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Sterling Students Served by Homeless
December 18, 2009
Soap, toothbrushes, washcloths-the Sterling College students purchasing these items were not restocking their dorm rooms. They were assembling homeless care kits. The Praxis (Greek for "practical application of learning") small group had met all semester to study "The Hole in Our Gospel" by World Vision President Rick Stearns, and had decided to put their faith to action among some of America's "least." On November 15, ten students and one leader traveled to downtown Wichita with the general plan of giving the kits to homeless men and women. What actually occurred, though, was far greater than their expectations.
"We were there to serve them," said Courtney Huber, a first-year student from McPherson, Kan. "But one homeless man I met was constantly putting my needs before his own. This man doesn't receive consistent meals or even shelter, yet he was more concerned about me having a dry place to sit-this blew me away."
Huber was not the only one to be surprised. As the students mingled with the more than 100 homeless people gathered for the Church on the Street service, they listened to story after story that transformed their attitudes. "I had forgotten that homeless people had lives before being homeless, that they had jobs and families-that they were people," said Andrew Gross, a first-year student from Wichita. "But then I met Ed. He got drinks for us, talked to people at other tables, checked on people's families. He took the time to be concerned with other people's sadness and loneliness. His own wife had died of cancer, and he wanted to carry on her ways of loving others."
Wes Cates, a first-year student from Flagstaff, Ariz., connected with Manny from San Antonio. "He told me he'd been in prison when he was younger. He'd done a lot of bad things, but his mother confronted him about his sins on her deathbed. He told me that God has created each of us for a specific purpose with specific gifts. Manny is a special man."
Salima Watson, a junior from Russell, Kan., was so impressed by the trip she convinced the Raya group at the College to return the following week. "I learned so much from this," Watson said. "You don't have to go overseas to serve-help is needed everywhere and it doesn't need to be elaborate." Watson, too, found a friend among the homeless. "Leon is a sweet older guy. I talked to him both weeks I was there. He taught me to notice the people around me. I still think about him all the time and pray for him."
"I met a girl about my own age-pregnant and on drugs," said Melissa Yarrow ‘09, a resident director at the College and a leader of the Praxis group. "She wants her baby to have a better life, but she's blind to the difficulties her child will face. She has such a passion to do better, but she's pulled down by life's circumstances and bad habits. She had a huge impact on me."
The Sterling College students also met the Chicken Lady, a Wichita woman who fries chicken each Sunday and passes it out to homeless people. "The Chicken Lady and the organizers of Church on the Street are so faithful," said Yarrow. "Week in/week out, no matter the weather, they sacrifice their normal lives to help others.
"This experience was eye-opening for all of us. We talked all semester about the inequality that exists around the world-and to see it just an hour from where we live was amazing. This put faces to the problems we'd been talking about."
"I'm never going to forget this trip," said Watson, "and I plan on going back again."