Once a month on the 2nd Saturday of the month our church has a group that goes down to the local St. Vincent de Paul dining room to volunteer setting up and serving lunch as well as handing out free clothes (collected at our church). It is both a rewarding and sobering experience each time I go there and I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve those less fortunate than me in the name of the Lord. The people that come there to eat (we call them clients) are in great need and it gives me great encouragement to know that St. Vincent de Paul is open 365 days a year for lunch and has several locations in our area. There should be no reason anyone would go without a meal each day in our metropolitan area. They don’t question anyone that comes through – there is no test to see whether you’re homeless or on government assistance. Just come in and eat a free meal. Once you’re in, you can eat as much as you want of whatever we happen to be serving that day.
Not only is it important that we as Christians help those in need (Prov. 3:27; 11:25; Ps. 41:1; Matt. 10:42; 1 John 3:17-18), but I also think it is important that we be regularly confronted with seeing those in need so that we can be more thankful for what we have. There are times that I find myself starting to take for granted what I’ve been blessed with. Going to this place to serve homeless people reminds me just how fortunate I am. It helps me to stay grounded and grateful.
There is another reason that I like our monthly trips to serve the homeless: interaction with other volunteers. We are not the only group serving there on any given Saturday. Usually there are other groups there – sometimes businesses, sometimes other church groups or benevolence organizations. Yesterday there were 2 different groups serving alongside our church group. There was another church group (Prayer Assembly) and a large company (which I will not name) from our local area. There were probably over 30 volunteers there yesterday between the 3 groups represented. Our church had 9 and the rest was made up by Prayer Assembly and the company. So, I knew that I would have a chance as usual to interact with other volunteers that may not hold the same convictions or worldview as I have.
I struck up a conversation with, among others, a young lady who worked for the large company that was there. Before talking to her, I said a quick (silent) prayer for God to give me an opportunity to talk with her about my faith. I asked her what she did for her company and found out a little about her job, skills and education. Then I turned the conversation toward spiritual things. I asked her if she had any spiritual background or if she goes to church. For some reason, at St. Vincent de Paul, it seems to be very easy to bring up spiritual topics. It is a Roman Catholic organization, there is a chapel on sight and in the main dining area, there is Jesus on a cross hanging on the wall right above the serving line. Plus, it is already out in the open that we are from a church. All of that makes it very easy and natural to talk about spiritual things. In our conversation, this young woman told me that she used to go to church, but stopped around the time she went to college. So, I asked her if she believes in God. She looked unsure and said tentatively “Not really… Well, sometimes…” So, I said “Why did you stop believing God exists?” She said, “I guess because of education…” She said she thought the church was good and does a lot of good things for society, like helping the poor, but she really doesn’t believe the message. I’m aware of the college she went to – there is an infamous atheist professor on staff there. I said, “Yeah, it would probably be tough to keep your faith in that school”. I said that there are many good organizations that work with the poor and do other good things for society, but that is not exclusively what a church is. Yes, God instructs us to care for the less fortunate, but our primary focus is on Jesus as Lord and Savior, and we do believe that these are true accounts in history, not just legends and myths. At this point I shared a little bit about my testimony. I told her that I didn’t grow up in the church – I became a Christian later in life. She said that she’s heard a lot of stories like mine. I said that likewise, I’d heard a lot of stories like hers. I shared how, before I became a Christian, I only looked at evidence from one side of the argument. I was reading Nietzsche, Freud and other generally atheistic material. Once I started to look at the “other side” of the evidence with an open mind, I realized that it would take more faith to believe that there is no God than to believe that there is a God. She was curious and asked what I meant. I shared how we have to explain the existence of the universe. Science tells us the universe had a beginning therefore the cause of the universe must be outside the universe. I also mentioned the apparent design in life. She didn’t have any response on what I said – she just looked and listened. I challenged her to check out the evidence for herself, mentioning the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. She didn’t say she would do it but took note of the book title. She seemed to be getting quiet and I took that as a sign that it was time to end the conversation, so I continued doing my assignment, which was to manage the garbage cans in the dining room 🙂
I pray this young lady accepts my challenge to investigate the evidence for herself and see if it stands up to scrutiny. I think she will be surprised at how well Christianity stands up in the marketplace of ideas and she may find that her reasons for continuing to disbelieve Christianity become very few. In fact, I believe she will find that Christianity is true beyond a reasonable doubt!