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Taking to the streets

A typical Friday night for students Isaac Won, Kevin Manieri, and Andy Breighner consists of driving into Harrisburg, parking along Front Street, and talking to homeless men.

Last fall, one Sunday after church, they spontaneously began to talk somewhat casually about doing something like this. The idea didn’t go away. Later that day, they bought food at Walmart and went into Harrisburg to find anyone who may need some help.

Now, along with other men from the Men’s Ministry at Messiah College, they go to the Front Street area just to talk to the homeless men who are waiting for the Bethesda Mobile Mission van. Typically between five to¬†10 men from Messiah College go every Friday.

“The goal was to build friendships,” said Manieri. He says there are many opportunities for the homeless to get a meal or a place to sleep in Harrisburg, but the real need is for individual needs to be met.

“The biggest need is hope, because they believe they are in a hopeless situation,” said Manieri.

Throughout the fall semester, these students were able to build relationships with some of the men and touch some of their lives on an individual basis. In January, their friend Bruce was going to have a birthday, and they bought him a cake. Seeing his name on it, he became teary-eyed.

They also gave Bruce a small piece of wood with his favorite Bible verse engraved on it. Bruce teared up again and hugged all of them. “He felt loved,” said Manieri. “We wanted him to have something he could place in his pocket to remind him that there were people out there who loved him and were praying for him.”

“When you do something for the individual, it makes a big impact on their lives because you did something just for them,” said Breighner.

Won had the idea to sleep outside with the men to really experience what their real needs were. They slept outside for the first time in October. After that first cold night, they went to church afterwards and went home, but the second time they slept outside, they stayed the whole day to experience what a typical day is like for a homeless person in Harrisburg.

Sophomore Logan Singerman says that after the first time he went with the group to Harrisburg, he had to continue going. “Once your eyes are opened to the problem, it’s hard not to go back.”

Establishing friendships with the men helps put a face to the problem of homelessness. “You’re not just helping homeless people. You’re helping Bruce,” said Singerman.

“Through our journey, I realized that the friendship is a vital part of any ministry. You can build a house for a poor family or you can feed them, but the impact of those do not last forever. Friendship lasts forever.” said Won.

Won and Breighner blog about their experiences at http://doulospa.blogspot.com.

This story is written by Sarah Fleischman and was originally printed in the Feb. 2 issue of The Swinging Bridge. Photos are courtest of Isaac Won.

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