Sometimes I think of this ministry and all the resources you have provided like the great feast Jesus describes in the gospel of Luke. Because of your compassion and generosity, the resources at UGM go far beyond a meal and a bed. You’ve provided first-rate medical clinics, Voc-Ed centers complete with computers and educational materials, recovery programs with counselors, well-equipped dorm rooms, showers, three, hot, hearty meals a day, clothing, laundry services, workplace training, Bible study, parenting classes, workout rooms – everything a person needs to blaze a pathway out of homelessness. You have set out a veritable feast, all of it reflecting the great love and compassion of God for those who are hurting and broken.
Similar to the parable, however, we cannot make people come and partake of the feast you’ve prepared. After a board meeting a month or two ago, one of the board members commented, “If this is the food readily available here for dinner, why would anyone choose to go hungry or scavenge for food?” It seems incomprehensible to us, but look at the excuses given by the guests in Luke: I bought some land, and I need to survey it. I bought some oxen, and I need to examine them. I just got married. Our excuses are not always straightforward. They may be covering fear or shame or even a desire to persist in self-destructive behaviors.
Irrational choices are not, of course, limited to people experiencing homelessness. Way back in Deuteronomy, God says: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Talk about obvious choices. Why would anyone choose death? And yet, every day, in small and larger ways, we do. We lie. We worry. We think we know better than God.
The remarkable part of the story, however, is that the host doesn’t give up. He says to his servant, “‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame...Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’” (Luke 14:21-23)
UGM is in a season where we are asking ourselves, what does it look like to compel people to come in? We know we cannot force them. We cannot give them what we want to give them if they do not want it for themselves, but what does it mean to go out to the highways and hedges? Is there something we are not doing? Will you pray with us for the answers? So many people are hurting on the streets of Spokane. How do we compel them to come in?