By Doug & Emily Morrison
It has been said that all we have to do to see the needs of those around us is to be willing to open our eyes, hearts and daily calendars. When we do that, we become part of a Christ-centred life that loves and serves others, and welcomes strangers.
Many of us hold the misconception that only those who are serving in full-time ministry are the ones who are “called.” However, we are actually all “called by God” to serve. As Jesus said, “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). His ministry was an example of a life dedicated to serving others. He said, “I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). He fed the hungry, He washed dirty feet, He healed the sick, and as a result, those He served were introduced to God’s goodness and love. This is exactly what serving others is all about: letting others see and experience God’s love through our actions. Each of us can make a difference in the lives of others. For Emily and I, God provided a whole new and completely different opportunity for us to serve in downtown Guelph.
2005 saw the beginning of Nightlight, a new drop-in centre in the downtown. With fear and trembling, and feeling totally out of our comfort zone, we stepped out in faith to volunteer. Remembering how it feels to be loved, we wanted to share Christ’s love with our new friends. When we began to volunteer, fears and doubts quickly disappeared, our hearts were changed, and we fell in love with our downtown friends. Just like 1 John 3:18 encourages us to “stop just saying we love each other” and to “really show it by our actions” (NLT), we found our- selves sharing their struggles and tears as we listened, put our arms around them, encouraged them and met some of their financial and social needs.
Nightlight may have started as a storefront drop-in with coffee, sweets, playing games and building relationships, but God quickly grew it far beyond our expectations. New activities such as picnics on St. George’s Square, sundaes on Sunday, carol sings and Christmas and Easter celebrations with skits in which our downtown friends participated had all become a part of God’s work as we shared the gospel in downtown Guelph!
With time, our personal relationships grew deeper, and Christ’s words began to speak to us: “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13–14). The words from Isaiah 58:7 reinforced that a call to action was necessary, as it says, “I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute” (TLB). We felt compelled to act!
We began to ask ourselves, who is on our “guest list”? Do we only invite those with whom we are comfortable? Those who look, think and act as we do? Who sits around our table?
The Holy Spirit worked within us and with the blessing of the director of Nightlight, Day at the Farm was born and became an annual event that continues even today. Buses were rented and guests were driven from downtown Guelph to spend the day with us on our farm east of Fergus. Our day was full as we played games, cooked hotdogs over a campfire, ate corn on the cob, and most importantly spent time together singing and chatting. The absolute highlight of the day for our guests was lawn bowling: many basic items (food and non-food) were lined up as targets, a soft- ball was rolled, and whatever item was hit was taken home by our guests. The competition was stiff and the cheering was loud! This simple game met many essential needs in a creative and non-threatening way. We praise God for opening our hearts and minds to put our friends’ needs ahead of our own.
When we moved to Huntsville, God provided the opportunity for us to join The Table Soup Kitchen Foundation by working in the Food Bank and sharing weekly meals at The Table. Time at The Table allowed us to develop deeper relationships with our friends as they talked openly about their life situations. Still today, when we drive into town, it is expect- ed that we honk the horn when we see our friends and then meet them at their favourite sitting spots to share coffee. For many years, MBC has had the privilege of hosting the downtown Men’s coffee group each fall. The men enjoy walking around the grounds, playing mini-golf and sharing lunch. On numerous occasions, the men take a boat ride up the river before returning home.
God brought creative and unexpected ways for Emily and I to serve Him. We encourage each of you to keep your table set, with your eyes, hearts and schedules open to serve those who are hurting, distressed and forgotten. May we all be “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). We are all at our best when we are serving others through the power and love of Jesus Christ.
Blessings as each of you serve the community in which God has placed you!
Doug Morrison is MBC’s Program Director: Adult Ministries.