On a typical Tuesday morning, people begin lining up outside the modest-looking office building on East La Salle Street a full 30 minutes before the doors open at 10 AM. Today is no exception. It’s 9:22 and there is already a string of men, women, and children with boxes and bags in hand, trailing along the front of the building. Some of them are a little rough and rumpled looking. A few have the dirty hair, soiled clothing, and hardened, hope-drained expressions of the homeless. Others are the kind of folks you’d encounter at Wal-Mart. They stand together, some conversing with other members of the line, some staring blankly at the locked front door, all waiting…
As 10 AM approaches, more cars arrive and more people pour out of them, taking their places in the line, which now bends around the corner of the building and snakes up the sidewalk.
Though they don’t seem to have much in common, they share one thing: need. They’ve come to obtain food, toiletries, clothing, and common household items – things many people take for granted.
We’re not here for any of that. Instead, our small team from Biblica has come bearing Bibles. More than 1,000 of them. And from what we’ve heard, this place will put them to good use.
Crossfire Ministries in Colorado Springs calls itself a “Sharing Center.” The term is an accurate description of what they are all about. This non-profit organization operates on donations and the help of dozens of volunteers, and by the grace and faithfulness of God. Their mission is to be a source of encouragement to those in need by offering food, clothing, and basic necessities. They also provide guidance and opportunities that promote financial and social responsibility.
At the stroke of 10, the front door creaks open and the crowd – for it has truly become a crowd now – begins to shuffle anxiously forward. Despite the large number of people and the potential logistical nightmare of trying to serve so many, the line progresses relatively quickly. As they pass through the door, each person checks in and then has the opportunity to “shop” for what they need. Unlike most food pantries, Crossfire allows “clients” to get what they need, choosing from a wide array of canned goods, fresh produce, dairy products, and dry goods. If they need feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toilet paper, or soap, these are available in sizes that correspond to the size of their families.
This approach – both referring to the people as clients and letting them pick their own items – is meant to convey respect and restore a sense of dignity to those who find themselves in difficult circumstances, existing on the margins of society.
A Crossfire volunteer named Debbie soon leads our team inside and I am amazed to find a large, warehouse-like space filled with food, household goods, and, most of all, people – a small army of volunteers in bright lime green vests alongside dozens of clients. There is movement everywhere as selections are made and supplies refilled. There’s also a definite vibe in the room. As we are warmly greeted by volunteers wearing contagious smiles, I realize the atmosphere can be summarized in one word: hope. Everyone here seems to have found a reason to hope.
Crossfire’s audacious goal is to impart this hope through physical and spiritual assistance until poverty in this community has been eradicated and their services are unnecessary.
But today, they are clearly necessary. And so are the Bibles we are donating.
After a brief tour, Debbie takes us to a set of book shelves that have been shoehorned into the tiny entryway of the pantry. The shelves are half empty. Bibles go fast, she tells us. Especially Spanish-language Bibles. She explains that in the near future, they plan to mark the Bibles as “Spiritual Food” and place them in the middle of the bins of potatoes and peppers, the racks of soup and beans. But in the meantime, they will go on these shelves.
We march out to our van and begin unloading boxes. After a volunteer loads up a dolly with Bibles, we each help carry in the remaining copies and begin placing them on the shelves. Even as we are doing this, people in line started requesting them, confirming Debbie’s statement that many of the clients are hungry not just for food, but for God’s Word.
Since its founding in 1992 by John and Leslie Miller, Crossfire has given away more than 16,000 Bibles. With the help of Biblica and other partners, they are seeking to build on that number in the coming year.
After praying with Debbie, we leave, all of us voicing similar thoughts on the ride back to Biblica – how much we have to be thankful for, how tough some people have it, what an amazing, much-needed ministry we have just witnessed.
Back at my desk in the office, glancing through the pamphlet I received at Crossfire, I am struck by a Bible verse they include under their mission statement. It’s from Hebrews and reads, in part, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
Faces flash through my mind and I wonder if we encountered any angels this morning. Then a much heavier question arises: How will I respond to God’s challenge? How will I entertain strangers, remember those in bonds, identify with those who suffer?
Several ways come to mind. One is to write an article about our experience. Another is to invite others to meet God’s challenge by helping provide Bibles – spiritual food – for people in need.
If you would like to join us in making God’s Word available to those suffering from adversity, why not donate $10? That would cover the cost of three Bibles. If enough people respond, we can take another trip down to Crossfire in the near future and make sure more clients have the opportunity to experience the truth found in Scripture.
Something else we can all do is pray. Let’s pray for Crossfire and the many volunteers who keep things running so smoothly. And for all those who desperately need food, clothing, and, most of all, hope.