Through the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, we were connected with a DVULI graduate named VJ, a passionate community leader who recently transformed his life to serve others after finding a true connection with Christ. He is a local hero full of energy and dedication, believing that every person deserves to know how much they are loved. VJ instantaneously lights up the room with sheer benevolence and his work in ministry has transformed many, including us.
Meeting VJ at 6:30am in the Shiloh Temple parking lot, he invited us to hop in the church van to go searching for some homeless people ‘who needed some love this morning.’ So there we were…smack dap in the middle of a place we would not dare walk alone, asking any and all to come hang out with us at church. On our first trip to downtown, we picked up six homeless individuals who had just ended their night session at Salvation Army. Three were regulars who had found peace in Christ (thanks to VJ) and the rest were either 1) tired of VJ positively encouraging them to get in the car or 2) didn’t have anything better to do at the time. Plus, food, haircuts and clothes were an added bonus. Looking back, the homeless likely didn’t expect to open the van door and see two white rather preppy-looking kids with a camcorder, but nonetheless, they got in the van, carrying with them the only possessions they own.
From here on out, it is difficult to put to words what exactly happened in that room. Tears, applause, a multitude of ‘amens,’ testimonials that should be far from real, smiles, life lessons, sorrowful confessions, positive promises, and infinite exchanges of love. Today, we deeply connected with the people we often ignore in passing. As we worshipped together, we became one cohesive team. A team made up of unique human beings who together believe we were put on this earth for a reason, a reason that God knows of but the answer remains a mystery to us. Those powerful moments of interconnectedness confirmed that we all need more than just ourselves to get through the day.
Today also confirmed that a little bit can go a long way…Coming in late, a soaking wet man full of anger entered mid-worship. He sat next to us, quietly talking to himself about his wet shoes. Having spent the past three nights outside, his shoes were essentially un-wearable. So, before leaving, we gave him Blake’s Nike socks and slipped him a $40, asking him to use it for a new pair of shoes. You would have thought the world stopped. He stood back in disbelieve and tears filled his eyes. Embracing us with full force, he would not let go. For us, the look that we will never forget was worth more than any pair of shoes.
To see this powerful experience come to life, please watch the footage below or (click here) and if for some reason, you are called to give to this ministry, please e-mail VJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, we find graditude in sharing a relentless hug with someone we would have never met otherwise, experiencing beautiful situations that may at first feel uncomfortable and meeting VJ, a fearless leader who daily addresses selflessness through his compassionate actions.