A sandwich run is simply volunteers delivering nutritious bag lunches to homeless street people by walking well travelled routes in the downtown area where street people live. It is a relational outreach – a grassroots community activity – in addition to delivering a meal to a hungry person, hopefully dialogue will occur and bridges of trust strengthened.
Here at Project417 Ekklesia Inner City Minsitries, we’ve been facilitating sandwich runs for almost twenty years. The main focus of the ministry is not simply delivering food to hungry street people. The key factor is communication through conversations with our friends on the street. We don’t try to be experts or counselors, rather we try to help our volunteers – ordinary people – engage with the homeless. This is true community demonstrated by the caring act of delivering a meal.
Anyone can volunteer with us by invitation after taking part in our orientation presented by experienced team leaders. Find out how truly liberating this volunteer experience can be – to step outside your personal comfort zone and meet our homeless friends on their own grounds.
Many churches have taken up “sandwich runs” in Toronto as a favorite activity for youth groups. But in their eagerness to provide an experience for their own youth, they overlook the deeper needs of the homeless they want to help. They focus on quantity, not quality – the sandwich runs become a mad dash around the city dropping bag lunches with as many homeless as possible, often even without asking the recipient simply ” Would you like a bag lunch?” I encounter these groups all the time, often as many as thirty or forty teens or younger children often accompanied by only a single adult. It becomes their charitable duty, rather than a ministry to reach people. While our friends on the street often tell us that they are encouraged by seeing the young people, and are thankful for the food, how can they be expected to engage in meaningful dialogue with someone who is fifteen or younger? They crave mature discourse. It would be wonderful to see more adults on sandwich runs – people who our street friends can relate to, and can understand some of the uniquely adult challenges they face such as family break-ups, job loss, abuse, addictions, psychological distress, relationship issues and so on.
Furthermore, these well meaning church groups are actually putting the safety of their youth at risk in not partnering with an inner city organization that provides experience, guidance and street saftey for their groups. I’ve actually seen church groups of dozens of children being herded by a single adult through Crack Central in Toronto with boxes of lunches and attempting to give lunches to dealers engaged in drug transactions. Not everyone on the streets, or in the parks of Toronto is homeless, or friendly and safe. I regularily encounter sleeping homeless people on street corners with more than a dozen bag lunches and other sundry styrofoam food trays piled up by their head or feet, obviously dropped there by an inexperienced group. And I doubt whether even one of them was prepared to check if that sleeping person was actually still breathing, or would know what to do if they discovered the person were in some physical distress.
I’ve had self-important church elders and youth pastors tell me “We’re doing God’s work and are under the divine protection of Jesus Christ”. Christ doesn’t promise us safety from harm – on the contrary, He guarantees us conflict and confrontation if we follow Him in his work. It is wise to be prepared. At Project417 Ekklesia, we take that seriously. The safety of our groups is paramount, as is the effectiveness of our ministry to the homeless. Come on out and join us. Full details and calendar online at http://project417.com/sandwich
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