At Feed Tel Aviv weekly outreach to the homeless, we work in two teams: one team stays at the outreach center in south Tel Aviv to serve healthy, home-cooked meals to those who are able to make it to us. The second team of volunteers heads to the streets and back alleys equipped with food, drinks and first aid to distribute to the drug addicts who are too weak or sick to make it to the outreach center (in our next update, we will share the experiences of our street team).
The In-House Dynamic
Every evening at the outreach center, our volunteer team serves over a hundred people. Many of those who come are homeless, but not all. Some come because they are hungry, and they know that they will get a delicious, home-cooked meal. Some come because they just want a hot cup of tea or something cold and refreshing to drink in the summer months. Then there are some who come who aren’t hungry or thirsty; they are lonely and like the friendly company they have with us in a comfortable, clean and welcoming environment.
The Common Denominator
People from all walks of life and backgrounds gather at our outreach center. The common denominator they share: they have either fallen on hard times, are lost, outcast, or are running away from trouble and pain. Sometimes even religious\observant Jews come to eat at the center. They come because they know that the food we prepare is kosher. Whenever someone from a religious background comes, we always end up having interesting conversations about the Bible and the Messiah promised Israel.
One young man who came to our center shared that his father is a rabbi. I ended up sitting with him for a while and even read to him from the New Testament. He was intrigued by what I read and said he wanted to read more on his own.
Loving on whoever comes
A woman named Tami has been coming to eat at our center for several years. She usually has several suitcases with her because she is homeless and carries all her belongings from place to place. Several weeks in a row we did not see Tami, and we started to worry about her. We were relieved when she finally showed up again; she told us that she has been “living” at a construction site in north Tel Aviv where they are building new high-rises. She said she made the effort to come all the way down to south Tel Aviv to our center because she knew that she could get a warm, nourishing meal and then have a couple more boxed up to take with her. She constantly thanks us and blesses us every time she comes.
Recently a man named Andrey started coming to the center who is handicapped and gets around in a wheelchair. He is usually on the streets because he is addicted to drugs, a fact which gets him kicked out of the state-run support centers which he is in and out of. When he first showed up, he took a double portion of food– he said he was starving and that he hadn’t tasted food that delicious in a long time (most outreach centers to the poor serve leftovers which they receive from hotels and restaurants). After Andrey had eaten, I sat with him and we started talking. “Why do you use drugs,” I asked him, “when there are rehabilitation centers that offer you a place to live and support to get clean from drugs?”
Andrey’s answer told me a lot about the many people who end up homeless because of drug addiction: “Drugs are the only thing”, he said, “that offers me the possibility to escape my reality which has been one of suffering since the day I was born. I experienced abuse, sickness, you name it. My memories and subconscious are full of suffering. Only drugs help me to escape to another world where I can be happy.” I shared with him about the suffering Messiah who came to save us from our brokenness and pain and that God’s love can reach even the darkest places in us. It is my prayer that he and the many others who come to us for a little respite from the darkness and difficulties of the streets will take with them the seeds of love we sow in them each time, whether by word or just giving them a warm meal, acceptance, and a place at the table.
Thank you for supporting this important ministry! Without your support we would not be able to be there for these precious people society has given up on.