Students of The Gathering Campus ministry opened their hearts and hands Saturday, March 1, to help the homeless community of the Kentuckiana area. After nearly two months of planning, preparing and collecting supplies, students packed 100 Ziploc bags during the Thursday night dinner and worship service lead by Campus Director Marco Ballesteros. The students of The Gathering reached out to local churches and companies for donations of bottled water, wool socks, protein bars, hats, scarves, hand warmers and Bibles in order to fill the bags. After students finished packing all the bags with the donated supplies, they spread them across the floor of the Avenue Room, prayed for each individual bag, wrote a message of encouragement on a note card and then loaded the bags into boxes for Saturday’s distribution.
When Saturday finally came the students packed their cars with the boxes and crossed the river into Clarksville, Indiana to exit 0. It was at Colgate Baptist Church where the students met another group from Georgetown who had prepared bagged lunches for the homeless. As people began to eat their lunches, the students handed out the bags and began to fellowship with them. Some of them were standoffish and did not want to be bothered, but others were eager to speak to them. The students sat and listened to their stories about who they were, where they came from and how they ended up in Indiana. Students quickly learned the harsh reality that these homeless people face every day. One young man shared his story of being out on the streets since he was 18, bouncing from place to place and finding work whenever it came his way but it was never enough to keep him off the streets. When asked how he stayed warm during the colder months he said he just put on a coat, lit candles in his tent for heat and tried to find hand warmers. Another man told his story of how he lost everything he had; his wife, his job, his house and now he is teaching other homeless people how to survive on the streets.
Even though The Gathering filled and distributed the bags, the idea for this homeless outreach ministry came through sophomore Jocelyn Church. She stated that she and her mother were talking one day about what could be done to help the homeless population in our area and it just blossomed from there. Church presented the idea to The Gathering Campus Director Marco Ballesteros and he immediately jumped on board. “It was a blessing straight from God” Church exclaimed. “I am so humbled that God decided to use me as a tool in His kingdom work!” she added.
These bags made by the students of The Gathering were meant to be more than just helping the homeless survive a few more days of this cold weather. They were meant to show them love; that they are not forgotten, demonstrated by how the community came together and joined hands to make a difference in their lives. But this ministry doesn’t stop here; it doesn’t stop with handing out bags and walking away. The Gathering knows that they want to continue to this Homeless Outreach and now they have the contacts to make it happen again. The students of The Gathering are already planning ways to further help the homeless population and to expand their outreach ministry. But you don’t have to be a member of The Gathering to become involved with this ministry. Anyone who has a passion for serving the needy is welcome to join forces with The Gathering and turn this outreach ministry into something bigger than any of those students can imagine. It is clear that God is working through the members of The Gathering and it is no surprise that great things are in store for the future of The Gathering Campus ministry here at the University of Louisville.