It’s December, and most of our supporters know what that means: Banquet season! Our Thanksgiving banquet was a huge success! We provided over 800 meals and thousands of blankets, coats and kids clothing to men, women, and kiddos in our community. Many of our guests are barely holding on emotionally and financially; this event is such a blessing.
In less than a week, we’ll be hosting our Christmas Banquet where we are planning to feed 1,200 people and provide 600 toys. The support of our donors and volunteers makes this possible.
We put a lot of energy into making these banquets possible, but our men’s Life Recovery Program is what takes up our time most of the year. Our program sees 50-60 men every year. These individuals come from all different backgrounds and carry different kinds of baggage.
Last year, at our Thanksgiving Banquet, one of our residents (and now a graduate!), Alex, told me he’d actually been a guest at a banquet a few years ago. Alex was homeless at the time, had burned every bridge, and just needed a respite. At the time he knew he needed help, but he didn’t want it. He yearned for a place to a rest. He wanted to be surrounded by people, to feel safe, and to remember a sliver of the peace he’d experienced during the holidays when he was a child. Alex saw the men in the program helping and he told himself he’d be helping the Mission in the future. Last year he was able to fulfill that promise to himself!
We have countless stories like Alex’s, where they came to the banquet for a brief refuge from the storm of their lives, and resolved to make a change.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the communities that witnessed His miracles and chose to continue living the ways they’d always lived. His tone seems to shift at the end of the chapter toward those whose hearts are open. Jesus offers a promise to these people: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I can almost picture Jesus sitting in the Vet’s Hall with a Styrofoam plate of mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing and mixed veggies, and across from the table is Alex!
Our banquets are designed for our guests to leave their burdens at the door. They can enjoy a hot meal and conversation, and leave with a blanket and coat. We have loyal volunteers who are ready to sit down and listen. Guests who want it can receive prayer. For guests who are ready for a change, we get them connected with services that can help, be it ours or others in the community.
Thanks to all the volunteers who make these stories possible. Thank you to the donors who care for their community and don’t ignore the least of these. We’re exhausted, but so overwhelmed by the support and love this community is capable of.
Merry Christmas, Chris Rutledge