For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in
This weekend ELCA congregations across the country will be celebrating God’s Work Our Hands Day of Service. A day spent serving our community, caring for God’s creation, and celebrating all that God is doing. Because God is doing so much in our lives and through our lives. Matthew 25:35 always reminds me of the ways that we serve God outside of this annual celebration too.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. And just recently I found myself inviting in strangers to our church in a way I never would have expected. Opening our doors for teachers to use the restroom during their strike.
For I was hungry
As I write this, our local teachers of Longview School District are continuing in their strike as they work to negotiate with the school district. I have lots of opinions (my spouse has LOTS of opinions) about what’s going on in our community, but what struck me about this strike was what it meant to be a church with open doors.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
Sometimes what we hunger for is so simple, but can seem like so much to overcome. Our church sits right near the end of a cul de sac with an elementary school on our left and a middle school on our right. Shortly after the office opened that Thursday morning, a teacher from the elementary called and asked if they could use our lot to park their cars.
For I was thirsty
Honestly I didn’t think anything of it, most of the parents and staff from that elementary school use our parking lot during the week for school events and extra parking. And they don’t usually ask, they know as long as there’s not an obvious event going on, they’re welcome. And so I let the elementary teacher know the same.
For I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
Sometimes our thirst is for quiet and peaceful welcome. I wondered if they had been struggling to find a place to park. I was surprised at how much she thanked me. And here I thought, “Well that’s a nice way to be supportive of our neighbors” and went about my business.
For I was a stranger
Later in that first morning, one of the teachers from the middle school came by our church office. She was embarrassed (and she said so). She shared a bit about who she was and that she was with the teachers who were standing on the busy corner. After saying multiple times how frustrated she was that she even had to ask, she finally shared, “We don’t have anywhere to use the restroom.”
For I was a stranger and you invited me in.
Sometimes it’s literally inviting a stranger in to use a restroom. I let the teacher know where the bathrooms were and to let any teacher know who needed them to let our secretary know they were coming and going. Honestly my only caveat was that our offices aren’t open Monday-Friday or for very late.
I think she nearly cried. I couldn’t imagine what frustrations she was going through, how exhausted she was already by 11am. But in small and real ways, we were able to serve her and the handful of other teachers who used our space. We invited in, and who knows what small seeds were planted in that love and welcome we shared.
As of this writing, the strike still continues in Longview, but now the teachers aren’t picketing near our church. They’ve since moved down to the main road that goes near the district office. But for one day, when they needed it, our church was here.