26 January 2012

Room at the Inn: A Story About Fear and Love

[I originally shared this story last year here, and shared an updated version here. As Kyle and I are heading to the shelter tonight, I wanted to share again. Something so close to my heart!]

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18

As winter is here again, we're slowly remembering what it's like to feel cold. Think back to the time you were the coldest this winter. Maybe you were walking to your car. Or getting the mail.

Running an errand. Practically jogging to make it inside to the warmth.

Now imagine there is no inside for you. That the cold you felt was your reality for the winter. Imagine you have no home, no heater, no fire to keep you warm.

My life after high school has been one college town after another. This space between college life and the city scene. I have found that college towns are places where the impoverished and the privileged often collide.

My usual response when seeing a homeless person:
Please don’t talk to me
Please don’t ask for money
Please don’t look at me
I’m afraid


Last winter, during the coldest months of the year, a local church unconditionally opened its doors as a shelter for the homeless. Our town has very few resources for our homeless community, and the resources we do have are very restricted. Criminal record? High? Then there’s no room at the inn.

The shelter was staffed by volunteers who worked in shifts. My husband, Kyle, and I (along with a few others from our small group) volunteered to take a few shifts over the course of a few days. The first night I went alone. I met the volunteer coordinator and was asked to just sit with the guests, mostly homeless men, and interact with them before lights out.

I was afraid.

I was scared for what they would tell me or ask me. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to say.
You know what they did? They taught me how to play cards.
God tore down some walls that night and softened my heart over games of spades.


The next night, Kyle and I went to volunteer at the early shift, 8-midnight. I played lots more games of spades.

One gentleman started preaching the gospel to any of us who would listen. I wouldn’t say that I agreed with everything, but something he said really struck me.

He talked about how God doesn’t want us to be afraid. That God can take away fear. That fear is the devil’s work.

God provides safety, and in Him we don’t need to be afraid of the unknown.

As I sat there listening to him, it hit me. What I was afraid of was him, a homeless man, someone that I pass on the street daily, looking at my feet so I don’t have to acknowledge him. But there he was telling me that God wanted to take my fear away.

11:30pm turned into 11:45pm turned into 12:30am and no one came to take over our shift. Everyone else that was with us on the 8-midnight had left for the night. The volunteer coordinator asked if we could stay.

He didn’t need us to really help. He just needed us here in case of an emergency.

In fact, why didn’t we go into the gym and grab a cot and just sleep here tonight?

In that dark gymnasium, we pulled out two cots, grabbed blankets, and snuggled in for the night.

It wasn’t enough for God to just take away my fear of the homeless community. No, that night he wanted me to live their life with them so that I could live my life for them in the morning.
I don’t think I have ever been so radically changed.

That night, among the snoring and the sleeping, I heard God.

This year a facility has been given to us rent free for January and February so we can offer people room at the inn again! I'm going into a new year with hope that God will continue to use me and the other volunteers to bring light into the dark of winter.


I share this story not to boast or say "hey, look at what I did."

Instead, I share this story to say,

"hey, look what God did!"

We are called to love all. Not just the ones we like or the ones who are easy to love. But all. Even those whom you may be afraid of.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

Loving others is His greatest commandment. Surely as He calls us to love, He will help us rise to the occasion.

He can remove financial barriers.
He can develop in us strengths and gifts.
He can provide opportunities.
He can even take away fear and replace it with big, deep, unconditional love.


  1. Laura,
    What a great story. So often I look at my fears as problems instead of opportunities. Thank you for sharing!

  2. First of all I want to say that your blog is SO encouraging. This is such a great story. You are exactly right that we should be loving others. I find that through doing things, like you allow yourself to do, teaches me SO much more then church. It is in those moments where I see God more clearly and have life moments I never forget. Thank you so much for the story!

  3. Thanks for the reminder that God calls us to love everyone. I love this story of your experience. God is so good!

  4. THanks for letting God speak to you...and through you! Love this today.

  5. such an encouraging post.. I have a healthcare background so it takes all my strength to not want to stop and help those in need, unfortunately there are so many in los angeles, its quite heartbreaking! I grew up with parents who would make 100's of sandwiches and hand them out along with a gospel message, we would tag along and help..


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