As Chris pulled into the parking lot, he found himself questioning his decision to make this his “home away from home” for the next 75 days. This was unlike anything he’d ever done before. Was God really calling him to do this? He would find out in just a matter of days there’s more to volunteering than serving food—God was calling him for a greater purpose.
A Seed is Planted
“My first experience at the Nashville Rescue Mission was last summer,” recalls Chris. “I was on staff at a Christian summer camp and spent two and a half months in Nashville. I met Nathan Peeples, the Director of Volunteer Services, at a site luncheon. I was unfamiliar with the Mission and it wasn’t until I walked outside and someone pointed to the Mission’s building that I realized how big this place was. I had no idea.”
During the summer, Chris brought several groups to the Nashville Rescue Mission to serve food or work in the warehouse. Over time, God touched Chris’s heart for the homeless.
“I’ll never forget walking into the chapel and feeling a huge burden for the men who lived there,” says Chris. “It brought me to tears.”
“God has spoken to me in so many ways through my time here.”
In the fall, Chris returned to the University of Central Arkansas, where he is now a senior. He never forgot about the Mission and the men living there. Ideas stirred and Chris wondered if the Mission would allow him to stay the summer and intern there in exchange for food, clothing and shelter. He called Nathan and put the wheels in motion.
More Than an Experience
“I’ve been on several mission trips,” says Chris. “I’ve been to lots of different countries and have sought opportunities to serve. Nothing prepared me for this experience. In fact, that’s the biggest eye-opening thing for me. I have had lots of experiences simply for the sake of experience. But this was different, it was about making friends, building relationships and growing together.”
On any given day during the summer you could find Chris sitting in the courtyard with some of the men who call the Mission home—he would be talking about life, the Lord or some other topic of the day. At other times you might find him helping lead a class, or praying with someone who has a heavy heart, or preaching in chapel or filming a video. Chris also helped two hours a day in the Reading and Writing Class.
“I had no idea there were so many people who cannot read or write,” says Chris. “That is just something I have always taken for granted. It’s a huge blessing to be able to help someone who struggles with it. Seeing them make progress is rewarding.”
“It’s true you reap what you sow. I’ve discovered no act of kindness is too small. I’m blessed on a daily basis.”
Stop and Listen
“I’ve learned to listen,” shares Chris. “I came here not really able to relate with most of the men I met. So I just listened. I also made some very special friends. I think about the example Christ set for us when he sat down and ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes. He enjoyed spending time with ‘the least of these.’ I can think of no better example as to what I’m supposed to do than that.”
“I’ve developed a special friendship with five or six of the men who spend most days in the courtyard,” says Chris. “I’ll never forget Joe. I’m pretty sure he didn’t like me based on the curse words he said when I first walked by. But I was determined to break through his tough exterior.”
Before long, Joe and Chris became friends and not a day went by Chris didn’t stop to say hi to Joe and offer him a word of encouragement.
“I’m a little sad for Joe,” says Chris. “He’s been coming here for ten years. He’s disabled, mentally challenged and unable to work. He has no family or friends to help him, so he comes to the Mission. But on the bright side, Joe knows the Lord. I think he might have met Him here at the Mission.”
“Spending my summer at the Nashville Rescue Mission has changed my life,” shares Chris. “One of the most rewarding things was getting to have one-on-one conversations and times of prayer with the men God led my way. It is an honor and privilege to be able to pray with and for someone. I have made some life-long friends. I saw God show up in amazing ways. Today, I am a different person because of this experience.”