How does Open Hand deal with the Homeless?
WITHOUT EXCEPTION, Open Hand seeks to express Christ's love to everyone - homeless or not. If we cannot express the love of Christ, we will cease to exist! There are ministries called to minister to the homeless, Open Hand is not that ministry.
- Because Open Hand has a distinct ministry – often dealing with young moms and their children, we must ensure their safety at all times. We want their trust, and they should know we care for them and consider their needs and fears. It is unwise to have indigent men in the same room as these women and children. (Even the Rescue Mission don’t do that – they don’t even come in the same doors.)
- Indigent people (generally men) often bring with them unique issues that we in Open Hand are unable to deal with. The Rescue Mission has a medical clinic, preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is able to reach these people for Christ in ways that we can’t.
- In our Vision Statement, Open Hand clearly states that one of the primary goals of this ministry is to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable and want to stay and talk. Having the homeless in the midst of mothers and children is uncomfortable and unwise.
- Nearly every one of the recipients we serve is humbled by their status. They don’t want to be here, and often they come reluctantly, simply out of need. Many are working, and doing all they can but simply cannot make ends meet. We will treat them with dignity. The working poor and the homeless are two entirely different groups. (We in Open Hand must remember that there are many that come to receive food here that are not saved – they don’t have the mind of Christ. For us that know Christ as Lord, we would interact with the indigent people with the love of Christ – as uncomfortable as that may be. We cannot expect the unsaved to think like that. Forcing the two groups together could, in fact, drive them away - losing an opportunity - because they are simply too uncomfortable.)
- The food that Open Hand distributes is to be used with a kitchen. We do not/cannot carry ready-to-eat food.
- You, the volunteer, are here because you’ve felt the call of God to this ministry. There are other children of Christ (your brothers and sisters) that feel the call of Christ in dealing with the homeless. As stated in the Mission Statement, we as a ministry seek to build up the Body of Christ and allow those He’s called in different areas of ministry to exercise their gifts.
- There are insurance and litigation regulations concerning itinerant people in the same building that youth meet.
- When an itinerant person arrives, the male team lead and/or director (if there) must be notified.
- The lead will - with at least one other man - take the itinerant person into a seperate room, asking the Holy Spirit for guidance, ask some pointed questions: What do you want? How can we help you? etc.
- These men will use discernment to determine the next step; the ultimate goal is to get them somewhere they can be truly helped.
Some Spiritual Warfare to think about
"Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" Hebrews 13:2 Those who have been with this ministry from the beginning know that this ministry experiences spiritual warfare from time to time. Not every person (homeless or not) walking through these doors is “an angel sent in disguise”. It would be foolish for us to think that if God, speaking many times in the Epistles, warns us of Satan’s schemes that we can expect to sail through without a fight. "Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the schemes of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:11 - 12 "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 There are many more references, but it's clear that Satan is cunning and desires to cause this ministry harm in devious ways. "We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed." Titus 2:12 - 13
Open Hand philosophy about the items we give
Open Hand never wants a recipient to perceive that we care so little for them that they are getting second-rate food or materials. Every item that we give must be checked for expiration dates. To the maximum extent, Open Hand will give visually appealing food (not old, bent, damaged cans, etc). Occasionally Open Hand receives items to distribute that are used and worn. Exercise good judgment when passing out those items. Only new(er), clean items should generally be given. Does it give the impression that we are trying to give “hand-me-downs” to them? If so, then that item shouldn’t be passed along. Many of these people have already had these items carelessly thrown their direction. We won’t do that. They can be treated like that anywhere else. Not Open Hand. Of course, nothing is in concrete. Ask the Lord if you’re not sure. How the receiver would feel receiving this item? Open Hand NEVER gives expired, damaged or opened food. On occasion, we’ll give big containers of opened items (coffee, etc), but the recipient must be clearly told it that has been opened. It must be received as a choice (i.e. off the miscellaneous table) - not placed in their box as a staple. There are times where the food is clearly good, within expiration, and would benefit someone. That is okay to pass out if they are told about its condition. These situations are the exception and not the rule.
What about Open Hand volunteers that use the pantry?
There will always be our deeply loved brothers and sisters within Open Hand that are in need of food. Since we are seeking to serve the entire Body of Christ without favoritism we cannot give them extra items or give to them more frequently. By necessity and for equitability, they are limited to the same portions as everyone else. This is not to be so rigidly applied that we do not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We also will give them the first opportunity to enjoy special (limited) items that we sometimes receive. There will be rare exceptions when we receive a limited quantity of something special – and our Christian coworkers will get first pick. As with everything in Open Hand, let the Lord guide you, considering the above guidelines. Remember that everything we do is seen by someone else. "What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the Law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain." 1 Corinthians 9
What about Open Hand volunteers bringing their children?
Routinely, a volunteer will ask about bringing their child to Open Hand. It’s always exciting when parents desire their children’s involvement, and usually it’s a double blessing! (But not always…). Sometimes a parent wants their child involved because they think their child would enjoy serving the Lord in this capacity. Sometimes they just want their child to see how “good they have it”. Sometimes they just want their child to be around believers and have more of a Christian influence. There are even those who bring their children to be company to the other children that come in with their parents for food. All of these reasons are valid and noble. But the one thing that we in Open Hand must constantly be aware of is how it makes the recipients and other volunteers feel. Ask yourself these questions:
- Would having your child there be a distraction to you? To other volunteers? To the recipients?
- Would your child be “forceful” to those coming in?
- Does your child get bored easily? Could they take an entire “day” of Open Hand?
- Does your child want to be there, or are you “forcing” them?
- Can your child physically help? If not, what could they do?
- What is your child’s spiritual condition?
Youth & Others Requesting to Volunteer or “Repay an Obligation
We’ve had people ask – sometimes a church member, but more often a recipient – if they or their child could work in this pantry as part of a community service obligation. The answer must be an emphatic “NO!” Open Hand is not, and cannot, be a social program where people come to salve their conscience or satisfy a court ordered service requirement. To allow any person to work with us in that capacity does not align with the mission of this ministry.