Last evening was a Flying J night. There’s a core group of half a dozen or so people from our congregation who go over to Flying J truck stop twice a month to make sure people can get showers, get their laundry done, and get a meal. We work with individuals and families who live in the parking lot, who are homeless, struggle with poverty, live in motels, and more. Many work and are doing what they can to get from one day to the next.
Last night there was a total of 22 people. That’s the total between people from the church and our guests who come each Thursday we are there.
We know each of these people by name. Often, we know a portion of their stories too. In many instances we have been working with them for a few months now – trying to assist them in ways that they want help and how we can actually help. We aren’t the savior of these people though. We’re not there to fix them or solve all their problems. We can’t.
We go to Flying J for a reason. We go because these are people we are called on to reach out to, get to know, spend time with, and offer what we can. This is what ministry is really about. It’s not fixing others. It’s about being with people. It’s about reminding people of their humanity. We do that when we listen to people, when we hear their stories. When we eat with people. When we talk. When treat people with respect. When we can offer dignity.
In many places, the church is re-learning that ministry can be hands on. In some places, the church has been doing this for a long time. In some places, the church is learning this for the first time. Regardless, ministry is messy. Anything involving people tends to be that way.
But there are times to rejoice too. We rejoice when we experience joy with a family whose life together changes for the better. We rejoice when a family went from living in their vehicle months ago to securing employment and moving into an apartment. That is a joy not just for them, but for us too. We rejoice when we hear another one of our friends finds a job so that his family can start to look for a place to live.
Flying J has become more than a truck stop for me. It has become a place where I see friends and catch up on their lives. It’s a place where ministry happens. It’s a place where joy is shared. It’s a place Jesus shows up for both our guests and ourselves. And we get to encounter Jesus.