The people gathered for lunch Wednesday at Dothan Rescue Mission can relate to the Christmas story.
Some are like the baby Jesus, who was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn.
“He was homeless,” mission Executive Director Brad Hardy said. “No room for the son of God.”
Some are like the shepherds, who were keeping watch over their flock at night when an angel came to announce the birth of a saviour.
“Shepherds, in those days, were the downtrodden,” Hardy said. “They smelled like sheep,” and people moved aside when they passed.
Hardy said the angel didn’t appear before kings or queens or politicians to announce the birth of the son of God.
The second chapter of St. Luke says the angel gave the message to shepherds – the lowest group in their society – who traveled to Bethlehem to “see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.”
Hardy said Jesus knows how the people gathered at the Christmas lunch feel. Jesus never had a home of his own during his mission, and he gave the world the gift of salvation.
“Don’t feel bad because you’re here this Christmas Day,” Hardy said. “Rejoice because Christmas has given you the gift, and all you have to do is accept it.”
The mission provides food, clothing, temporary shelter and the possibility of a more abundant life to those who call the streets their home.
Sam Hallmark, the kitchen manager, said the mission provides help year round.
“If you come off the street and come in, I’m going to feed you,” Hallmark said. “That’s just the way it is.”
During holidays, the mission is a place to gather with others.
“A lot of them don’t have homes to go to,” he said. “This is what they call home, so we try to make them feel welcome.”
Hardy said the mission works to help people going through hard times “because we know the potential that lies in them, and if we have faith in them hopefully, over time, they will begin having faith in themselves.”
He said it’s sometimes a lot of work to really reach them, “but it still comes down to them making that decision to keep going and keep trying as hard as they can and not giving up, or for some who have given up to start trying again.”
Hardy has faith that holding events like holiday gatherings can help restore normalcy to their lives and bring back memories of how their lives used to be.
“God’s love can reach them no matter where they’re at,” he said.