My daughter, Eliza, is part of the Mentor Program at ClearView. Lauren Bush does a great job providing opportunities for middle school girls and their mentors to spend time together, sometimes just having fun, and other times in structured, service opportunities.
The most recent mentor activity was to serve together at the Bridge Ministry in Nashville. I was unfamiliar with this ministry, so one day, as I was asking Lauren exactly what this was, she invited me to bring our entire family along to serve and see what this ministry is all about.
According to their website, the Bridge Ministry "provides a non-profit service to the food insecure, poor, homeless, and partner agencies to bring necessities for everyday life to the needy. Our goal is to feed the hungry in Nashville, to bring awareness to hunger and homelessness, and to motivate people to be passionate for the poor."
The ministry takes place under the Jefferson Street bridge every Tuesday night and provides a meal, worship service, and other non-perishable goods for homeless people in Nashville. ClearView partners with the Bridge as a way to minister to one of our core mission areas, homelessness.
When we arrived at the Bridge, we were assigned positions to serve. My son and I handed out utensils and drinks. My husband Stephen and Eliza served food. The homeless people line up to receive plates of food, and the volunteers pair up with a recipient and carry their plate for them to a seat where the worship service takes place. One girl in our group shared that as she walked one woman to her seat, she told her that Jesus loved her. The woman replied, "Well, at least someone does."
After the worship service, the people lined up, and we handed out plastic grocery bags for them to fill up with non-perishable foods and toiletries as they continued through the line.
The Bridge was a humbling opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus; to physically reach out to the poor and needy, to meet their physical needs, and to introduce them to the love of Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. As we were handing out the boxes of food at the end, many people came back through the line, carrying as many boxes of crackers and cookies as they could possibly carry.
After they left, we had some discussion about how many of these people had no idea where their next meal would come from, so they were in "survival mode", storing up as much food as they could for the coming days. The girls discussed that we have no concept of what that feeling is like; we all live in comfortable homes where we don't even think about the assurance of three meals a day, not to mention pantries full of food on any given day.
As hundreds of people came through the line that night, I was struck by the diversity of those coming through the line. Some families with children, some who looked like you or me, and others who weren't related but treated each other like family. For all intents and purposes, they are a family; they live together on the streets and help each other survive.
The mothers with their children struck me the most; although I don't know what it feels like to be homeless, I do know what it feels like to want the best for my children. I cannot imagine trying to provide that under those circumstances. I have the utmost respect for those mamas doing everything they can to feed to their children under the most trying of circumstances. Even though our life circumstances may be very different, we are all children created and deeply loved by the same Heavenly Father.
On the bus ride back, Lauren led the girls in a discussion of all we'd seen and heard. I imagine that it took a while for us all to process the experience. Since this night, I've found myself asking the Lord many questions.
Why was I dropped into middle class America instead of some other circumstance? What prejudices have I made about homeless people that I need to repent? How can I cultivate more of a servant spirit within my household? What am I doing to serve the poor and needy as Jesus commanded us to do? How am I displaying the love of Jesus to those in my everyday circle?
Overall, it was an experience I will never forget, and I hope to get back to serve at the Bridge again. If you are looking for a way to tangibly meet the needs of the poor and needy, while also telling them about the love of Christ, I highly recommend spending your Tuesday night serving at the Bridge.
Written By: Melissa Williams
On a Tuesday night, I went with a group of ClearView girls to serve at The Bridge. This is an outreach ministry that happens under the Jefferson street bridge in Nashville. This ministry allowed us to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus and meet people exactly where they are in life. We were given the opportunity to help meet some of their physical needs such as food and clothing. More importantly, the program allowed us to be a part of addressing the spiritual needs of the guests and to really love our neighbors.
While we were there, the girls helped serve dinner as a praise team led worship. Following the service, we handed out groceries then helped with clean up. Throughout the evening a chiropractor was on hand to care for some of the physical pains of the guests.
The girls talked about not realizing what needs there were in their own community. They talked about the physical needs of the guests under the bridge being different than their friends and family but recognized that we all have the same need for Jesus and to feel loved by others.
Written By: Allison Tanner