I don’t know how it happened…this compelling commitment I mean. I know why I began volunteering at the Bridge, but I didn’t realize I would be addicted to The Bridge. October 2010 I had been out of “real” work” for several months. “Real” work to me is a steady paycheck. I stepped out on faith to begin my own business as etiquette coach, travelling to colleges and universities and sharing valuable tools for success with students. I had been told I was very good at what I did and now I thought leaving my seven year 9 to 5 would be what God would have me do.
Although I was paid well for my college sessions, this was not a year-round job, so I found myself without income and falling behind on mortgage and bills. I began looking for real work, and nothing was breaking for me. I began to question God and my own choices. I had been attending Oasis Church in Nashville for about a year and knew they had several outreach ministries. Rather than sit home I decided to ride in the church van to the Bridge to perform our assigned task, pick up trash before and after the service. Our group of 8 to 10 people each week walked throughout the grounds with our plastic bags and trash picker-uppers and prepared The Bridge for chair placement. I was good at picking up trash and couldn’t believe that I was now feeling significant.
At that time, there were not enough people to work the food trucks handing food to our friends, so Pastor Jennifer asked if I would help. I had no idea how much joy I would feel as I handed hot plates of food to grateful hands. I was hooked! How sweet and unpretentious these precious people are! I was blessed to just be a part of this incredible operation, The Bridge Ministry. I made friends with our guests and realized just how easily I could have been on the other side of that table having a plate of food handed to me, see I was still unemployed. My eyes teared up often in gratitude.
I sincerely believe I have seen Jesus walking through the crowd at The Bridge – and more than once. No seriously! One time I saw a man who, after we had served the majority of our friends, just walked past our table and through or “into” the crowd of guests. Then I didn’t see him again. I cannot tell you anything about him other than his countenance was “different” from any guest or any volunteer. I can see him in my spirit right now, and my heart warms. This man was Caucasian. The second time I knew I saw Jesus I was assisting in the clothing give-away after the food and church service. A beautiful black-skinned man with light brown eyes, held up a shirt to inspect it. I casually asked, “Think it will fit?” He said, “I just have to maintain my dignity.” Then he looked at me with his piercing brown eyes as he carefully folded that shirt. All I could do was was nod! I have not seen either of these men since. But they both have left indelible impressions on my heart. The Lord said, “When you do it unto the least of these you do it unto Me.”
I’ve been serving at the Bridge Ministry every Tuesday (except two) since September 2010. I have fab “real” job now too! The Lord blessed me with an incredible job that has great benefits and allows me flexibility to be the entrepreneur that I am. I schedule my available travel dates around Tuesdays. Thank you Candy, for your obedience and allowing me an opportunity to be what “ministry” is really all about!
Oasis Church, Nashville
Dan has been serving with the Bridge Ministry since December 2010 and is an important part of the weekly operations of the Bridge Ministry. As a young man Dan became a drug addict and dealer, and was frequently robbed by corrupt law officers. When he was only 18, he opened fire, shooting an officer and permanently paralyzing him. Dan was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, and after seven years began receiving letters from the wife of the officer he had shot. The officer requested to meet Dan and Dan refused him causing the officer to obtain a court order forcing Dan to see him. As Dan waited, the door open and the officer’s two children ran in wrapping their arms around the man they called “Uncle Dan”. The officer and his wife had raised their family to love Dan although he almost took the officer’s life eight years earlier. That day, the cop turned pastor and his family sat down and shared the love of Jesus with Dan. Not long after the meeting, the cop turned himself in for his previous crimes and served two and a half years in prison. The cop and his family worked tirelessly to see Dan freed, and after almost fifteen years, at the request of the cop, Dan was released. Shortly after getting out of prison, Dan went into full time ministry and has spent the last 16 years in Arizona reaching out to those who have been caught up in the lifestyle that God so miraculously delivered him from. In the last year Dan felt the call to move to Nashville and now serves with The Bridge Ministry. Dan’s testimony is just one of the countless others that reminds us of God’s unfailing love. There is no situation so far gone or sin too great that God cannot turn it around for His glory.
Today, our guest blogger is Elizabeth Weathersby from Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. This entry is the first in what we hope will become a long series of our volunteers, and even some of our homeless friends, telling their stories of how God is working under The Bridge. Do you have a story from under The Bridge of how God is changing people’s lives that you would like to share? If so, email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, church, and contact info.
Have you ever been shoved out of your comfort zone? You know, that place where you are content with your life and everything going on around you. Whether you took the leap for yourself or God placed someone in your life to throw you out despite your resistance, it can be a crazy but blessed place to be. That is exactly where I have been over the past few weeks. I definitely didn’t venture out on my own, The Bridge Ministry and Tara were there to push me just as we as Christians have been called to do for each other.
Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
In September 2010, this crazy journey began. I was invited to The Bridge Ministry by the young professionals group at my church to serve dinner and hangout with some people who are homeless. This ministry has turned out to be so much more for me. The first night I was under the bridge I witnessed an amazing outpouring of love and money in order to support a visiting minister from Africa. I watched people who have less than I do freely give to ministry, yet, I often hold on to my money thinking I just don’t have enough for “that” (whatever “that” may be at the moment). Watching this brought me to tears and I left that night both crying and unbelievably convicted. I have continued to come down and serve under the bridge almost every Tuesday since that night. I have met so many amazing people, both volunteers and friends who are homeless, I don’t think my life is anywhere close to the same place it was in September.
If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers…you shall not harden your heart, not close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.
Fast forward to 2 weeks ago…. I had just checked in and received my “assignment” for the night: homeless hospitality. Within a few minutes Tara walked up and asked me if I would be a prayer partner. Of course I resisted. I told her I really didn’t want to but if she couldn’t find anyone else I would. That’s when she looked at me and said, “See what God does for you.” I now had another “assignment” that I wasn’t sure about. Before the altar call I sat in my chair praying that God would take over and speak through me because I didn’t know what to say. Then it was go time. I stood up there hoping no one would come to me but God had bigger plans. A woman walked up, locked eyes with me, and was coming over. We introduced ourselves, and she started to tell me her story. She is a Christian, and had recently spoken to one of her children whom she hadn’t heard from in quite a while. We discussed her relationship with the Lord. She told me she needed encouragement and strength from God to get through everything. We prayed and cried together for what seemed like forever. For the next week, I could not get this woman off my mind. So, the next Tuesday I searched for her and found her. Some amazing things had happened in her life and she was so excited to share them with me. The topic changed to The Contributor and I found out she sells the paper less than ¼ mile from my house. She had also just been kicked out of her apartment for not having enough money for rent and was now living in a tent. This broke my heart. She told me she would be able to return to the apartment if she came up with enough money but she was still short. It blew me away when I realized the amount she needed was exactly what had been sitting in my living room untouched since Christmas. Think God was telling me what to do with that money? I think so. We prayed and cried together again that night. The next morning I met her for breakfast, money in tow. While we were talking she looked at me and said, “This was God placing us together.” I completely agree. Had I never been pushed out of my comfort zone I never would have seen the amazing woman God was placing right in front of me. I can’t wait to see what other lessons and plans for spiritual growth God has in store for both of us.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
It amazes me the way God can use other people to show himself to you when you don’t respond to his plans. If I had never been pushed out of my comfort zone I never would have seen the things God was planning to use in order to continue changing my heart. I am so excited to see how God will continue to change both my life and my new friend’s life through The Bridge Ministry. If we trust God in everything we do and seek Him continuously there is no way amazing things won’t continue to happen.
Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding, Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.