Submitted by Monica Flint
Since March 2016, through our membership with Family Promise of Lower Bucks, Newtown United Methodist Church has offered an evening meal and a place to sleep for a week at a time, four times a year to homeless families (with a short interval when the program was on hiatus).
This program has meant a lot to me and I believe to the other people who have participated. Along with other programs such as the annual mission trip, Family Promise gives us the chance to feel that we are really doing good in our community, doing the work that our faith teaches us is right, making us feel proud of telling our friends why we go to church, what it’s all about.
Participating in Family Promise involves teamwork and generosity on the part of many We have at least 54 volunteers from our own congregation, and from partner congregations, who sign up to donate time and expertise in preparing tasty nourishing meals, others who convert Sunday school rooms into bedrooms each time, yet others who restock the refrigerator with perishables for packed lunches and snacks; thoughtful participants who donated sheets and blankets, toys and books toiletries etc. to ensure our guests comfort. A handyman who constructed a beautiful wooden toy box.
There is another group to thank too: the homeless people and their children who have been our guests. Without exception they have been outstanding ambassadors for Family Promise: thoughtful and considerate visitors we would be happy to welcome into our own homes. It has been a joy for all of the volunteers who meet them to get to know them. We have learned so much about those whom we often group together in our minds as “the homeless” ... about how unique each individual family is on the one hand, and how identical they are to our neighbors and friends on the other. There is nothing different about them except that they have fallen on hard times. It is such a privilege to know that we can help them take the steps to get back into homes of their own.
There is one event that I will remember forever. It took place on Christmas Eve. The other guest families were able to spend this special night with family or friends but there was one mother and her two children, a girl and a boy, who were staying in our church. I could see the young teenage boy, just 13, was doing his best to please his mom, but she was disappointed with him, and he felt sulky and sad. After finishing dinner and washing up together, we all crept late into the sanctuary together. After just a short time, the electric lights in the church were extinguished, while each of us shared the flame of a candle with our neighbor, as the organ played & we sang Silent Night, Holy Night. I will never forget the wonder in that little boy’s face as he held his candle high in the air and looked across the church at all the flickering candles! And his big smile afterwards. I would not have wanted to be anywhere else at that moment. I hope very much he remembers it too.