THE two men in the grainy photograph could be any of the thousands of homeless shivering on London’s streets on a bitterly cold night.
Except one of the men preparing to bunk down in freezing temperatures is a future king, second in line to the throne – Prince William.
As part of his support for UK homeless charity Centrepoint, the prince spent a night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets last week.
William, who is heading to Australia next month in his first official overseas tour, made a bed from an old sleeping bag and cardboard boxes in an alley near the River Thames.
Sheltering behind wheelie bins close to Blackfriars Bridge from about midnight last Wednesday, the 27-year-old prince slept out in the open until 6am.
Dressed in a plain grey hoodie, beanie, jeans and sneakers, he then cooked breakfast for a group of young homeless people at a shelter.
Practice True Hospitality
Hospitality is not just about entertaining, but it is a lifestyle that emerged with the New Testament church after the resurrection of Jesus. His followers shared what they had with each other, and with those who were seeking to know more about Him. In doing this, they were obeying Jesus who told His disciples to “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35). In other words, hospitality was how they where told to live out love on a daily basis. (By the way, Jesus hasn’t rescinded that commandment.)
Generally speaking, the safe, commonplace, comfortable religion that is Christianity today in most of the Western world is a far cry from that fledgling faith of the first century where sharing shelter, food, and clothing was the hallmark. But today, many followers of Jesus are again recognizing a deeper responsibility to use what they have been given to display the love of Jesus and help those in need.
While established rescue missions are the large service centers where a great number of needy people receive the love and attention they so desperately need, you can do the same thing on a smaller scale, in your home and your neighborhood. Theologian Letty Russell calls on Christian to “looks for ways that God reaches out to include all those whom society and religion have declared outsiders and invite them to gather around God’s table of hospitality.”
Consider identifying people in your neighborhood who are struggling to get by and invite them to your place of a cookout. Or, offer various meals—such as a Sunday morning breakfast—at your church, and open it to the public.
True hospitality includes entertaining, but on a deeper level, it’s about welcoming. Entertaining is inviting family and friends into your home for a well-planned dinner party; welcoming is inviting those you know and those you don’t into your life because they need your comfort and care.
It’s hard to imagine anyone growing up without a great Christmas memory. It seems we all remember walking through the snow to pick out the “perfect” tree, or receiving that special gift, or getting together with relatives.
But Marcia doesn’t recall any Christmas events like those.
Much of her early life is forgotten—the result of sexual abuse as a child. An undetected learning disability marred her school progression, never developing personally, socially or spiritually. “When I grew up, there was no ‘special education.’ I was just ‘slow,’” Marcia says. “I had trouble holding conversations and couldn’t grasp abstract thoughts.”
When she reached adulthood, tests at a local university revealed her learning disability and another surprising result—a very high IQ. “I stopped believing that I was stupid and began to live with confidence,” she says. The event also resulted in a spiritual awakening. Marcia “got honest with God“—a miracle for someone who struggles with the abstract—and asked Him for answers about her life.
But her background and social awkwardness had lasting impacts that led to homelessness. “I was still different from other people. It was hard for me to get along with anyone. If I got a job, I couldn’t maintain it. As odd as it sounds, being homeless was where I could find structure in my life.”
Marcia traveled the country as a homeless person, but being female on the streets is stressful. Alone in Grand Forks, the pressure was too great. She couldn’t sleep, afraid of what might happen to her. So police brought her to Northlands Rescue Mission in the middle of the night.
“This is one of the best, most organized, gracious missions I’ve experienced,” she says. “Religion is not forced on anyone, but the staff are godly people. I’m relaxed here, enjoying what God is doing in my life. And I’m able to sleep in peace.”
Last year was Marcia’s first Christmas at the Mission. “Over the years, I’d just written Christmas off, because of my family. Being here, we get treated like kids around the tree. We get presents donated by folks from the community. It’s just really special.”
It is not enough to begin. Walk to finish.
|From OSLO May 3 2009|
19 For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will in no way be disappointed, but with all boldness, as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.