The winter in St. Paul/Minneapolis Minnesota is cold–oftentimes seeing temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit. On one of these particularly cold yet sunny days, FOCUS Minnesota’s volunteers worked outside distributing free lunch bags to people in need when they noticed a woman lying in the recessed doorway.
The woman was rolled up in a ball. Where shoes or boots should have been, she was wearing rags and plastic bags. It was clear she was suffering tremendously from spending the night in the bitter and deadly cold. She was freezing, groggy, confused–and pregnant.
Three women volunteers picked her up, and carried her into the warmth of FOCUS Minnesota’s building. Immediately, a fourth volunteer waiting inside, got down on her knees and rubbed the woman’s feet, covered her with warm socks and clothes, and called emergency services.
Over 700 people experiencing homelessness die every winter from hypothermia across the country. Through the grace of God, the volunteers in Minnesota who met this woman in a time of life or death were not consumed with despondency, sloth, love of money, or idle talk, and were able to respond armed with God’s great virtues of sober-mindedness, humility, patience and love. Two lives were saved that day because of the simple act of service.
Lent is a season of committing to our spiritual tools of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The prayer of St. Ephrem is an especially powerful tool, which asks God to deliver us from sin, and bestow upon us His great virtues. Following the example of the volunteers in Minnesota, with prayerful hearts we can all prepare to meet Christ himself through unexpected encounters with strangers.
As Orthodox Christians, we are all called to serve Christ, who is present in “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40). You can join the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve in meeting the needs of people experiencing poverty by remembering FOCUS in your Lenten almsgiving. Click here to make your gift, and please keep FOCUS North America and all of its centers in your prayers this Lent.
Your gift provides food, job support, warm clothes, counseling, shelter, and through God’s mercy, may even save a life.
**Photos in this post do not depict story subjects to protect volunteer and client identities.