A SMALL SPACE – A BIG IMPACT
A small baby born in a little stable made a major impact on the entire world. The month of September focuses on the Compassion Corner ministry; a small ministry with a big impact in Orlando. What is this ministry? Where is it? Who is served? What help is needed?
Compassion Corner is a small space in a large city where people who walk the streets, live in a tent, sleep under the highway or behind an abandoned building or in temporary shelter, can feel safe and accepted. It is a quiet ministry dedicated to connecting people in relationships with each other but foremost with Jesus, our Savior. You might wonder whether any physical help is offered. We who read Matthew 25 know that Jesus expects us to help “one of the least of these brothers of mine.” Yes, some physical needs can be met in the little building behind the courthouse. Reading glasses, personal care items, haircuts, socks, reading material and occasionally clothing are all available. In addition, bus passes and overnight vouchers are issued daily. But, Compassion Corner is not a hand out or even hand up ministry. It is NOT a government subsidized entitlement distribution center. In the span of only 12 hours each week, 50-60 people sit one-on-one with a trained social services counselor. They talk about troubles, share frustration, reveal weaknesses, and receive words of encouragement, support and hope. Sometimes hope is a bus pass to keep a medical appointment, sometimes support is travel assistance to a job until the first pay day. Overnight vouchers for a local hotel room or the Salvation Army are often given to elderly persons, people with medical problems, and women with children. Always, encouragement is shared in daily Bible study and personal prayer and faith sharing.
Here is what you will see happening each day at “the corner”:
- A uniformed security guard engages in discussion and positively interacts with 20-30 people waiting patiently for the doors to open at 8:30 a.m.
- A volunteer minister or lay leader leads Bible study and devotion inside a clean and comfortable room.
- A hot cup of coffee, served with cream and sugar or black, is available free to every person who desires one.
- Trained Christian social service counselors listen and counsel 15 people each Tuesday and Wednesday.
- A movie is showing
- People are securely resting quietly.
- Someone is cutting hair in the garden patio area.
- Discussions, opinions, information, ideas are shared in small groups.
- The telephone is used to connect with long-distant family or to secure a job interview or make a medical appointment.
- There is a clean and private bathroom available to all.
How can you make a difference? The most important assistance you can give is to become aware of what it means to be homeless. You must eliminate your false opinion that “those people” are all dangerous drug addicts, mental patients, and lazy. Understand and accept that homelessness isn’t restricted to wandering the streets all day, sitting in the library, or sleeping in the park or in the doorway of an empty building. Many people reside in hotels, or transitional shelters, or temporarily share space in a friend or relative’s home. Your Trinity ministry staff has encountered and helped two men who worked full-time, but had to live in their car until they had enough savings to rent a room or apartment. An attitude adjustment improves relationships and also dispels fear. Understand that you cannot take a large suitcase on a city bus, and there are few places offering storage lockers, so try to envision everything you need in a backpack. Grasp the fact that no matter where you find a place to lie down, you must sleep with “one eye open” because it is a sad truth your personal items will be stolen. Even in the shelters. Your attitude must be one of unselfish compassion.
Secondly, you can make an impact on this ministry without ever stepping foot into the little white building next door to Trinity’s Magnolia Ministry Center. Of course, monetary donations help purchase Lynx bus passes and overnight vouchers, help pay the electricity bill, and purchase coffee-making supplies, but there are special gifts that show genuine thoughtfulness. You could spend a couple of hours with friends and neighbors and make cupcakes and sandwiches to donate. Your offer to drop off lemonade, iced tea, or water bottles will be received with joy. Purchasing an extra sleeve of disposable cups or a package of napkins will make the daily coffee distribution much easier. See if the traveling people in your office can donate the small, travel size bottles of shampoo, body lotion, and shaving cream and help keep the shelves of Compassion Corner’s closet stocked. Perhaps you should ask your social group or Bible study class to organize a collection for new socks or bug & mosquito repellent for those who live “in the woods.” Always pray this small but amazing positive impact of love and compassion will continue to receive God’s favor and blessing.