Every day, I drive over one of the many bridges that connects my town to downtown Little Rock. We walk on them, ride bikes over them, drive to and from school over them. Most days, I give no thought to what is happening underneath these bridges, or more accurately, who is under them. This is the story of going to see a different side of one of our Little Rock bridges, the Broadway Bridge.
In 2008, our church started a yearly tradition of shutting the doors on a Sunday morning and encouraging everyone to spend the day serving our community. To worship on Sunday morning by putting your faith in action.
The leadership set up several projects that anyone could join, but there is also a strong urging to look around your community and find your own project, to do something outside of your comfort zone that would bless the people you live around.
It is a beautiful Sunday morning every time it rolls around. The hands and feet of Jesus spread out all over Central Arkansas and my heart just swells as I listen to the stories of all the ways God uses groups of ordinary people to do beautiful, extraordinary things.
Over the last four years I have been especially fascinated by the story of one gal at our church who allowed a small tug on her heart that first fall in 2008 to grow into a monthly offering of her time, energy and service.
Her name is Cathy Lamb.
In 2008, Cathy decided that for her Faith in Action project, she would make breakfast and take it downtown under one of the bridges where homeless people sometimes congregate. Her husband, Gary, who does hair came up with the idea of taking supplies to give free haircuts and shaves.
They recruited some others to join them and they set out on an October Sunday morning to serve some breakfast and do some hair, for anyone who was interested.
They found some folks to serve underneath the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock.
While they were there a family in a van showed up with chairs, a microphone and some lunch. Cathy went over and met Laura, who was there with her son, daughter-in-law and three grandsons. Laura told Cathy that she and her family held church under the bridge every Sunday morning at 10:30, and then afterwards they served lunch.
She has done this every single Sunday.
For 17 years.
Cathy was amazed at Laura’s faithfulness and on that day she decided that with the Lord’s help, she would commit to relieve this sweet woman from cooking once a month.
She came back to our church and told us the story. She asked for our help. And now for four years, on the third Sunday of the month, Cathy and some other faithful souls cook and load up food from Fellowship North and join Laura, her family and whoever happens to show up for church and lunch underneath the Broadway Bridge, rain or shine.
My interaction with this ministry has mostly involved stopping at Cathy’s table in the church lobby on the second Sunday of the month. I typically sign up to cook a dish, pick up my foil pan and recipe and then return it the next Sunday filled with food to go in the warmer with Cathy and her friends.
I can admit that it is with some relief that I get to have a hand in feeding the homeless without actually having to shake the hand of a homeless person. I’ve been once or twice, when the choir decides to go and sing or the youth group goes. But usually I just drop my dish, check it off my list and move on.
I am so grateful to Cathy for creating this opportunity and I am in awe of her steadfast service. She even puts together meals that are holiday appropriate and special.
In November when I picked up my dish for pumpkin pie cake, I noticed that she was making turkey. That same week we had eaten a wonderful Petit Jean ham at our house and I thought,
Wouldn’t it be fun to serve this delicious ham at Christmas to the homeless?
I started asking Cathy about her December menu and I sent out a request to my sweet rep, Misty, at Petit Jean Meats. I discovered that we have a small budget allotted at our church for this ministry and it was enough to get the ham from Petit Jean at a discount. Then Misty even drove the ham to our church herself to save the shipping.
I told Cathy I was going to have to come and see the faces of all the folks on Sunday as they ate their Christmas dinner.
I arrived while the service was still going on. The chairs were full and there were other folks gathered around the edges, just checking out the scene. I watched from a distance at first, but as I got closer I fell easily into conversations with some of the others who were standing around. In a matter of minutes, without even trying, I heard stories of evictions, arrests, fights. I listened to how both jobs and homes has been lost and found. I was quiet when entertained with a crass joke.
Then I saw excitement as a beautiful Christmas meal was served.
I watched many sweet familiar faces from my church smile as they dished up ham, deviled eggs, potato and broccoli casseroles and delectable desserts.
These gals and a handful of others accompany Cathy and Gary each month to help serve this crowd, a group that has swelled in the last six months from 100 to 180, as other services in the area have closed on the weekends.
I loved watching each person get their plate, take a seat and enjoy it.
I wasn’t going to take individual pictures of homeless people in an effort to be respectful, but this man had visited with me earlier and I had told him I was there to take pictures of the event. After he got his plate, he came and found me and asked me to take his picture with his plate.
His name is Eric. He said, Look at this! It doesn’t get any better than this now!
Christmas dinner fit for a king.
Since Sunday, every time I drive over a bridge, I think about Eric and his friends. I’m thankful to Cathy and Laura and so many others that I got a chance to meet him. To see with my own eyes and heart the love that is shared on Sunday mornings under the Broadway Bridge.
And a big thank you to Petit Jean Meats for getting us the ham to serve!