What I've learned by traveling with the Blanket Ministry and standing at the bridge with the Homeless Outreach in the winter time. . .
To take the cold and not let it beat me and not cry, I finally learned the perfect outfit. I wear 3 layers on the bottom, 3 layers on the top with top coat over all of that.
Keep the head and neck covered by something thick.
Two pairs of wool socks inside fur lined boots.
Gloves. . .always gloves.
Before you zip, snap and button, take a bathroom break. . .even if you think you don't need to.
Do not drink anything before leaving.
Do not drink anything while out.
This will ensure a pleasant time with folks and you can concentrate on them and not on numb feet and how in the world will you navigate in a bathroom while out. ;)
I am not a cold weather person, but six winters ago, God said to go, and so I went. I have never, never, never regretted it. I found a family, a home away from home, hearts looking to receive and my heart was needing to give. In the process, they have given to me and I have taken from them.
What is this taking and giving. . .unconditional love and support. When I thought I was going to give it, I found they were giving it to me. OH, and there is this other thing that is all over the bridge out there, it is beautiful, it is more grand than anything I've ever experienced, it flows from the guests to the volunteers, from the volunteers to the guests. It is what makes us not "them", not "us", but we.
Grace from Christ Himself. HE meets us all out there in the cold, and that is what warms the soul. The love that comes from Him is felt and is given in all directions. When a man with tear filled eyes says, "thanks for giving me Hope", when a homeless lady gives you her gloves because she sees you don't have yours on, when she holds your hands because she is worried about you, when the bearded man comes up to you with cold breathe leaving his mouth, giving thanks and gratitude for his meal, him wanting you to eat so you will be full, when the homeless comes up and gives you a big hug and says, "thanks for coming out for us", THIS is worth the ton of clothes I put on and the boots to walk out in the cold, dark night. I've been touched by God with rough, calloused hands and long, scratchy beards and it is all so worth it.
I've learned that some of the greatest lessons learned are in places you think you don't want to go to, but when you step out in obedience to the Lord, you find that place is more than you could have ever dreamt of, that where He leads, you will find Him already there.
I've learned that where He leads, I will follow. . .
even in a ton of clothes and fur lined boots.