we helped build about 20 years ago, as part of the United Baptist Association. It’s adjacent to the property of the Uptown Men’s Shelter and has been home to a host of ethnic church starts over the years. As the only remaining mission of the UBA, the chapel still holds a handful of churches together to continue this worthy work.
Every Sunday, Hope Chapel provide coffee, warmth and shelter, a song and a preached word. The congregants don’t dress like we do at Park Road, and their eyes tell a completely different story.
I see despair and desperation in some of those eyes, abuse and neglect in others. Those eyes have seen things I’d rather not think about, and there is a haze of bone-weariness in many: weary of working and not making it, weary of not making it work. Weary of being looked down on, given up on, cast aside, left behind.
Those eyes make preaching sound different. It’s not that I dumb-down the message, water down my theology. In this setting, a common prayer is the simple gratitude that the Lord “...opened my eyes to see the light of a new day...”
And that kind of base-level outlook on life will change preaching – from both sides of the pulpit.
I see the same look serving Tea at the Urban Ministry Center. Gray Clark initiated this ministry for us a few years ago. On second and fourth Fridays, we provide four people who fill 400+ red Solo cups with ice and fill them with sweet (and I do mean SWEET!) tea. I see the same weariness, the same despair – and I hear the same voice of genuine gratitude from those I serve. Urban Ministry turns no one away. No questions asked, every day of the week, 52 weeks a year, there’s a free meal to be had. When I’m handing out those quenching cups of sweet nectar, I always wonder about the last time some of those folks had such a meal.
Without the gratitude in those eyes, I may not remember to be grateful because I have no idea what that feels like.
If you need that reminder, I invite you to join us in any of our homeless ministries. You can sign up to participate here.
You need to see their eyes.