Founded in 2012, Operation Jesus is a volunteer organization that provides food, clothing, and care to homeless men, women and children in Chicago. To date, Operation Jesus has mobilized over 300 volunteers and donors from all different backgrounds, and partnered with dozens of businesses and organizations to serve those in need, reminding them they are not alone. Our mission is clear, it doesn't take a company, an organization or a single church to give. Each person can join together individually to serve. We break cultural and denominational lines to do what Jesus made so crystal clear in Matthew 25 ... When we serve the least of these, we actually do it unto Him (Photo credit: Austin Layhew, Multimedia Graphics Designer).
It is not to be compared with the pain of going unnoticed by the hundreds of thousands city dwellers, shoppers, city workers and tourists that stretch in mobs across Chicago's most iconic district. You see, poverty is no respecter of age or race. It just isn't. It touches us all and the truth is, we are all one paycheck away from being homeless. What then should be the response of real people? Our aim is to seek the opposite of poverty, which is to love relentlessly through acts of restorative justice in the midst of a racially and economically divided world.
The mix of these beautiful middle aged, young and elderly wide-eye people who are haunted day-in and out by the perils of extreme poverty share our beautiful City of Chicago and call it home just as you and I. But you won't find them complaining or cursing their situation. Instead, with the only ounce of hope their lives depend on, they wait silently for a break--just one, good samaritan, who will have compassion on them.
Money is helpful--perhaps a few dollars will help them scrape up enough to buy cheap, fast food with no promise of true nourishment their bodies desperately cry for. But that's not it either. What I have found is that it's not even money they really want. It's that rare and special moment to be seen as a fellow human being. "Could someone actually come along and look into my eyes with humanity? Do they see me? Is it possible for someone to ask me what my name is instead of callously judging or wondering why I just won't get a job without knowing my story?" they wonder.
It's a funny thing -- this human condition. We naturally mirror what we see, and for the busy bodies bustling by ... few, I mean, very few, actually stop to notice another human sitting on the pavement or a wheel chair completely depleted of energy and hope. But our experience this past August 12, 2017 proves something drastic. When we step out with courageous love to care for someone else, it actually mobilizes a few in the crowd as well. As we stopped to pray for folks, people in the crowd were activated to step out of their comfort zone to leave gifts or actually join us too!
What does it take but a few minutes to stop, to notice, to become aware of another's suffering? To step off the stage of self and put on compassion in a practical and meaningful way for someone else?
What does it take but a few minutes to stop, to notice, to become aware of another's suffering? To step off the stage of self and put on compassion for someone else in a practical and meaningful way?
Maybe the fear of not having the answer is what keeps us enslaved to our daylight dungeons complete with an invisible 2-feet American circumference devoiding us of any human interaction above what is necessary to get through our day. Maybe it's technology we ought to blame. Surely, there is a phenomenon that is keeping naturally good people from caring. "It's a scam," some will say. "I dare not be sucked in." Another will say, "I'm just too busy." But what if it is not and what if we just attempted to care in small, kind ways as we would want someone to do for us?
The hundreds of volunteers who have jumped in to serve or give to Operation Jesus: Chicago will tell you plain and clear--the experience is more real than ever imagined. And we have testimonials from volunteers of every race, color and creed to prove it. When we literally love our neighbors like Jesus has called us to love, we can heal our divides, and see each other as He see us: we are all His children.
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