“God created them in His image, just like He created me in His image. They are all probably talented in a lot of different ways and it would be really cool to introduce them to Jesus.”
Most people who know they’ve been called to do something by God will say that it was unexpected. For Matt Geren, our Children’s Ministry Pastor, it was on a 100 degree day on the Fourth of July, while he was at the lake with his family.
A few weeks prior, Matt and a team of volunteers had taken a bus into downtown Portland to pray with people. In particular, they were seeking out the homeless, addicted, and broken people living on the streets. That day had its share of ups and downs, so, on the Fourth of July, instead of fireworks and hotdogs, the people of Portland were on Matt’s mind.
“My wife and I were on a boat on Sebago Lake,” he recalls. But he had a nagging feeling in his heart. “I told her that we had to go back early … I kept thinking about these people on this little triangle in the City of Portland: Oxford, Preble and Alder [streets]. I said, ‘I feel like we should bring them water today.’”
He admits that he didn’t want to leave the cool water of the lake, but he knew he had a bigger purpose that day. They arrived downtown, armed with coolers full of water bottles, and were greeted by Jen, a volunteer at the local shelter. She was thrilled that they had come to help bring relief from the heat, explaining that tempers are shorter and people become more combative on hot days.
“We passed out 250 bottles of water in a little over an hour,” Matt says. “People just started coming to us.”
The kind gesture may have been simple, but it was impactful. Matt recalls, “[Jen] had us come over and said, ‘Take a look down the street – by you giving them water, there is no fighting, there is no arguing or bitterness – it is like everyone here is getting along right now just from having an ice cold bottle of water.’”
Loving & Serving Like Jesus
When you see a homeless person asking for change or someone struggling with addiction, most people’s instincts are to avoid them. But Matt and his team of volunteers seek them out, knowing that these are the people who need love the most. After all, they, too, are loved unconditionally by our Father.
Still, serving the homeless and addicted is a challenge, and sometimes, it’s even dangerous. Matt says the team members have witnessed some harsh realities. “You will see people shoot up. You will see people passed out. You might get yelled at. You might get hit on,” he explains. “You will see all of these things just feet away.” These setbacks don’t deter Matt and his team from spreading the love of Jesus. “I think what He is asking me to do and what He is asking the team of people who go to down there is, can we look at people the way He does?”
It’s taken a lot of hard work, but Matt says that the broken-hearted are beginning to see the light of Jesus. “I love that they are getting to know us, and getting to see Jesus in us,” he says. “We are serving the way Jesus would serve.”
Finding Compassion & Gratitude
After many trips into Portland, Matt has come to know some of the people who live on the streets. Although not everyone has welcomed the Eastpoint team with open arms, Matt’s compassion continues to grow.
“When it rains, I think in the morning ‘oh man, the cardboard is wet,’” says Matt, referring to those trying to keep warm in makeshift shelters. “[I] just start having thoughts of these people who I never would have thought of before.”
With this perspective, Matt is even more grateful for God’s work in his life. “I feel like I am so blessed – I am so happy that I woke up in a bed that I washed the sheets for. That I have a roof, and all these things. It feels so cool that God has taken care of me in this way.”