What A Homeless Shelter Taught Me

I have a lot of memories of this place.

by Jessiqua Wittman

When I was a teenager, my family worked at a homeless shelter called Messiah's Branch. It was a grimy, old bar that had been renovated by Dan and Linda Catlin.
My 16th birthday was memorable, to say the least. We were, and still are, family to the Catlins.
Pastor Dan bought me flowers and a candle, Sister Linda made me a cake, their daughter, Bootsie, gave me candy, and their 14 year old son, Bubba, crooned the song Sweet Pea to me.
Oh... and you can't forget the homeless people. It was a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday song, let me tell you. I didn't accept their offers of free hugs though. ahem... (and no, it wasn't because of the smell)

Things weren't quite so sweet and friendly when we first showed up to work at the shelter though...


The way we first heard about Messiah's Branch was at a Bible study.
We were sitting in a beautiful house, surrounded by people that said they cared. However, for some reason, one of the families was ticked off about this certain homeless shelter in town. We had never heard of it, but the others evidently had. They talked about about the place and the family that ran it, (mostly criticism,) and the more my family heard, the more we glanced at each other out of the corner of our eyes.
This sounded like the kind of ministry opportunity we'd been looking for.
So my wonderful mother got ahold of the Catlins' phone number and called them.
No answer. She left a message, but no one called back.
Oh well...
A little while later, she called again.
Still... no answer.
For WEEKS, my mom called these people.
Their phone's answering machine inbox filled up.
Finally, there was a response. It was something to the effect of, "What do you want?!"
She told them we wanted to help. They said they didn't need help.
"Really? Who else is helping you?"
"Um... nobody..."
It turns out, the last several people that had said they'd "help", ended up being scamps, burglars, users, etc.
The Catlin family was sick of getting burned, so they didn't accept help anymore, they just did everything themselves.
They told us that.
But my mom wouldn't leave them alone. She kept calling them, day after day.
Finally, they begrudgingly said we could come to the shelter.
When we got there, we slipped through the crowd at the door, and followed our noses to the kitchen.
Sister Linda was working in there, making lunch, planning supper.
We asked her how we could help. She reminded us that she didn't need help and kept working.
We stood there, watching her scurry around.
Then my mom asked, "Where's the cleaner? I'll go sanitize the bathrooms."

And that was how it all really got started.

What did my time at a homeless shelter teach me?
It taught me that everyone needs love.
Especially those that give it out the most.

If you want to read more about Messiah's Branch and the time my family spent there, my post with Kindred Grace about it went live today. Here's the link:
http://kindredgrace.com/gifts-must-seasoned/

by Jessiqua Wittman


If you want to watch a news video about Messiah's Branch's work with the homeless, here you go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyVdJwmVCso

And here's a video of random pictures of the ministry's work over the years:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUd_85bIcns

If you want to help support Messiah's Branch, by donation, clothing, food, etc, here is their How You Can Help information: http://www.wichitahomeless.com/help.html

And FYI, the Catlins are a lot more friendly about accepting help nowadays. They just needed a reminder that there are still good people in this world, and the reminder that God sent them was us.

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