When I tell people that I am the minister of St. Dunstan’s Church, one of the most common responses is, “I have seen the tents at your church. Thank you for hosting those tent encampments.” Hosting tent encampments is one of the most visible things we do and is a wonderful way to put our church’s resources to work doing God’s work. We have this beautiful campus, our feeding ministry, and our strong heart for hands-on outreach, and hosting the camps is a great way to give thanks to God.
Hosting tent camps is an expression of our mission. We dream of a world where all are welcome, all are fed, and all are loved. As we look at the proliferation of homeless people pitching tents around our city, we know that our dream is a distant reality, at best. Our worship inspires us to follow Jesus by welcoming the stranger, feeding hungry bodies and spirits, and giving of ourselves. Organized tent camps are not a solution to our housing crisis, but they are an important short term solution for many of the people who find themselves without a roof over their heads. Tent camps provide community, safety, and the ability to come and go as necessary in ways that traditional shelters do not.
We have hosted camps five times over the last six years. When we host a camp we get to know the campers and their challenges. Their stories are as varied as the people, and they rarely conform to the expected stereotypes. When Jesus was challenged to define, “who is my neighbor?” he answered with a story about how to be a neighbor. Homeless people living in these camps don’t look like neighbors to many, but we can be neighbors to them.
Yours in Christ,
CUWS was at St. Dunstan’s for six months, and has moved to St. George’s in Lake City in May 2018. For updated information, you may follow them on Facebook.