Every month we host* the PACT (Parole/Probation and Community Team) meeting. 40+ parolees/probationers and 20+ providers, churches, non-profits and individuals have breakfast together. For the ex-offenders this is a mandatory meeting. For the rest it is voluntary; they came to "welcome home" the men and women and to offer their services for successful reentry.
We opened the Bus Boutique and several people took the clothing they needed. A young man was looking for a pair of work boots because he had an opportunity to work.
One of the community members overheard the conversation and said, “let’s go and get you some boots," and 3 of them went to the store to buy a pair of boots so this young man could go to work.
I was trying to sort through it. If you know me, you know that I will seldom do hand-outs, yet it felt right at that moment. We can't say we want to help and not support him in seeking the opportunity for a job.
A pair of boots could make all the difference for this young man, and it feels like we did what Jesus commanded us when He talked about giving a cup of cold water, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. But there has to be a balance because the Bible also talks about people needing to work for their pay.
We believe that, "Everyone no matter how rich has a need. Everyone no matter how poor has a gift and that is why we build and celebrate community." So, men, if you have boots you don't wear, pants that don't fit, and shirts that are out of fashion--bring them to the Bus Boutique, because that might be the only thing that stands in the way of an ex-offender making it.
And for the young man--I look forward to seeing him again and asking him to give back to the community (he might clean some gutters, paint a wall, or give a shirt to someone in need). I hope this encounter will bless him, that he will see there is hope. and there are people who care, and there is a God who is big enough for these divine appointments.
* Gateway Community Church has been providing breakfast for these meetings for over 2 years now! Special thanks to them, Elden, Fred, Jim and the other volunteers.