Out of the Cold
November 20, 2015 @ 3:45 PM by: Jennifer Frank
Written by Pastor Abby Davidson
I was a stranger and you invited me in… ~ Matthew 25:35b
It all started with a man named George. He was living on the streets of Toronto and was befriended by some staff and students at St. Michael’s High School in Toronto. Unfortunately, as with many homeless men and women, George died much too soon. His friends at the high school decided they wanted to do something so others living on the streets of Toronto wouldn’t share his fate so they started a program called Out of the Cold. That was almost 30 years ago.[i]
Today there are several Out of the Cold programs running across the city. They range from offering a meal to opening their doors to operate as a shelter. Blythwood Road Baptist has had the privilege of being involved in this program for 21 years.
In 1995 several church members felt called to open up the doors of Blythwood every Saturday night to offer a meal and provide shelter for those who didn’t have a home. Today the Out of the Cold program welcomes approximately anywhere from 110 to180 guests for dinner, shelters close to 70 overnight and has a vibrant team of over 44 volunteers each weekend.
I was able to participate Out of the Cold for the first time last Saturday. I arrived to a gym bustling with people. Tables are chairs were set up cafeteria style and single mattresses lined the perimeter of the gym. Volunteers were busy in the kitchen cooking up Moroccan stew (it smelled amazing!) and sorting through new clothes in the back room to give out. As I walked around the room I was greeted by volunteers and guests and introduced here and there. One woman asked for prayer as she was grieving the loss of a friend. Another offered to get me a plate of food. Heading to the church that evening I was somewhat apprehensive and wondering how I would fit in. After being there only a few minutes I felt very at ease. There was a deep sense of community among both those who had come for shelter and those who had come to serve. There was something quite beautiful about it.
Out of the Cold may have been inspired by the life of death of George but its origin really goes back to Jesus. The words of Matthew 25 were replaying in my head all night – for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. This is the compassion that Jesus is calling us to demonstrate and that was what I witnessed on Saturday.
Showing compassion has been a hot topic as of late. People are wondering how far or compassion should extend. Does the Bible give parameters on who should receive our compassion? So how far do we go?
In Pastor David’s sermon two weeks ago he said that we are called to enter into suffering because we serve a God who enters into suffering. Our God suffers with us and for us because he loves us. Are we willing to enter into the suffering of others to show them love?
We’re looking forward to opening our doors each Saturday night this Winter to welcome familiar faces and likely some new ones too. Please be in prayer that God will continue to bless our guests as they come for food and shelter. Pray too that God will enable us to show his love and compassion to those without a place to call home.