Loving People Differently
A warm bed. Home-cooked meals. A loving husband. A family and church family that rallies around us when in need. A roof over my head. A business to run. People to love. A wonderful dog. Reliable transportation. Honest friends. These things I have daily and am never worried about losing them or them being destroyed. I take each of these things for granted, every single day. Dirty clothes. Maybe a sleeping bag. Maybe a small bag of belongings. Loneliness. A bridge or street side. No sense of ownership or belonging. No transportation. Sense of loss. Hunger. Poor mental health and little resources. These are the things many folks coming to River City Ministry experience. As you walk into the ragged building, you hear, see, feel people… raw and real people.
You feel people’s life stories unfolding as you walk the cold, white tile floor into the open room with tables and chairs… the tables where strangers become family. The tables where hungry stomachs leave full. Where empty souls leave refreshed. Many folks have made poor choices to arrive at homelessness; many folks have just had poor luck or were born into bad circumstances that are a vicious cycle. We are so often quick to judge why people are homeless, instead of opening ourselves up to conversations and relationships. Loving people differently looks like pulling up a seat and opening your heart. Showing up with intentionality. Brushing off the awkwardness and the differences. To me, loving people differently is not sitting on a church pew, which is not different from what I do every Sunday. It’s not only “Hi, how are you?” “I’m good, and you?” We are called to serve. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That looks like loving people differently!
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25.
Although I come to River City Ministry as the refresher, I often leave as the one who was refreshed. Most of the time, I feel that they minister to me more than the other way around. My prayer is that you’ll come to visit River City with us, at least once. Pull up a chair and be Jesus to people who look at what we have as everything, compared to their “nothing.” My prayer is that you’ll seek ways to love people differently, be it at River City or elsewhere. Seek Jesus. Seek opportunity. Love people differently.
Hope Through Housing
Am'Iya is a single mother of three who needed help to transition out of homelessness. She entered a transitional living shelter two years ago at 5 months pregnant and having just separated from the father of her children after he had succumbed to drug addiction. She had been in that shelter before but realized, this time, she would need to invest in herself and use the support available to her.
When her job ended because they refused to offer maternity leave, Am'Iya began work in the daycare center at the shelter. Eventually, she was able to secure work as a caregiver, which aligned with her ultimate goal of becoming an RN. By the time she entered the ESG Rapid Re-housing program, Am'Iya had saved $2800 and she was able to move into her very own apartment in February.
When asked about the program, Am'Iya tearfully responded, "It's a gift. And it's not all about the money. I didn't feel like I was alone anymore." With her newly found network of encouragement and support, Am'Iya is ready to take on the challenge of providing for her family.
A Spiritual Giant Among Us
"Sara Caroline Stowers died peacefully at home on Friday, April 17, 2020. While friends and family grieve this sudden and unexpected loss, we rejoice that Sara has received her eternal reward, found in the arms of Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior.
Sara was a small woman, but she walked among us as a spiritual giant. Through her humble service and graceful love, Sara had an enormous impact on an untold number of lives. Stories of treasured memories will undoubtedly be told for years to come."
The above text is the obituary for our beloved Sara Stowers. After retiring from a 39-year career, she spent the next 20 years of her retirement serving, teaching, and loving people.
At the ministry, she helped cook and serve, talking to the clients and neighbors who use our services and showing that she genuinely cared about people's lives.
At River City Church, she taught and mentored children, greeted every person that came through the door, and became our unofficial photographer; she was simply focused on others all the time.
Most of what she did was behind the scenes, but it was so impactful. Her rich prayer life and deep relationship with God was inspiring. She was even known to wake up in the middle of the night to petition on behalf of others.
Sara will be so dearly missed, but we know this is not goodbye. Christ Jesus died and rose so that we are reconciled to him and we rest in the knowledge that we will see Ms. Sara again.