The combined aroma of arroz con gandules and urine-stained clothes smacked me across the face as I entered the shelter. Being a veteran to feeding the “needy,” I was accustomed to strong smells, but that day I regretted coming. Immediately, though, I heard God’s invitation from Luke 14:17, “Come, for everything is now ready.”
I continued to walk farther into the shelter, not knowing what God had in store for me, but then my eyes locked on an old friend across the room. We stared at one another, emotions welling up inside as massive smiles came across our faces. “Casimir!”
Casimir, an undocumented Polish immigrant, had become my eyes and ears to the issues in my city over the years. He was handsome and intelligent, and reminded me of my father. I think that helped me see him as a real person, not just a “homeless man.” Yet, at the banquet in Luke 14, he would have been one of the guests from the “highways and hedges, the streets and lanes of the city . . . the poor, crippled, blind and lame.” He would have been an undesirable—someone whom the invited guests would not have wanted to sit with. His presence would have been offensive. But I deeply enjoyed his company.
I had not seen my friend in a long time, so it was good to catch up on life’s struggles and joys. He informed me of the great news that he now had an apartment and was off the streets. He was still looking for work, however. My heart was full of so many emotions—joy, sadness, anger, hope—as we shared that short time together.
I am so grateful that I came to feed the “needy” that day, because God reminded me that I will always be in need of the “needy.” Not just in the somewhat classic sense—to teach me how much I have in life and how grateful I should be—but also to school me in issues and topics that are outside my daily life. Casimir is my mentor in urban ministry. He is my tutor in immigration reform. He is my expert resource in the struggle of the day laborer. I was so glad to share the table with my wise teacher that evening.
What might God have for you in sharing a meal with someone who has a different outlook on life? Will you say yes to his invitation to “come, for everything is now ready”?
Sandra Van Opstal is the Urbana 12 worship director and the author ofThe Mission of Worship. She ministers at Grace and Peace Community Church on the west side of Chicago.
Urbana 12 and ACT:S are challenging you to share an intentional meal with someone who lives differently than you, to learn what you have in common and what you can learn from each other. On Wednesdays in November and December, we’ll be posting stories from InterVarsity staff and alumni about intentional meals they’ve shared with others—and all the good that comes from it.