It's Tuesday, and people are literally coming out of the woods to converge on a local motel that usually caters to businessmen. It's not because of the advertised room rates ($199 per week). It's not because they offer wireless Internet access in every room.
It's because two rooms have been opened so homeless men and women can take showers.
How this came about is an interesting story in itself.
The manager of the motel, a Muslim, was approached by a group of Christians who wanted to provide this service to the homeless. The manager, who had himself once been homeless, agreed to provide one free room every Tuesday as well as towels for everyone.
Soon, the number of people coming to the showers grew, and the manager provided two rooms. Christian volunteers brought food and soft drinks every week. A local hairdresser agreed to provide free haircuts once a month. People donated clothing, tents, toiletries and their time to supervise the showers. They offered prayer to anyone in need.
When the manager was offered a promotion that would require him to move to another hotel in the chain, he asked corporate headquarters to make sure his replacement would continue the showers. Officials with the hotel chain were so impressed with the outreach, they decided to have their hotels in other cities offer the same service.
The ministry is anything but tame. Some of those who come for showers are substance abusers. Many have prison records. Others have severe health problems. One week, a police SWAT team stormed past the rooms reserved for the homeless and knocked down the door of a room nearby, looking for drug dealers and uncovering a counterfeiting ring instead. On more than one occasion, volunteers have called 911 for an ambulance.
In these days where so many people are addicted to "reality" TV shows, there is a reality here that makes the rest seem illusory at best -- a reality that treads quite closely to Matthew 25: 35-26:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me ... "
And Jesus,like a whisper, is there every Tuesday. We see Him when a Hispanic man helps an injured friend into his walker. We see Him in the smiles and hugs of the volunteers. We see Him when hungry men make sure they leave enough food for those still waiting in line.
We all remember the story of the birth of Jesus told in Luke 2:7.
"She (Mary) wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
Every Tuesday, in this modern-day Bethlehem, there is room for Jesus.
And the towels are on us.
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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