In previous blog posts, I have shared my story about my own father who is down on Skid Row and how I haven't seen him in over 20 years. In January, my church and other Urban Church Association (UCA) churches served alongside one of our UCA partners, Jennifer, on Skid Row and it turned out to be an amazing and unexpected experience.
When I was asked to lead our UCA in Los Angeles one of my goals was to ensure that churches were connected and working together for the good of the Kingdom. This particular Sunday that meant serving with Jennifer’s ministry, Jesus Knows My Name, which sets up church on Skid Row each week in a parking lot and focuses on serving food, giving away clothes, and worshipping and prayer for hundreds of spiritually and physically hungry people. I went down this Sunday and prayed to the Lord that maybe I would run into my father as I served with this ministry. I went downtown to Skid Row expecting to be a blessing by serving food and praying for those in need. What I ended up experiencing was something completely different.
I was standing in front of a table that had a large pot of beans, chicken, and broth that we poured into the bowl of each person who came by. This was the first time that I can remember in serving on skid row that I was intently looking into the eyes of every single black male that came by because I was expecting to see my own father. As a result, I ended up in deep conversations with men who I would have never engaged in conversation with. I got to know “Eddie” who was intellectually smart and surprisingly hilarious. I expected him to be down and out because he lived on the streets but there was something about the joy he had and the freedom he lived that I could not grasp or understand. Eddie and I talked and laughed for about an hour that day.
We served with Jennifer and her ministry for about two hours. I drove home with my heart full. I met some really incredible people. Later on, I got an email from Jennifer that said she had heard about the story about my father who is downtown someplace on Skid Row. She said she was compelled by the Holy Spirit to help me find him.
I responded with such gratefulness for her obedience to the Spirit in this situation. A little later in the day she sent me another email which completely blessed and floored me. She said that she has been talking to the men and women on Skid Row who have decided to come together as a homeless community to help me find my father! I went down to the homeless community expecting to be the one who was going to be the blessing, but in God's wisdom, I ended up being the recipient of God's grace in ways that I wasn't expecting.
I thought Jesus was telling me in Matthew 25 that I would be helping the least of these, little did I know I was the one he was speaking of. “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren you did it to Me.”
Read more from Peter Watts.