Columbus churches partner to feed homeless
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Every Tuesday night, folks in Columbus’ Rose Hill neighborhood gather downstairs in the former Rose Hill United Methodist Church for a little bit of food and a whole lot of Jesus.
For nearly a decade, volunteers from throughout the community have come together to help feed the city’s homeless. Begun by a former Rose Hill UMC pastor, the ministry is now run by Linda Laye, chaplain of the Fellowship at Rose Hill.
Several Columbus-area United Methodist churches are part of the weekly meal rotation, providing a hot, ready-to-eat meal for 80 to 100 people each Tuesday evening: M.L. Harris UMC, Epworth UMC, St. Peter UMC, The Ridge, St. Mark UMC, and Pierce Chapel UMC. St. Paul UMC prepares a special Christmas dinner.
Peaches and her husband, Neal, a retired Army veteran, are Tuesday night regulars. They like coming around not just for the food, she said, but because they feel loved and valued.
“They don’t judge you. Ms. Linda doesn’t judge you, she makes you want to do better and the people up here are the same way,” said Peaches, who said that she and her husband are homeless, live in a tent, and constantly worry that others will steal their few possessions. “No one up here judges you.”
While some of the Fellowship at Rose Hill’s regular guests have homes, they enjoy the free meal to give their budget a break and to enjoy fellowship, says volunteer Steve Hall, a member of The Ridge. He estimates that about 80 percent live within walking distance of the ministry.
Hall, who’s been serving with the ministry since 2013, says the people keep him coming back each week. He mingles and chats with guests and does whatever’s needed, from refilling tea to setting up chairs to taking out the trash.
“I think we need to see there’s another walk of life,” he said. “They’re good people.”
Before eating, the church that prepared the meal shares a brief devotional and prayer.
The words shared inspire her and give her hope, Peaches said.
“They always give you a wonderful word of encouragement to go along with your day, and a lot of the words of encouragement … have gotten me and my husband through a lot of stuff,” she said.
The ministry – perhaps the only one in Columbus where one can get a meal with no questions asked or papers to sign – is important to the people it serves because it helps them know they are cared about and not forgotten, Laye said.
“Here, on Tuesday nights, they know they can talk and experience an hour and a half of love,” she said. “It’s important for them to know that they have not been forgotten by the community and that The United Methodist Church loves them and wants to provide a moment of comfort and love for them. They might not get that anywhere else. There are some who really do depend on this ministry, and this might be the only church they ever see. This might be the only Jesus they see all week.”