One of the more amazing things about going on these mission trips is seeing the changes they make in people’s lives. Generally, the incoming group and our organization are there to make a long term beneficial impact to our community partners. However, often, it is the community that brings greater benefit to the people who serve them. Never has that been more true over my past six weeks with Experience Mission than here in Seattle.
During typical rural or international mission trips, it is easy for group’s to gauge their contribution to the area they serve. They see homes built nail by nail or walls painted stroke by stroke. Here, though, on this urban mission trip, there are no benchmarks to measure against. The team is here to serve the homeless of the city, but they cannot cure it. On a macro level, the meals they serve and the conversations they have do not create more shelter beds, affordable housing or job opportunities. But it does fill stomachs. And hearts.
The team from Harbor Trinity Church this week has served meals every day at lunchtime out of the Union Gospel Mission shelters and passed out sacked lunches to homeless around the area as well. These meals are necessary, but unlike building a home, they are a temporary solution. They are a beaver dam when the Hoover is needed.
But still, Harbor Trinity has served with patience and grace during this week, understanding the role they play in the scheme. They may not end homelessness, but without volunteers like them, an end would be impossible.
Because they understand this, they have been able connect with the homeless of the city, to listen to their stories, issues and jokes. This has forced them to put away some of their preconceived ideas about the homeless. They are not all drug-addicts, most do not choose to be on the street, and, most alarming, it truly can happen to anyone – many families are only a paycheck away.
As we were in a Seattle park, next to the county courthouse, I spoke with one of our first-time missionaries. He had connected with many of the stories he had heard in the park while passing out lunches, and many had connected with his. He said he was going to try and organize his church to hand out lunches in this way near the courthouse in his county.
This means that while the mission trip may end tomorrow, the impact of it will continue and its spirit will spread with those who have been here. What better result could there be?