A question we need to ask of ourselves...“How’s your health?”
What’s the first question asked these days - “How are you feeling? Are you displaying any symptoms?” - followed by a long list of security checks.
Ben Platz, working with the homeless population of Ontario through centers in Kingston, Belleville, and Cambridge, is concerned with this question at a different level. The nightlight ministry reaches out to vulnerable sectors, especially where an already limited demographic has been shunted further by lockdown restrictions. Many living on the streets struggle to find adequate food and masks—without which they can’t even enter a grocery store. “A lot of guests at our shelters see those signs,” says Ben, “Those ones that ask people to ‘stay home and stay safe,’ but how can they when they have to be on the move every few hours and people call public hotlines to report on those not wearing masks? There’s so little grace being extended. ”Volunteers and directors on the nightlight team have re-purposed themselves by moving out of the nighlight centres and meeting in parks to distribute food and other necessities. Their hope is to recreate much of the collapsed infrastructure and maintain relationships, some of which have been nurtured for the better part of a decade.
Financial partners are an important part of nightlight’s support, and not always for obvious reasons. Though many have pulled back their giving, one partner called Ben to check in. He told Ben, “Yes, I’ve got my own business challenges, but now more than ever the work you’re doing is invaluable. We made a commitment in the good times, meaning we have to stay strong in the bad times.” For Ben, it wasn’t so much about the money, but the partner’s positive response and encouragement. We all have ‘encouragement tanks’ that need to get filled regularly to fuel us and keep us going. The nightlight ministry has sought to be that in the community - an encouragement clinic, fostering relationships and connection. Ben hopes that the church will catch a sense of this need, beyond the physical. ”In Matthew 25, Jesus’ emphasis is on feeding the poor and clothing the naked. It’s not about attending comfortable church services on Sunday, nice cars, or homogenous communities.
There’s a smile in Ben’s voice, a wry one. “We need to be taking ministry seriously, not just for the sake of the poor but for the sake of the church. If you only take in, you’ll kill yourself spiritually.”
What a privilege it is to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, to gain our vitality through exercising that love for Him to a needy world. We need to ask ourselves, spiritually - how’s your health?
To give to Ben's support go to, www.sim.ca/ben-schroeder