By Elise Pittman
Espai Sopem, the food kitchen that has been a huge part of my time in Spain, serves the homeless every Monday and Thursday nights. My church here started it a week before I arrived, so it has been neat to watch it grow in volunteers, in food, and in the number of people we serve.
A little background about the ministry: Nelson, the Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana del Garraf, and Dani, a local involved with the civic center, started this ministry. We pick up the leftover food from the schools in the surrounding area, heat it up, and serve it to the homeless of Vilanova. It is a neat way to share a hot meal and build connections with some of the homeless in the area.
Christmas day and New Years Day both fell on a Monday this year, so we decided to make both nights extra special. Dani and Nelson, along with the other volunteers, reached out to friends of friends to come and serve these nights.
After a successful “special” Espai Sopem on the night of Christmas Day, we were looking forward to having another celebration the following week. January 1 finally came. Twenty-five volunteers showed up to help! All the volunteers started cooking, setting the tables, and meeting new faces. That night there was one new volunteer, Maria. She is the kind of person you meet, and don’t forget. She was fun, bubbly, in her mid 30s, and had brought her sweet daughter with her to serve.
The homeless started trickling in around 8. We were expecting about 30 homeless for the night, and were eager to start serving. About 30 minutes later, this homeless man that isn’t one of our “regulars” came in dressed in less than suitable clothing for the cold weather. We greeted him with warm smiles and a cup of warm chicken broth. Then he quietly sat down in the corner of the room.
It wasn’t but a couple minutes later that someone yelled “hermano!!” I knew exactly who it was. It was Maria. She was weeping, draped over this man in the corner. It was her brother. Maria was pale and couldn’t stop crying.
Maria’s brother had been living on the streets and had a problem with alcohol. They had been estranged for three years. Seeing their embrace reminded me of the parable of the prodigal son. I couldn’t help but to think about how Maria’s love and grace for her brother outweighed any built up anger or negative emotions she had kept in for the past three years. To see these siblings reunite is, and will be, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Dani and Nelson are currently working on getting this man into an alcohol rehabilitation program and off the streets. Maria now serves at the soup kitchen every Monday and Thursday. Everything about this soup kitchen, from the way Nelson and Dani methodically think about the best way to serve the homeless to the way the volunteers treat each other has Christ written all over it; however, most of them don’t know Christ. It’s so easy for me to see Christ in it, but not so easy for them. I pray that God will use our presence to speak to the volunteers and to those we serve. It’s awesome to see God move in lives and in stories like this one.
Elise is serving in Spain alongside CBF field personnel Matt and Michelle Norman through Student.Go, CBF’s student missions initiative.