Much of Family Promise success is about building community through relationships. There are so many individuals that come and go from the program each year. Some may be the program participants, enrolled in the program to get back into housing, some may serve FPL for a week on a work project, some may serve overnight 4 or 5 times per year, or may be community partners with a graduate family, or may be part of the prayer ministry, or be a provider that works with the families in the current program. This complex web of interactions is amazing, wonderful,
Each family is in the rotational portion of the program for a relatively short period of time, usually only 2 months. Initial relationships are started, built quickly, many bonds become quite strong and many of them endure long after a family has left the program.
It is not only the enduring quality of many of these relationships, but also the impact of those relationships that may only exist during hosting week. All of these touch points truly have me humbled over and over on a weekly basis. Family Promise has been in Lawrence now for 6 years. That is 6 years of serving families through the rotation of 13 hosting congregations and 28 supporting congregations. The touch points of this work involve well over 1500 volunteers throughout those 6 years, and over 110 families, over 425 individuals served with only 6 separate staff people during the full 6 years. These numbers speak to the enormous effort from our community and the efficiency and effectiveness of the Family Promise program. Nearly 90% of the families served remain permanently housed. 100% of families served are impacted by the kindness and generosity of hospitality, by God’s love and grace abundantly and freely given and shared. This is a community effort and the impact is enormous.
With all of these connections, and all these individuals, and all this sharing, there are big life milestones that also are shared. Yes, we all get to participate in the daily rigors of lots of life together In the 6 years, but we’ve also celebrated together high school graduations, college graduations, elementary and middle school concerts, preschool programs, weddings, births, and sadly this year a few funerals.
Life happens and happens fast. As this network rolls and all the parts move to do a bit of the work, there is large impact together and all of us are changed. Change does not only occur in those that are helped. Change occurs in those that are serving as well. This is how it seems to roll in God’s economy. Lives are changed by His Love, by His grace, by His hope, by His mercy. Participating in this Kingdom economy can only bring change into our lives. Any interaction with a Holy God, leaves us changed. For in sharing our lives together, and working beyond all the usual barriers we put up against getting close to others, breaking down all the usual walls, passed the artificial human dividers we seem so keen to keep intact, we actually encounter the Holy God himself.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Mt 25:35-36, 40 (niv)
It is this amazing mystery that I hear about nearly daily in this work…the mystery of God’s presence in the serving, in the sharing, in the meals, in the stories, in the nurture, in the love. This is His economy.