I was going to write a blog about my Dad, Rene Gonzalez, and his influence on my life but my heart felt led to write about our recent experiences serving "Donuts with Friends". I will follow up with the blog about my Dad in a few weeks.
This past Saturday our family spent the morning giving out hot coffee, fresh donuts, brand new socks and hygiene bags to the homeless in Fort Collins. We call these times interacting with the homeless, "Donuts with Friends". Before you begin to think how wonderful we are to spend our Saturday mornings reaching out to people in need, let me honestly tell you that when I woke up on Saturday morning I did not feel like giving out coffee and donuts, socks and hygiene bags to homeless people in Fort Collins. I wanted to wrap my covers around me and go back to sleep for a few more hours. I wanted to have a hot breakfast of eggs and toast while still in my bathrobe. I wanted to stay home and have a leisurely, relaxing morning but instead of wrapping the covers around me I dragged myself out of bed. Instead of lounging around in my PJ's and bathrobe, I quickly dressed in my jeans and sweatshirt. Instead of a nice hot breakfast of eggs and toast, I grabbed a quick bowl of cold cereal and headed out the door with my family on our way to Fort Collins. There is no other way to describe my mood, as I headed out the door last Saturday morning, other than to say that I was grumpy!!!
Giving out coffee, donuts, socks and hygiene bags to strangers in a city is not one of my favorite things to do because it causes me to ignore the natural leadings of my personality. To put it bluntly...I don't like interacting with strangers. When Ed and I lived in New Hampshire we were the Senior High Youth Group Leaders for the teens at Trinity Bible Church in Sutton. Every summer we would take the teens on a Work Camp to serve people in need. I loved the time that we spent with our teens but every summer I would dread meeting other people at the Work Camps....they were strangers and every summer I would dread the thought of having to meet strangers.
My grumpy mood, about having to head out to meet homeless strangers, did not improve even after we picked up the coffee and donuts. I wanted to be home and I did not want to interact with strangers. We parked our car and honestly I thought that maybe I could just waited in the car and let my family walk the streets of Fort Collins looking for homeless people in need. Of course this was not going to happen and so my thought was that I better just dive right into "Donuts with Friends" and start serving coffee to those in need. I grabbed the bag with sugars, creamers, stir sticks, cups, napkins and also grabbed the box of hot coffee. I headed down the main street of Fort Collins and walked about 500 yards and saw our first homeless person. She was a woman who appeared to be in her late 20's and she had a cardboard sign that said "hungry". I walked up to her and asked her if she would like a cup of hot coffee. She said yes. As I poured out that first cup of hot coffee to this young woman, my grumpy mood immediately turned to joy. My apprehension and fear about interacting with strangers was replaced with boldness and my desire to wait in the car was replaced with a desire to reach out to people in need.
People in need are easy to find when you are looking for them and after serving about a dozen people we realized that we were quickly came to the end of our coffee supply. We had about 6 more cups of coffee left in the box and decided to head to another area of downtown. We traveled about 6 blocks in our car and parked on the street near a large parking lot. We saw a run down van parked on the side of the road which obviously was home to several people. We also spotted a lone man sitting on a rock across the other side of the parking lot. My daughter Meredith and I first thought to give our remaining supplies of coffee and donuts to the people living in the van but then we both wanted to reach out to the lone man sitting on a rock by himself. We both agreed that we should offer him a cup of coffee, a donut, a clean pair of socks and a hygiene bag. Walking across that parking lot was a very long walk. We could not see the mans face as we headed across the parking lot because he was sitting on the rock with his back towards us. As we walked, I wondered what we were getting into. Was this really a good idea? Maybe we should turn around and call it a day, but we kept walking. As we approached the man we said "Good Morning" and he looked at us but he didn't say anything. We asked him if he would like a cup of coffee and he continued to look at us but we still didn't get any verbal response. We set the container of coffee down on the rock next to him and offered him a donut from the box of donuts. He tried to speak but could not and we quickly realized that this man had no voice. He pointed to one of the donuts and when I showed him the coffee he nodded his head to respond yes. He was so grateful but had no verbal way to communicate that to us other than to look into our eyes and nod his head in appreciation.
My daughter, Meredith, and I were so touched and humbled by our interactions with this lone man sitting on a rock in a parking lot. We were so glad that we did not let our apprehension stop us from walking across the parking lot to interact with this stranger. He was a man in need. He was a hurting, lonely man and we were blessed to serve him a cup of coffee, a donut and to leave him with a clean pair of socks and a hygiene bag.
We ended our day by giving the remaining donuts and coffee to the people living in the van. As we walked away we heard one man say to his friend, " I was just wishing that I had a fresh donut to eat". Our hands were empty as headed towards our car but our hearts were full. I was so thankful that I didn't listen to my feelings of wanting to stay home or wanting to wait in the car. I was so grateful that I instead listened to God and was obedient to what He has called us to do. I wish that I did not an apprehensive personality and I wish that I wouldn't like to be a home body so much and I wish that I could say that I loved to meet strangers but all my wishing is not going to change who I am. Jesus does not call me to change my personality, He only calls me to be obedient to him. As I step out in obedience and in faith, no matter how I am feeling, God blesses me with joy in doing His work and He also gives me the boldness that is needed to reach out to strangers in need. Jesus expects that we will not let the weaknesses of our bodies or personalities be an excuse for not doing His work. God will be our strength and He will gives us just what we need when we step out in obedience. God's provision of what we need is contingent upon us being actively involved in the "doing". If I had chosen to stay in bed or wait in the car hoping to feel joyful or bold about serving homeless strangers, I would have waited for eternity! The joy and boldness in serving did not come until I was actively obedient to what God wanted me to do. It is in being obedient to God that we are blessed and we are given just what we need to accomplish what He wants us to do.
As I end this blog I can't help but think of my Dad. He was always encouraging me and my sisters to be brave and we always remember him saying, "Don't be afraid". It was his way of telling us to be bold, to trust God, to be risk takers and to give it our all. I look forward to sharing more about him in my next blog. Until then I will continue on being obedient to God, no matter how I am feeling and I will look to Him to be my strength and my joy in all that I do.
Soaring Wings Ministries
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries