HOW WE STARTED
In the winter of 2011 Christians from a number of area churches joined forces in a day when we learned that there was no contingency plan or location for the unsheltered homeless to go in severe weather. When the first polar vortex hit, God’s grace and a lot of hard work brought resources and people together to meet that need.
After that first event, for the rest of the winter our activities were in response to extreme weather conditions when the temperatures dropped below 20 degrees F. Many clients we serve are especially vulnerable to dangerously cold weather . There were no government sponsored shelters at this end of Prince William County, so we opened”hypothermia shelters” with volunteers from these churches. Grace United Methodist was the location of the first shelter we opened. Since that first time, the location that we used was Manassas Baptist Church. It is the only church that has been willing to graciously open part of their church for this need. They also have showers and a washing machine and dryer available at this site, the old Marstellar Middle School.
Dear Volunteers, I hope that all of you are having a year. It’s a very busy time for all of us! When winter comes this year we will need volunteers this seasons, we didn’t need to open the shelter until the temp reach 32 degrees. I know that your heart seeks to serve the “least of these.” However, we will need people to step up and sign up for shifts and be ready to serve. I completely understand that we all have commitments and have to be at work. Those that have been signing up for overnights often come from work to stay at the shelter or get up in the morning and go to work after a night at the shelter. We currently have about 100 + volunteers. About half of those have never signed up for any shift. We do everything we can to make serving at the shelter an enriching experience. We hear over and over how it has changed our volunteers’ lives. We have plenty of food. We have a warm safe place. We need faithful volunteers to be able to keep this essential ministry going. If we do not have enough volunteers signed up through the season we will not be able to open during a time when temps will be in the teens. I’m hoping that you can find time during this season to honor the birth of Christ by serving those for whom there is no room at the inn- or anywhere else. Our website is back up and running after a few problems. Please check it regularly for opening dates.
God’s blessings to you,
In our first three nights of season, we averaged about 2-15 guests per night. That means that 2-15 people, created in the image of God, were able to sleep comfortably in a warm building, enjoy hot meals, take a hot shower, and relax. It also means that they were able to get some of life’s necessities- new underwear, socks, thermal underwear, coats, and other clothing.
Our volunteers jumped right into the new season, ready to serve. This is our 12 season serving the homeless of Manassas. God has blessed us with dozens of new volunteers, passionate about serving. We always make it clear to our guests that we are not doing this because we are “good” people. We’re doing this because we love Jesus and are simply following him in servanthood. So, when our guests thank us- and they do continuously- we tell them that God is the one to be thanked.
Each of our guests is different from the others. They are homeless for a variety of reasons and it’s not up to us to judge whether they are worthy to be helped. Jesus told us that whatever we do for those in need, we have done for him. He didn’t say to judge them.
Over the last 12 months, several of our local homeless friends have died. There is no single cause of death. Alcoholism and drug use are certainly factors. We’ve lost friends in their 20s – 60s. Living outside is hard on the body. It doesn’t take long for a small cold to turn into pneumonia. Our friends look forward to these nights of relative comfort.
I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and step forward to volunteer to work with our guests. I’ve never known anyone to regret that decision. It will change your perspective on life. Training sessions are still available and will be listed on this site.
This shelter is not the ministry of any one person or group. We are a group of local churches that have joined together to serve. As long as I am involved in this, we will always seek to continue that. People pass by our churches every day and don’t think there is anything of value going on there. We want Manassas to see followers of Jesus-Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Pentacostal, and other traditions- working side by side. It’s a powerful thing to experience. On behalf of our board of directors, I invite you to join us.
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“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”