[Feature] Voice of Tramp Volunteer: Brothers and Sisters, Get Ready to Serve!

A picture shows some homeless lining up to fetch food at an unknown date.
A picture shows some homeless lining up to fetch food at an unknown date.
By Josiah LiNovember 16th, 2022

“Thank you, Lord, for bringing me out from being homeless to what I am today, from a nobody to a somebody - being in the Lord’s family and enjoying the Lord’s love. There are so many brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles who love me. Thank you, Lord, I want to go home and bring the gospel to my parents.” Lele, who was homeless from a young age, was wearing clean clothes, speaking of thankfulness with a little timidness into the camera. Next to him was his carry-on luggage as he was for his hometown.

He suffers from epilepsy and was abandoned by his parents. So, he has been wandering for several years. He never begged for food but only sustained himself by picking up leftovers. At that time, he had only one hope - when the weather was warm, he would pick up unwanted household appliances and sell them for cash. Unexpectedly, with the help of volunteers, half a year later, he did not only accept the gospel, but also restored relations with his family, and he is soon returning to his hometown.

Outdoor: food delivery

After more than eight months of development, the homeless ministry has grown much. In the past, we only sent meals once a week, and went to railway stations, subway stations in commercial areas, and other places to look for them one by one. At present, a meal is delivered at a fixed time in a fixed place every day. When the scope of service is at its largest, there are four fixed food points. When the service was at its peak, more than a hundred people received food.

Before the meal, the people in need sat by the fixed location, a flower bed in a small square. The volunteers would give a short talk to these “road friends” that they were still valuable and loved. Later, the homeless people lined up with metal bowls provided by volunteers to get food in turn. Some of these “road friends” helped distribute disposable chopsticks, while others served rice. After the meal was served, everyone was scattered in different places in the square. They were either sitting, standing, or squatting somewhere, eating their only full meal of the day.

When they were having dinner in the square, sister Wang was concerned about a one homeless person in particular who had been hospitalized. She packed a meal for one and rode off on an electric scooter to deliver it to him alone. He said that he was much better, and he testified the grace given to him by God to his ward mates.

During the interval when sister Wang went to the hospital to deliver food, there was a disturbance in the square. Two homeless people got into a fight because they did not have enough rice. One of them threatened to kill the other with a brick. Other volunteers and several others of the homeless pulled the two apart in time. Sister Wang said with guilt that if only she had been there. She encountered the situation of insufficient rice before, and buying some steamed buns could quickly solve the problem. After returning to the residence, sister Wang was still thinking about the matter, saying that she would find time to help them mediate and make up. After the unpleasant event, the volunteers who cooked immediately took out a bigger cooker and said that they would use it later.

Indoor: Bathing, eating, and studying the Bible

Apart from delivering meals outdoors, the homeless ministry also provides some indoor services according to the needs of the groups it serves. For example, homeless people can find a place to take a bath, have meals, and study the Bible. Most of the homeless people who are taken care of are relatively hygienic.

Once, volunteers organized a special fellowship - ten homeless people and several volunteers formed a circle, and everyone tried to communicate with each other.

A young man from Yunnan said that his luggage and documents were stolen when he changed trains at the railway station, and he had been wandering for three months. He heard the gospel in his hometown earlier, but he did not believe it at that time.

A thin and neat guy told of the uneasy story of being homeless. For example, if he went to a residential community to pick up unwanted things, people would worry that since he was homeless and he would steal things. If they called the police, most of the homeless people could not answer the police properly. What was originally a trivial matter could turn into trouble.

Another brother said that he followed his family to believe in the Lord when he was a child. He has believed for more than ten years. As for why he wandered, he said it was difficult to talk about it in front of so many people, but he could talk about it in private.

There is an 82-year-old brother with glasses who looks rather like a scholar. When the volunteers first met him, he was reading a Taoist book. Unlike most homeless people who collect food for a living, he asks for it. In the process of begging, he met warm people: once, he took only 50 cents to the vegetable market to buy bean curd. The stall owner gave him a piece directly, and then he caught up and sent a packet of dried bean curd. “This tastes good”. He found the limit of human love: the first time he gave you two steamed stuffed buns and a bag of soybean milk, the second time he gave you a steamed stuffed bun and a bag of soybean milk, and the third time he might wonder why you came again. He also met people who hurt him deeply: once, when he just wanted to say “Boss, can you give me some …”, the other person shouted “Get away!” Later, he concluded a way to survive: eat as little as possible, so it is easy to get; It is best to have only one meal a day, and even more perfect if you can have one meal every two days. The most common question he encountered was, you were not like a tramp, but why are you homeless?

After they told their stories, they read the Bible together. One by one, they took turns reading. Some people had a hard time reading at first, while others who could read showed pride.

In a blink of an eye, it was time for dinner. Some brothers helped to serve the table and some set the chairs. When dinner was served, everyone was quiet and absorbed in eating, and it was delicious. For the remaining rice, two brothers divided it happily between them.

The fruit of ministry

After dinner, the volunteers shared the good news - they bought second-hand smartphones for several homeless people. Five mobile phones were bought this time, which cost 1200 yuan in total. Volunteers gave the mobile phones to several beggars who often came over and told them not to use their mobile phones for games or pornography. Everyone who accepted the phone nodded yes.

Sister Wang said that nowadays, all people needed mobile phones to find jobs. She hoped that these homeless people could find stable jobs later. Among the homeless people who were helped by volunteers, some have found stable jobs such as security and logistics. Some have returned to their hometown. There are also old people living in nursing homes in their hometowns. Some got into the homeless ministry.

At present, the one who cooks for the homeless is a brother with a pension, who was once homeless himself. With the help of volunteers, he lives a normal life and has stopped wandering. To be grateful, he decided to dedicate a year to cook for the homeless for free. Apart from cooking for the homeless, he spends most of his time reading the Bible. It is said that he reads the whole Bible once a month and has read it eight times so far.

The hardship of ministry

At the beginning of the ministry, the economy and manpower were difficult problems. At that time, volunteers who participated in the service did their best to help, hoping that at least these homeless people would not starve to death, and they could also have clothes and quilts. As the ministry developed, more volunteers took part, and contributions from brothers and sisters were remitted, so the economic and personnel problems were no longer the top problems.

Sister Wang has been engaged in the homeless ministry for more than ten years. Although she suffers through many things, she does not quit. Meanwhile, she sees more groups that need to be served — lonely old people sitting around in KFC, people with disharmony in family relations, people with various psychological problems, and so on. When she sees that many Christians only meet in church and do not practice God’s Word, she feels anxious: “Faith is not just singing hymns in the church, how much work needs to be done! Brothers and sisters, get ready to serve!”

- Translated by Charlie Li

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