Neighborhood Resistance Softens at St. James Micro Shelter Open House
by Rodney LaFrance
Every story has a beginning. This one goes back beyond any of our time and it is called “The Gift of Hospitality.” Through the ages, there's always been a people group who have opened their doors to the ones who have no doors. The dictionary’s definition of hospitality is “the act of welcoming guests or strangers.”
On Saturday, February 26th, 2022, a door was opened at St. James Lutheran Church in Redding, California, to take a step in revealing their gift of hospitality. After much planning, they began with an open house, inviting all of their neighbors and others from around the city to see the first Micro Shelter project in Redding-- a much needed solution to an ever growing crisis.
Those who were involved with hosting gathered as early as 8:30 to make sure everything was in place by 10am for their guests. The shelter that was on site was beautifully staged by members of St. James, making it very inviting and a place where any of us could find rest. This also exhibits hospitality.
Just before everyone showed up, Pastor Bob Swartz gathered the hosts in a large circle to pray for the presence of the Lord to be with all. His prayer began with “God of justice, God of the least, the last and the lost. Thank you for guiding us this day.” Then he went on with a beautiful prayer. He ended by quoting Saint Francis, who devoted his life to the poor and needy.
The meeting was very informational and visual, so that people could come to see an example of the type of shelters that would be provided and the area where they would be placed. It was also meant for them to connect with those who will be involved with the process.
Church members and those a part of the Micro Shelter Project greeted all who attended, again revealing hospitality. Most came with great questions that were being answered by the hosting church and the Micro Shelter Team. Great connections were formed. It was a quiet and inquisitive gathering on a bright and sunny morning. We also had some of those who were formerly homeless there to greet the neighbors who came and to talk to them and answer their questions.
There were some of the neighbors who had some concerns, rightfully so. Hopefully they went away with a better understanding of the mission that the church has.
I believe that we all felt the presence of the Lord throughout the day.
At the end of the open house, several were able to debrief just how the day went. We all left encouraged and hopefully the neighbors did as well. We know that there will still be questions that need answers, as this is the first Micro Shelter Project for all of us.
There were many stories that were shared during the debriefing. One, in particular, of a young man from the neighborhood, who came not wanting to see this happen in this area. He was tall and he came in with a big smile, having many questions. In having a conversation with one of the team members, he began to soften. Before he left, somehow he mentioned, in conversation, that he liked barbecuing. It was said to him that BBQ’s will be happening at the site. He asked if he could come to be a cook!
For any who have seen the movie or play “Les Miserables”, the opening scene was about the transformation of a broken man that entered into an open door of hospitality. So, I left encouraged and looking forward to the transformation of our homeless brothers and sisters as well as the neighbors who will surround this incredible project.
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