To raise awareness about homelessness in the United States, some 50 Concordia University Chicago students built “homes” out of cardboard boxes and spent the night inside them on the school’s campus in River Forest, Ill.
The March 20-21 event was sponsored by the student organization “Spiritual Life” to open students’ eyes to homelessness in society and how they, as Christians, can reach out to help those in need.
In addition to spending the night in a box, as some homeless people do, the students watched and discussed “The Homeless Home Movie,” a documentary on the lives of five homeless people; took part in an outdoor worship service; and packed and distributed more than 60 sack lunches to homeless men and women on the streets of Chicago.
“We want to challenge Concordia students to go out of their comfort zone and brainstorm ways that our campus can help address the issue of homelessness,” said Jenna Bremer, a senior and an organizer of the event.
As students distributed the sack lunches, they were encouraged to engage those they met in conversation and prayer.
Amanda Finke, a junior who co-organized the event along with Bremer, said those who received the lunches “were very gracious and friendly,” and two men she met at the local YMCA taught her to play dominoes over lunch.
“I think the most valuable part of this experience is that it invites students to step outside their comfort zone a bit,” Finke told Reporter via e-mail. “The reality is that we live in a society that takes great pains to isolate ourselves from the realities of poverty and homelessness, so our everyday experience often doesn’t include interactions with people in those circumstances.
“Jesus said that when we see people who are hungry or thirsty and give them something to eat or drink, we’re doing it for Him (Matt. 25:35-40). So there’s actually something really beautiful about this process, because when I look into the face of that homeless person, I am actually looking into the very face of God! That’s a big deal.”
Homeless people are very much like everyone else, she said: “We’re all just people, made in the image of God. We all desire relationship, we all are called to love each other.”
Finke added that “it’s especially cool” when college students are involved in experiences like this “because, although we don’t have a lot of extra money to hand out, we’re pretty good at hanging out and talking.”
Bremer said the event “has definitely opened my eyes to being receptive to people who come from a different walk of life than myself.”
Homeless people, she said, “are not people to be feared or looked down upon, but are looking for the same love, respect, dignity, and acceptance that all human beings desire. As Christians, we have a calling to love those around us, and the homeless are no exception.”
Bremer said she and Finke were “very happy with the success of the event and hope to continue it again in the future.”
Posted April 29, 2009