John 21: 15-17. “Feed my sheep.”
Recently a small group of our Spirit Journey Native youth group went to Skid Row, L.A. for a mission trip. “They are just like normal people,” is the comment most often made. One of the youth commented on the blank looks on their faces until our young men went up to them and started a conversation with the best of all words, “Hey, whazzup Bro?” Being Native is definitely a plus factor in bringing down the mistrust boundaries.
Of all the stories, one told to us by a 14 year old Native best illustrates Jesus’ command to “Feed my sheep.”
Our first morning, we went to the Midnight Mission at 5 a.m. to prepare serving breakfast to about 600 people. Each of us had a station to hand out food. As the people lined up we all rehearsed how we would greet these people with dignity. We had no idea how overpowering this experience would be.
Some came so bent over with shame that their heads touched their plates. These were often the single parent with children who had a mixture of anger and shame on their faces that they would descend to this.
Others were angry and spit out their responses with clenched teeth.
Some looked us in the eye and said “thank you.”
Some pretended that we did not exist.
Some were so caught up in their mental fog that they never saw us.
As the young man told us later, “All I did was hand them a juice cup and their utensils wrapped in a napkin. I don’t think most saw me as I put it on their tray. One woman came up to the line with no clothes on. She was wrapped in a blanket to cover herself and she was so quiet like she didn’t want to be seen. I was so sad. I didn’t know what to do. All I had was some utensils and a juice glass. So I picked out the juice glass that was most full and the best looking set of utensils wrapped in a tight napkin. I carefully placed it on her tray and wished her a good day. Her eyes flicked up and she gave a little nod. I don’t know. It’s all I had but I wanted her to know that I cared.”
As he finished his story, my eyes were filled with tears. He gave the best he had. He gave all he had. I am sure that when I was fourteen that I did not have this capacity or understanding for fulfilling God’s commandment, “Feed my Sheep.”
This story stands on its own.
Feed my sheep. Anyway you can.
Kaze Gadway, Youth Missioner in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona for Native American youth in rural towns of Northern Arizona. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She blogs at infaith’s posterous