We played the set mostly to a quiet room (but a few authentic smiles), as is usually the case when you're the background piece behind a meal. We finished the set just as The Crossing staff were resetting the large room that serves as a sanctuary, with van bench seats taking the place of traditional pews, and were quickly invited to the back for pancakes and sausage. As we settled down with a plate of food, we began to see the true ministry of the place as the staff began to share their stories. Stories of lives changed through the direct intervention of God. Stories of people put back together, piece by piece.
As we finished our meal, Danny, the outreach's pastor, invited us on a tour of the facility. It had been a women's clothing store, he explained, and had burned in the 1950's. A new building was constructed on the basement of the old one. As Danny took us through the 1920's era basement and the rest of the compound, he outlined the vision that he had for the facility and the people whose needs it could meet. A hydroponics farm in the basement (two huge safes, originally housing women's furs that would draw high society from New York to St. Joseph), a newly built 96 foot greenhouse behind the building, and a thriving production of hand woven rugs and purses - all designed to provide the homeless of the city a job, a function, a purpose.
Danny tells us the story of how the rug production began. On a cold winter day, Danny's wife was sitting at her family's hundred-year-old antique loom, relocated to the mission to help her pass the time. Several of the homeless had come in for lunch, and she knew they needed a job or they would go back into the subzero temperatures. So she asked them to help cut some fabric into strips. After an hour of cutting, one of the men asked what they were doing - "Are we just going to throw these away?" Seizing the opportunity, she told them, "These strips are how society sees you right now. Trash; something to be thrown away. What we do here is we bind you back together, to build you back up into something that people want again." She then threw the century-old loom into work - itself a technology that, like many of the homeless it served, was deemed obsolete and bound for the garbage - and was quickly weaving a colorful rug.
Danny's passion for the homeless was infectious - he and his staff spoke excitedly about building relationships and providing purpose for a population devoid of both. As he speaks about building the gardens both below and above ground, creating a living, vibrant harvest where there were only empty rooms, rocks, and rubble; it's obvious that he sees the people he serves in the same way, seeking to build the same life and vibrancy in those who have felt crushed and empty themselves.
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34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’