by Ryan Mark Richardson
Serving and loving Amarillo.
On the surface level, it is not an overly complex statement. From Washington west and sixth south (give or take a few blocks depending on where exactly you are) Amarillo is a quiet, conservative center for the Texas panhandle. With an economy -relatively- untouched by the recession (as a waiter, I happen to know that isn’t entirely true), a quaint (if remarkably flat) view, an overabundance of coffee shops, and the general wave-at-everybody mentality Amarillo looks, sounds, and even feels like the perfect suburban town in the Midwest. The word average would fit almost perfectly if it weren’t for the amazing people and community that we all seem to find here. Nothing you can really target to complain or complement otherwise.
But let’s dive, just for a moment, beyond the surface. Let’s travel to northeast Amarillo… an area most of the town doesn’t go to, and may not even realize exists. And what you find is that the statement “Serving and loving Amarillo” may not be as simple as we have all chalked it up to be. I won’t go into exact statistics and details as most of you have been to the recent North sermon about statistics of poverty, teen pregnancy, the refugees who call this ‘quaint Midwest town’ there home, but in general that is exactly what you find. The quaint, quiet, conservative town disappears, and what you find looks a lot more like Juarez, Mexico with various Oriental signs spread throughout, instead of the nice, relaxing atmosphere of Roaster’s that so many college students have become accustomed to.
Yesterday (Tuesday) a small group of Northerners made our way past the boundaries of the Amarillo most of us know and love to a little place called Faith City Ministries located on 2nd street between Buchanan and Taylor. A building that’s actually surprisingly easy to miss… in point of fact, one of our group actually did miss it as it was her first time there. But within that building, people take the statement ‘serving and loving Amarillo’ to new levels. In that small unnoticed building the poor and homeless of Amarillo can find a warm meal, clothes, chapel services where the Gospel is proclaimed, and for a few hours each day a place where they are welcomed… where they are loved… and where the society that so regularly shuns them falls away.
I’ve spent time there sporadically over the years, watching the interns (former homeless or former prison inmates themselves who have found the Good News of Jesus Christ) go through the program to be taught skills to acquire jobs. And to be helped back onto their feet in a world that constantly wants to see them fall back down. And so it was yesterday, my first time there in over a year, that I find a place that’s quite different than the last time I was there. There are a new round of interns in the place, including a new intern director- a really happy, friendly, and driven guy named Lynn. But one of the most impressive things: the homeless themselves. It’s hard to catch, but I noticed that they have become some of the most selfless people I have seen in awhile. (perhaps they always were, and I just never had the eyes to see) Over the course of the meal, I put my waiting skills to use carrying drinks and food out to them and keeping those drinks full (a little funny, I never thought I’d use those talents for anything else…. ever). But over the course of the meal, I had some of the people, unable to put a meal before themselves, eat maybe half of their plates that Faith City had provided them and then happily look for others around them who had finished theirs and ask me to take their half eaten plates to those who had none left.
You can also see amazing things in the interns themselves. Men who have fallen into dark places, and are even now in hard times laugh and joke with each other, expressing what can only be described as joy with each other even in the midst of trial and hardship. And you see loving men and women who have escaped the boundaries of the Amarillo we are all so comfortable with to love the ones that the world and society has shunned.
Serving and loving Amarillo… Makes you think doesn’t it?