Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
One of the hardest things for me to do at EMI is to get excited about volunteering at Open Door every Monday. Open Door is Colchester Baptist's community drop-in center and outreach program. I tend to think of it as feeding the homeless, because it is a small cafe-style part of the church that anyone can come to for super cheap coffee, tea, cookies (biscuits!) and sandwiches.
I'll think: I came here to do architecture. I came here to help people in Africa, not England. Besides, 10 pence coffee is not going to nourish or sustain these people! This is just getting in the way of my time on CAD.
It's clear to see, when walking on the streets of Colchester, that it is a largely unreached area. The people in my bible study have said that having another Christian in the workplace is highly unusual, and it is common to be known as the Christian girl to all the others. I know that this town is a true mission field and I should be making more of an effort to reach the people all around me, not limiting my charity work to architecture for EMI. Enter: Open Door. It is like God's way of saying "your shyness is no excuse, I'll bring people to you and you can share about me."
Although many of our daily devotions have emphasized the importance of helping others in our everyday lives, it was hard to do before I understood how my volunteering was actually helping. But, I am starting to realize that Open Door isn't about the snacks at all. It is about giving these people a friend to talk to, someone to listen when they are in crisis, direction when they're lost, money management advice, a phone, mediation, job help, and a taste of the Holy Spirit. Many of the people that come to Open Door have circumstances in their lives that I could never imagine in my own. One comes from a wealthy, well-known family in England, but was disowned when they disagreed with his choices. Another fled from political unrest in the Czech Republic, but prefers homelessness in England to the life he had there. One tried to turn his life around by quitting his alcoholic habits, but started seizing because of the abrupt stop and was left with permanent brain damage. Others are artists, writers, or grocery store stockers who come simply because they want to hear the word of God, but are uncomfortable in the church. Drug addicts, alcoholics, and atheists: all are welcomed and served with a smile.
On Wednesday I shared my own testimony with everyone that was there. I was so intimidated because I thought there was no way I could relate to any of the people. I thought, they're going to laugh at the "highs and lows" of my life, because theirs have been so much rougher. So I tried to target things I knew that they could relate to: the loss of a loved one, bad choices, anxiety. I shared with them what I believe God has done in my life, and the most amazing thing happened: someone came to Christ! He had been coming to Open Door for a few years, asking questions about Christianity, and was unsure about whether or not he wanted to devote his life to God. After I spoke, he told the director that he had a very similar story as mine and he was ready to become a Christian!
Since Wednesday I have seen a number of people that come to Open Door around town. They always go out of their way to come say hi and share what they're up to. I definitely didn't think that the friends I would make here would be the poor and the needy, but I guess they are the most in need of friends, and I'm glad God placed me here to be that for them :)