Tuesday night was a very difficult night for our team. Our first trial was the change in the menu for dinner. We were excited for Taco Tuesday, but it was not Taco Tuesday night. John and Judy, the retired couple who run the mission house, decided to challenge us by serving our team the same meal we would deliver to the homeless that night. At first, I was disappointed. This would be the first dinner I could eat since I was sick with the flu on Sunday and Monday. I thought about how I didn’t particularly like the type of meat and cheese that was in the sandwiches we prepared and I was worried that the meal in the plastic bag wouldn’t be enough to fill me up. Suddenly, I realized how selfish and ungrateful my tendencies are. God quickly reminded me that this was enough; in fact, this was more than enough. After dinner we went through the normal routine of forming an assembly line, packing up the bags of food and loading them into the truck. We took our pre-feeding team photo in the back of the truck and set off into the night.
This is my fourth time serving in El Salvador, and I am fairly familiar with Kurt’s homeless ministry. I recognize the streets, the conditions, and even some of the faces of those we give bags of food to. Tuesday was different though; that night God finally got deep enough to really break my heart. While we made our last stop, a large group of starving people rushed the truck in hopes of filling their bellies. Our team shared in that same hope. As a line was formed, we gave out our last bags one by one. I slowly drew away from gazing into the faces of the people, and instead transitioned my focus to the front of the truck. There was a young boy, no older than 14, standing at the driver’s side. I saw Kurt’s arm extended out and his hand placed on the young boy’s head. As I saw the boy speak, I saw Kurt’s hand gently touching the back of his head. I was suddenly overwhelmed with extreme emotion. I had a vision of how our Father God looks at his starving children. He looks at them with immense compassion and unconditional love. His heart breaks for his people. God allowed me to see with His eyes and he allowed my heart to break the same way His does. My eyes suddenly were filled with tears, and as I looked to the back of the truck I realized at that same moment our team ran out of bags even though there were still men, women, and children who did not yet receive a bag of food. We yelled to the remaining people that we were sorry. Our team fell silent as we drove back to the mission house. We felt angry, confused, and defeated. That night we had time to debrief and discuss our difficult experience. We expressed our sadness and disappointment that we did not have enough bags to feed everyone. We shared our anger about the excess of materialism and waste we see on a daily basis in the states. This was such a challenging, yet precious moment that God used to change our minds and spark a passion in our hearts for his hungry people. After our meeting, God instilled an idea in Stephen: to have our team raise enough money to do a third homeless feeding on Thursday night. Jenni shared this with our team, and we quickly gathered up $250 and were able to purchase enough food to feed 230 people.
Thursday night came, and we were so enthusiastic about getting back out there to pick up where we left off on Tuesday. The routine packing began and after, we were led to pray over all the bags of food. We asked God to bless each hand that received a bag. We prayed that the food would sustain them, but more importantly that their hunger for God’s truth and love be fulfilled. We squeezed into the truck and took off onto the streets of San Salvador. During our hour of handing out bags, we experienced God’s perfect plan. We saw more people fed; we saw another homeless ministry sharing in our same passion for feeding the homeless; and we heard the “amens” of those who received a bag and acknowledged it was straight from God. Although tonight’s experience provided us with a sense of peace and hope that we lacked on Tuesday, we still witnessed the pain of a pregnant teenager homeless and hungry, we still saw the children of the streets with despair in their eyes, and we still looked upon those who sleep on cardboard next to a busy street.
Feeding the homeless is tough and it never gets “easy.” During the past four years serving in El Salvador, God has blessed me with so many incredible experiences. He has used me to pray over hurting young girls, participate in a Quinceanera, dance with the disabled, and build a home for a family. Through those experiences, God has taught me perspective. He has taught me that I can not fix the world. I cant not make the pain of abuse go away. I can not give orphans a family. I can not give the homeless a home. But I can share Jesus and that is worth more than anything I could ever do or say. Tonight I am reminded that God is bigger than the issues facing El Salvador and that He has a sovereign and mighty plan to redeem and save the people he so dearly loves. I know this to be true because his plan was to take a group of North Americans, bring them together, break their hearts on Tuesday, inspire them on Wednesday, and have his plan fulfilled to feed more of his people on Thursday. God is good.