Last week a small group of folks from our church went over to do ministry at Flying J with the poor and homeless who reside in the parking lot and nearby.

We’ve been doing this for several months now.  We make sure people get showers, laundry, and get a meal.  It’s not complicated and sometimes it doesn’t feel like we are doing much given the challenges that people face.  But it’s something – one of the few things that we can do.

And it has been a learning experience for us too.  We’ve shifted from a focus on making sure people have the material things they need, to the relationships.  We actually care about these people.  We know their names and they know us.  We hear their stories.  We catch up if we haven’t seen them in a while and find out what they have been up to.

This is a diverse group – young, old, middle-age, families, single, white, black, men and women.  You name it.

My favorite time is when we go over for the meal at Denny’s.  Everyone is welcome to come.  This past time a trucker who was passing through the area joined in our meal and the conversations.  He shared pictures of mountains in California from some of his trips.

One of the most moving statements I have heard during our time of ministry was uttered by one of our African-American guests.  It took a few times for her to warm up to us over the last month or two.  But this time, she was right in the mix.  We had built trust with her and she with us.  She knew we actually cared about her, not what she had done.  She was attempting to draw in another gentlemen into the conversation at the table at Denny’s.  At one point she said “This is great.  It feels like family.”

Wow.  That statement made my heart leap for joy.

This is what ministry is really about.  It’s not about doing stuff for other people, or getting people a bunch of stuff.  Those are important, but not the most important thing.  Rather, it is building relationships with people so that you and they become family.  This is what it means to be children of God, to dwell in the kingdom.  To be a part of God’s family.