Patrick and Lauren lead one of our Atlanta weekly outreach teams. Read the interview below to find out why they volunteer their time in this way and how you can get involved too.
How long have you two been volunteering with Lazarus?
We have been volunteering for almost two years. We both had volunteered at Health Day, but neither us were committed to serving every other week until a couple of years ago.
What prompted you to get involved, and then keep serving?
Lauren and I had recently gotten married, and we both wanted to become more involved in the church and serving together. We wanted to do something that would challenge us and our faith. We wanted to be a part of something that was bigger than us, that would force us out of our comfort zone. Lauren and I had both been a part of ministries that served people experiencing homelessness but not in the approach that Lazarus did. We both really respected that Lazarus was about bringing dignity to our homeless brothers and sisters, and we were excited to learn more.
What do you enjoy the most about leading one of the Weekly Teams?
Being a team leader makes you have accountability to showing up your week, but it is so rewarding. You begin to see faces each week that you recognize and begin to know. You learn stories about each person, and they learn more about you.
Since you’ve been volunteering, is there a particular story or person you’ve met that sticks out in your mind?
There are few people that automatically stick out in our minds. It is so hard just to pick one story or one person.
James served in military, and has stories to share about traveling. He can play guitar, and has a smile that would warm anyone’s heart. He always has a bottle of ice water or juice in his backpack even when we are handing out hot chocolate in the freezing cold on Thursdays. I have even seen him outside of the time that we serve at Lazarus at the local library that we go to.
John used to run all throughout high school. However, his knees have given out on him and he enjoys taking long walks and bike rides around the city. Lauren and I are both runners, so we always enjoy hearing the tips John has for us or the stories he shares about races. John has a daughter that visits regularly. Hearing him speak about how he loves his daughter and spends times with her reminds us that each person out on the streets has a story, a family, something more about them even if they do not always share.
Michael is someone we have only known for a month or so, but he has opened up to us in a way we did not expect. Michael is so kind and such a hard worker. He has done security jobs and painting jobs in the time we have known him. He has had some health issues recently that have gotten in the way with him keeping certain jobs, but he always seems to be in high spirits when we see him.
What do you see as the biggest impact Lazarus is making, short-term and long-term?
Short-term, we see people out on the streets that we never see again, but you can tell in their face, that they just really needed someone to say hello to them that day, or they just really needed a cold cup of lemonade. On the flip side, some people see people serving day in and day out where we bring drinks, so a person showing up with some drinks does not mean that much to them. I hope that these are the people we touch in a long term way. We will have people come up to us and ask us about people on other teams in Lazarus. They will want us to tell so and so that they say hello and that they are doing well. Some ministries go out on the streets and make people listen to sermons before giving them food. In a sense they approach homelessness as a life of sinfulness. Many of the people I have met on the streets have a greater faith than me, and have told me stories of how God is an amazing provider.
I love how Lazarus approaches ministry on a relational level. We get to create sustaining relationships that helps some of our friends have a sense of normalcy or maybe even a sense of peace. Instead of having one person show up once to hand out leftovers from the restaurant, the regular people in this area begin to recognize our faces and what we do, and slowly but surely we are building trust with the people in the area. We are able to create friendships with people that result in sharing parts of our life including our faith.
What advice would you give new volunteers, or people looking to begin serving with Lazarus?
Just go out and try it not once but a few times. Have an open mind, and expect to learn from the people you meet.