Frequently when I am out and about in Lawrence, I am asked, why is Family Promise different? Excellent question! The clear answer is clearly because of those of you that are reading this newsletter and those of you who serve in this work by spending time overnight in the congregations, who share a meal with the guests, who share your lives with people you’d not met before, who offer prayers of support, give generously through gifts of in kind donations, or financial support, and who practice the lost art of hospitality.
There are so many good models and programs that work with people who are experiencing homelessness. Lawrence also has a wonderful family program at our own local, Lawrence Community Shelter. Elizabeth Stephens and I work very closely together. Some families in a tough situation are better served at LCS and some at Family Promise. LCS and Family Promise, working collaboratively together can build on each other’s strengths and have a larger reach and impact.
In writing that, let me also be clear, I am also very proud of our program and of our small, qualified, committed staff that does remarkable work with the guests, temporary housing residents and graduates of our program. I am truly honored to work so closely with our staff; Becky, Kendra and Shannon, and with our Board. I am also proud to work closely with other social service agencies in town, counselors, medical providers, the school district and with LCS. Together, we can work efficiently and collaboratively, focusing on our areas of expertise, not duplicating effort and making a larger impact in the lives of those who find themselves in a time of struggle.
The hands-down difference of the Family Promise model and program, however, is the volunteer base. People who are wanting to make a difference, who are motivated by their faith, who are patient, kind, generous, enthusiastic, who are missional in perspective, who give of their time, their skills, their heart to come alongside others who find themselves in an extremely difficult period of life.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Rom 12: 9-13 (niv)
This is called “social capital” in social work literature. It is called “community” in theological circles. It is called “extended family” in some settings. It is called the “good ‘ol days and how neighborhoods use to behave” by some older friends I know. I describe it as God’s people loving God’s people. And this love is why Family Promise is different and this love in action is why this program works.
Daily, I am dramatically made aware of the fact that this work that we pour our energy into is not our own work at all. We are the vessels, for God’s spirit to do the work, we are the connectors, bringing together God’s people to fulfill and grow in their faith in service by connecting with those who are in need of some help, understanding, kindness, a smile and eye contact, some good healthy food, safe shelter, attention given to their children and pure hospitality that expects nothing in return. This is the work we are called to in Family Promise and this is the work that God is doing through each of you. This work is building relationships. This work is good. This work is good Kingdom work.
Last year, Family Promise of Lawrence donations of in-kind service of meal preparation, overnight and evening hosting, work projects, childcare, dental and medical service, furniture ministry time and in-kind donations for the day center, all totaling over $750,000. So you see how easy it is for me to say that the difference of Family Promise is you! The accomplishments of Family Promise are because of our beautiful volunteer network. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am encouraged. I am honored. Thank you for blessing Family Promise with your love.