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No Room at the Inn

July 7th 2015 No comments yet  

shoveling_closeupIn June, I had the pleasure of attending the ground-breaking ceremony for The Samaritan Inn’s new family shelter construction. And, no, it was not simply a pleasure because of the catered mini doughnuts and juice, though that never hurts. The Samaritan Inn in McKinney is the largest residential homeless program in Collin County, and this ceremony marked the beginning of Phase One in its shelter expansion. Though Stonebriar Community Church is a long-time supporter of The Samaritan Inn, I knew little about the organization when I attended the event.

What I learned that morning jolted me into awareness.

At The Samaritan Inn, formerly homeless residents have access to housing, three balanced meals a day, hygiene items, classes on financial literacy and life skills, and vouchers for work needs like transportation and daycare. They are even assigned a professional caseworker who helps them plan for long-term success. All of this is offered without cost to residents, giving them an opportunity to get back on their feet.  On most nights, Samaritan Inn houses approximately 100 adults and 60 children. But more space is needed.

Last year, more than 3,500 people were turned away because there was no room at the Inn. (That sounds familiar, does it not?) Phase One of construction will double the shelter’s current capacity, and that is just the beginning of the Board of Directors’ plans for their new 15 acres of land. Local churches, businesses, and families are pouring their resources into The Samaritan Inn for the sake of our neighbors in need.  Each of the Board members and supporters who spoke at the ceremony agreed that it will take an entire community to complete such a vision.

It is easy for anyone—and that anyone includes me—to think, Oh, someone else will take care of that. I am going to focus on me right now. At the ceremony, a supporting executive from Capital One said something that woke me up from that mentality: “The strongest communities in the world are those in which everyone lends a helping hand.” For Biblical proof of this, look to the early church community as described in Acts 2: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” That is our Lord’s expectation for a strong, caring community. So believers must ask ourselves, Am I seeking ways to build that kind of community?

Congressman Sam Johnson, also among the speakers at the ground-breaking, offered a more contemporary example of this community concept. His neighbors cared for his wife and children while he was in a POW camp for seven years. Now that is active commitment to serving others. What would have happened to Johnson’s family if his neighbors had drawn the blinds and ignored the needs next door? Little good can be done when people stay shut inside their private lives, keeping a narrow focus on their own contentment.

Maybe it is acceptable in the secular culture to only look outward when a homeless person bugs us for change, but we in the faith community are called to actively seek and serve the needs of those around us. That means donating time, money, and resources to brothers and sisters in need without having to be asked. If we give only when we feel like it or on the rare occasion some need pops up in our face, we are not following Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and meet their needs.

In this suffering world, we never run out of neighbors to love. This quote by Albert Schweitzer, found on The Samaritan Inn’s website, is as true as ever: “Wherever a man turns, he can find someone who needs him.” So what is your excuse not to help your community? If you feel you have too little to give, try sacrificing something so that you have more to offer, like the church in Acts. My excuse was that of ignorance, but after learning about the efforts of The Samaritan Inn, I have 3,500 new reasons to open my eyes—one for every person turned away last year.

So there you have my take on the ground-breaking ceremony. I went for the doughnuts and left with a lesson. To learn more about The Samaritan Inn’s new family shelter for yourself, check out their website.


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