FaithZette

‘I Would Have Frozen to Death — There Is Nowhere to Go’

Grateful group of about 30 people spent a night safe from frigid temperatures in a Dallas church, and the Christian effort continues

At Oak Lawn United Methodist Church (OLUMC) in Dallas, the faithful take quite literally a passage from Hebrews 13:1-2 — one that encourages Christians to extend hospitality to strangers.

When a churchgoer — who is herself homeless — suggested OLUMC open its doors to offer sanctuary during the dangerously dipping temperatures in Dallas, the leadership of the 140-year-old church got straight to work, as a Fox 4 News piece noted. What started as a suggestion during Sunday morning services was a reality by Sunday night, New Year’s Eve.

For the first time since the church’s founding, OLUMC — a member congregation of the Reconciling Ministries Network — served as a temporary homeless shelter. A group of about 30 people spent the night safe from the frigid weather in a hospitality center and sanctuary. Those efforts continue.

“Such an awesome thing you are doing for the homeless. These are the acts of kindness the public need to see from the church. May God bless this church in bold and abundant ways in 2018,” wrote Kim Harris Shedd on Facebook about the group’s efforts.

Shedd was responding to OLUMC’s Facebook post from about 3 a.m. on Monday, in which the group called for more volunteers.

[lz_third_party align=center width=630 includes=https://twitter.com/kdfw18/status/947824723353919489]

Another respondent, Sara Teer, added, “My husband and I are homeless … We have eaten at your church once and receive clothing that I’m telling you now I would have frozen to death without at this point. I have no words to tell you how wonderful I think this is, how blessed I am to even live in a city with people as good as you. Now if we could find 10,000 more of you because there are approximately 17,000 of us out here in DFW area … God bless you, I’ve been telling all the people stuck out [here] about you. I’m absolutely certain you’re saving many lives. There is nowhere to go in this city … P.S. The food was beyond amazing. Thank you again.”

(Dallas LIFE, a nonprofit agency, offers services to the homeless in the city, and an organization called the SoupMobile serves some 250,000 meals a year in the city of Dallas. There are other services and groups as well.)

The church had a “full house,” according to its Facebook post. On Tuesday, it again opened its doors at 6 p.m. and remained open until 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Rev. Ben Anderson David Hensley is OLUMC’s associate pastor of worship and discipleship. He was tidying up and preparing the space for tonight’s visitors when LifeZette caught up with him via Facebook on Tuesday.

On its website, OLUMC notes that the “scriptural mandate” of Hebrews 13, verses 1 and 2, is “built into [its] DNA.” That certainly rings true, given its most recent outreach effort to the Dallas-area homeless population.

The passage reads: “Let mutual love continue. And do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some of us have entertained God’s angels without knowing it.”

The passage reads: “Let mutual love continue. And do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some of us have entertained God’s angels without knowing it.”

Many people — laypersons and Biblical scholars alike — have heard the verse. OLUMC and its members are living it out. Readers may be familiar with the King James or American Standard translations of the verse, in which “entertained God’s angels without knowing it” is translated as “entertained angels unawares.”

Related: We Must Cultivate the Art of Christian Hospitality

On Sunday, 30 such potential angels unawares briefly called OLUMC “home” when they otherwise would have been forced to battle the bitter cold with little to protect them. Tonight, there may be even more.

The church also offers once-a-year emergency food packages through its pantry.

Meeting the needs of the homeless and others of limited means is not new to OLUMC. In addition to its recent effort in providing temporary shelter, the website indicates it also serves regular meals on Sunday evenings, provides access to a community clothes closet, and offers once-a-year emergency food packages through its WeCan! Pantry.

The sub-freezing lows may continue in the Dallas area all week, with some warming predicted over the weekend.

Michele Blood is a freelance writer based in Flemington, New Jersey.