This is a guest post written by my sister, who lives in Lithuania and works with the local church there.
Shuffling her way through the front door of the hostel where she lives, few people would pay much attention to the elderly woman as she clutches a bag of groceries. In fact, not long ago Renata was one of society’s forgotten; her makeshift home a collection of discarded trash at the garbage dump, and her food scavenged from the filth. Twice a month, however, a van would come carrying loaves of bread, hot tea, and sometimes a candle for lighting the darkness. The van also brought a priceless gift: hope. As the team handed out food and poured tea, they also talked about someone who loves us despite our filth. Through the concern demonstrated by the people in the van, Renata slowly grew to trust that they truly cared for her, and learned that Jesus loved her. When they warned that the dumpsite would be closed and urged people to move into the city to find work, Renata listened. The investment made by the church group who used to take food to the dump has developed into a lifelong friendship, and the chance for a new life. The church supported Renata through the difficult days of transition to life in the city, giving her food when she had nothing, and welcoming her into their church family. Today, Renata does odd jobs like cleaning, and picking mushrooms or berries to make enough money to pay for her place at the hostel. She visits with the people from the van at church on Sundays, and though sometimes she leaves with a bag of groceries in her hand, she always leaves as a friend.
Helping the poor and homeless is often a long process that requires commitment and generous amounts of patience. One church in Klaipeda is working hard to make a difference in the lives of people who are caught in the grip of poverty. A single bag of groceries can be the difference between complete despair, and hope for another day, and the impact of the relationships built can last an eternity.
The work my sister is a part of is just one way of helping. No matter who is doing the work, though, small acts of service and sharing like this *do* make a difference. Please consider making charitable donations a part of your Christmas: it’s the perfect gift for the person who has everything!
If you don’t know where to send your dollars, I can tell you that supporting the work in Lithuania definitely ensures your dollars are well spent: for instance, the local soup kitchen in Klaipeda has a budget of only $200 CDN for the winter – that small amount is enough to see their services through the worst of the cold season, although they could use more, to be sure. A donation of $20 will fill a bag of groceries for a homeless person in Klaipeda, and it’ll be handed to them, no strings attached, by a person who genuinely cares … quite possibly my very own sister, who truly embodies living as God’s hands in the world.
You can read more about my sister’s life and work in Lithuania on her blog, and donations to the food project she is a part of can be made through their missions group, the EFCCM. Just fill in your information on the first page, and on the second, where you can identify the project you wish to donate to, enter “A Step Up, Lithuania: 2-2862GB”.