Written by Emily Kam
Journal Entry 6: Streetlife Ministries
July 8, 2016
"Would you like some salad? What kind of dressing?"
I tried to understand the garble the man was saying. Was he speaking Italian? Spanish? Elvish? Finally, I uncertainly drizzled ranch over the small pile of lettuce and cucumbers and passed the paper plate on to the next person.
"Would you like some salad? What kind of dressing?"
"Yes, thank you! Thousand island dressing, please."
At Streetlife, I meet an assortment of people, people who are not so different at all from the people I encounter everyday...except for the fact that they are homeless.
Since January of 2016, I have been making regular visits to the Menlo Park train station with my siblings and mom. Sometimes I bring my ukulele and sing worship songs for the homeless men and women gathered around. After worship and a short sermon, a van comes along and I, among the other volunteers, help to set up the tables and the food and drinks.
Ironically, the first few times I visited Streetlife Ministries I neglected to eat dinner before I went, so I would be serving hot plates of beef, corn and beans, soft rolls with butter and iced tea to the homeless, while I myself would be starving. My hunger was amplified by seeing the plates of delicious food pass through my hands. This is just a taste of what the homeless go through each day - watching other people eat nourishing meals, so close to their reach and yet untouchable. After about three weeks, I started eating my dinner before visiting Streetlife. But I can still remember vividly what it was like to have a glimpse of how the homeless might feel. And I haven't even counted in other factors, such as not having showered in weeks, dirty clothing, cold weather...
I love attending the street church each week. Currently I am working up the courage to interact with the homeless, to talk to them and get to know them better.
Journal Entry 7: Taking Baby Steps
July 23, 2016
I mentioned in my last blog post that I needed to work on engaging in conversation with the homeless at StreetLife. Being an introvert, talking to strangers has never been my strong suite. But last week, I finally did it! Our exchange of words went something like this:
"Hi! Would you like some pot pie?"
"Yes, please, thank you!"
"Hey, don't you also go to the other StreetLife site at the Menlo Park station?"
"Why, yes I do! Do you serve there too?"
"Yeah! What's your name? I'm Emily."
"Phil. You're a good server, Emily. Keep doing it."
"Thanks Phil! Enjoy your meal!"
It was a simple, short convo, but it was a connection that I made with another human being! I was so proud of myself. Soon, I hope to actually walk up to other people and initiate conversation with them, and not just from behind the server table. My main problem is knowing what to say and what sort of queestions. But with more practice, I know that I'll be able improve my social skills and more importantly, make connections with the homeless people through warm food and warm words.
Journal Entry 8: Exist to Intervene
July 26, 2016
Of course, finding parking in San Francisco was challenging. Stepping out from the car, I was hit with the stench of the Tenderloin. It was a smell that reminded me strongly of the Chinatown in New York. O the sweet fragrance of spit, sweat, urine, drugs, cigarettes, and who knows what else. I will admit that the first thing that came to my mind was, "Eww. I'll probably have to shower afterwards."
My mom, sister, and brother entered the Warfield Theatre where the City Impact Conference of 2016 was being held. After an introduction by Christian Huang and an inspirational message by John Ortberg, all 2,000 of the people gathered there were sent out to serve the homeless of the Tenderloin. Mom signed herself up to help in the medical section, and we had signed ourselves up for meal deliveries.
What did we do in meal deliveries? We got ourselves some meals and we delivered them, yessiree. The End.
No, there was much more to the meal deliveries than that. My team would take three or four cardboard boxes containing smaller, styrofoam boxes with delicious smelling food inside. Then, entering a SRO building, we knocked on doors, offering each person a box of food with a smile and a friendly greeting.
If the person was willing, we would try to initiate conversation and get to know them better. Ultimately, our goal was to share the love of Jesus through our words and actions. I didn't really get a good chance to talk to the people living there, as many of them most likely wanted to be left alone. BUT I felt happy that I could help out in a small way, and it was a good way to exercise my weak conversations skills for future use.
At the end of the day, my feet were sore and I was hot, sweaty, and thirsty, but I was happy with what I gave to others and glad that I could play a small part in City Impact's mission: Exist to intervene. As the director of City Impact, Christian Huang, says, "If we don't go, who will?"
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