Helping people in need is important. Jesus did this. But his ultimate purpose was and is to bring people into relationship with God and with each other.

If we are to carry on his mission in the world today, we must be open to having a relationship with those we help. We cannot simply parachute into a neighborhood or country, drop off help, and helicopter out again.

For about a year our church offered a free meal to the community every Sunday night. The economy was hitting people hard in our neighborhood, and we wanted to respond in some way. We put out a sign near the road that said “Free Meal Every Sunday 6 pm- It’s Not Charity, It’s Community”.

Some weeks we had thirty and others we had just two or three.

Everyone we met was in great need, but hunger was not always the need. We discovered that some people came just to be around other people. Those who came most regularly were lonely. They wanted someone to share a meal with rather than eating in front of the TV, where communication is always one way. We sat with them, listened to them, shared stories, and prayed with each them.

We made some good friends during that year, many of whom have contributed greatly to the shared life we call church. Every person created by God has something valuable to give. Perhaps friendship is the most valuable gift of all.

Life together is so much better than life apart. In reality, life apart is no life at all. Prayer is an expression of our shared life. It connects us with the world. As the saying goes, “A family that prays together stays together.”

Imagine if we viewed the whole world as our family. God does.