Margaret Kramer, a member at Redeemer West Side, shares how serving her homeless neighbors alongside her family has given her a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
When I moved to New York City in 1995, my husband, who I was dating at the time, and I spent our Saturdays volunteering at a homeless ministry. It was truly one of our favorite things to do together during our dating years.
Then marriage and children came, and while we wanted to continue serving with a homeless ministry, it was very difficult to find an organization that allowed our children to take part. About four years ago, a friend invited me to serve with her as a volunteer at the Sunday community dinner at All Angels’ Church. That evening was so encouraging, and I was surprised to find our children could participate.
To be honest, the first year was challenging. Many Sunday nights we were exhausted from a busy weekend and would rather have just hunkered down at home. There was often grumbling. I wasn’t sure why God was asking me and my family into this commitment at this time, but I trusted in the words of 2 John 1:6, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” Jesus gave up everything for me and for my family. We could give one Sunday evening a month to love and serve our neighbors in need.
As I grew in the knowledge of God’s love for me and my family, He allowed us to be persistent and consistent in serving others, and we began looking forward to serving instead of feeling like it was a burden.
So, for the past four years my husband, Dan, and I have had the opportunity to serve monthly alongside our three sons, Adam, Eli, and Daniel, along with friends from our Community Group. In the process, God has changed the way we viewed those we were serving. These brothers and sisters are no longer the “homeless people” we simply serve dinner to once a month — they are our neighbors!
After that first year, we had built relationships with the men and women we served, and we knew each other by name. Pat always told a good, clean joke. Harry would make us smile each week with something witty to say to the boys. Fernando liked to talk sports with Adam and Eli. Shea just needed the gentle, patient spirit of Daniel to help serve her dinner.
One day recently, Adam and Eli ran into Pat and stopped to ask him why they hadn’t seen him at All Angels’ recently. He openly shared with them what had been going on in his life, and they prayed with him on the street. On another occasion, Daniel and I ran into Julio on his way to an AA meeting. We were able to buy dinner for him and hear about his day.
Over the past year, God has reminded me through Ephesians 2:6 that I am seated with Christ. The work is done! I have a seat at his table ... along with those he placed in my life to love. It is no longer a burden to serve on Sundays — it is a part of our family life that has brought us closer together. God has used volunteering at All Angels’ to show me his grace.
Our family doesn’t deserve to be on the serving side of the table, but because we are, we have been encouraged to know these neighbors in tangible ways and for all eternity.
Learn more about Hope for New York and how you can get involved loving and serving your neighbors in need through our 50 non-profit affiliate partners at hfny.org/volunteer.