Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2010, click here.

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Only 23.3 Miles

Written by Jim Meacham

2822 East New York Street, home to Outreach Inc.

 

Before you read any more of this, I have to warn you I am a mess. My wakeup call to working with the homeless came on the streets of Toronto, Canada a year and a half ago. The call was by way of a homeless alcoholic named Chris who was having a really ugly seizure on the sidewalk outside of Sanctuary Church.  Watching him seize while I held his head off the pavement was a call closer to a siren than a “whisper”.

Some awesome conversations have been had in these chairs on the front porch at Outreach.

There are people “out there” who need “The Church”, or so it seemed in that moment. Since that day I have experienced “Church” very differently. I struggle being “in Church”, wanting to be “out there” where the Church should be. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t figured it out. I’m a mess and a work in progress.

I spent the Weekend of Service at Outreach Inc., just 23.3 miles down the road from where I live in Indianapolis. I was embedded there for the day as a volunteer journalist for World Next Door. Now, I didn’t sign up for this gig. This is the assignment that was “left over” after the other projects had been chosen.  I was simply helping organize the other journalist’s assignments. That is all I had planned… really, I had no plan to write this. And there it was, the “left over” untaken project, sitting there staring at me.  Now what could I do with that?

The application process is tough, but the drop in center is a great place to serve at Outreach.

It’s odd how things happen. You see, dear reader, I know this place.  I actually love coming here. It’s as if God left the Outreach Inc. article on the table wondering if I would actually be foolish enough to attempt to tell you about it. My wife and I have been here several times over the past year preparing and serving food and hanging out with the clients who show up for drop in meals on Thursday and Friday nights. They do something  here that is simply magical, and wow they do it well – really well.  The Outreach Inc. staff have figured out how to love their neighbor, and they have an insatiable thirst for it.

Outreach Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides services and support to homeless youth living on the streets of Indianapolis. The clients of Outreach Inc. are lost and struggling for a lot of different reasons.  But from what I have seen while at Outreach the “reason” the clients are “out there” seems less important than the fact that they are out there and in need of assistance.

Weekend of service, families stepping up together to serve.

They may be broken, hurting, lost and left along the side of the road. These are hollow eyes that folks walk past every day.  They need a meal, clothing, or something as simple as a shower. They need a caring hand to reach out to them, someone to hold on to them, someone who won’t leave them, someone who will respect them and love them. They need someone to help them find sanctuary, redemption, healing and a place in life. Does this scene sound familiar? Outreach Inc. does these things and so much more. They love these young people, young people who to many people might seem unlovable, unappreciative, abrasive, too rough, too broken… too messed up to put your arms around.  Yet Outreach is there, arms wide open waiting to be the hands and heart of Christ to the lost.

My few trips here in the evening over the past year have typically been at the end of a long hectic day at work where the troubles of the moment seem so pressing, they are almost smothering. But then when I walk through the front door of Outreach it happens: I bump into Jesus, He’s there looking back at me as if to say, “What the heck was so important? What took you so long?”

Cookies, these will be out on the street by the time you read this.

As I sit and listen to the voices of the clients tell stories around the table, I watch their faces, and listen to their laughter, while we eat a meal together and I sense I am sharing a meal with Christ. It’s the same each time: in a magical, almost supernatural way, God meets me here, breaks me again, and messes me up a little more.

Today when I walked through the front door of Outreach Inc. it was very different. There were familiar faces from Grace. The Church I call home was “out there.”  What I saw was God’s people answering the call to love well. There were folks sorting clothing, folding and stacking everything from socks to coats.  There were people moving boxes and big plastic tubs of clothing. There were people baking brownies and cookies.  The place had that warm feeling of your mom’s home during the holidays. There were even people delivering a refrigerator… yes, a refrigerator!  The hands that folded the clothing, the hands that packaged the personal items, the hands that baked the cookies, and the hands that carried that refrigerator in were touching the lives of a young  homeless brother or sister in need.

These guys were doing some heavy lifting during Grace's weekend of service!

Anonymously, God’s people were loving well, being “the church”…”out there”.  People were not in their safe and cozy world. They were “out there” planting a seed that would bear fruit that they would probably never see. Yes, it was “a beautiful day in the neighborhood” here at Outreach Inc.  As I wrote this story from the plastic chairs on the front porch I had this crazy feeling that someone serving here today perhaps for the first time was getting that whisper…you know the one that says “come”, the one that says softly “there is a free gift here.”

If you have ever wondered what it is to find yourself messed up, know that you need not go very far… that opportunity is “out there”, just down the street.

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Next Steps
    • To learn more about what Outreach Inc is doing for the homeless youth of central Indiana, click here.
    • If you would like to volunteer with Outreach, Inc. yourself, click here to read about their opportunities.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. jennifer said... 

    Reply

    November 12th, 2010 at 6:10 pm  

    It wasn’t “left over” Jim…it was left for YOU!!! God uses every moment, so don’t tell me you weren’t suppose to do an article!! 😀

    You did an awesome job writing! Thanks for sharing the Outreach Inc story. I know how closely it comes to your heart and other organizations that you are involved with. You are a blessing Jim! Thanks for caring about those who need caring, even if they don’t know they need it or want it!

    God’s continued blessing on you and your “mess” (which really isn’t a “mess” just God shakin’ it all up…to God…it is all beautiful)

  2. Pam Orr said... 

    Reply

    November 13th, 2010 at 11:03 am  

    Thank you for writing this story. I have served here many times and it is awesome to have that privilege! I do however have a question… I see a picture above of a store front with posters on the front window… it looks like this is in Castleton? Can you tell me if it is in Castleton, and where it is? I did not know there was another outreach Inc place other than downtown.
    Thanks!

  3. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    November 13th, 2010 at 12:46 pm  

    Hi Pam,

    Thanks for your post and the question. Those posters are on the front door at Outreach Inc. on East New York Street. All of the photos for this article were taken on site.

    Jim

  4. Melinda Cecil said... 

    Reply

    November 16th, 2010 at 4:43 pm  

    Dear Jim,

    Thank you so much for sharing Outreach, Inc. and your service there. May God continue to break our hearts and bring more workers to serve at Outreach sharing the love of Christ with these youth and young adults. “May God be merciful and bless you Jm. May his face shine with favor on you.” Psalm 67:1

  5. Megan Hershey said... 

    Reply

    November 17th, 2010 at 1:18 pm  

    Jim, thank you for sharing these words with the world!

    And, thank you for encouraging our staff, through this article, to press on!

    Megan

  6. Mick said... 

    Reply

    November 23rd, 2010 at 8:39 pm  

    Jim,
    Thanks for putting flesh to “neighbor.”
    Please know that “Changing Footprints.com” is available to folks anywhere.
    Blessings as you do HIS work,
    Mick

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