Echoes of Matthew 25

Echoes of Matthew 25

The sun beats down on broken faces and wearied bodies taking rest on the steps of an aged soup kitchen bustling early in the morning. Inside, others climb the staircase to a wide sanctuary where pews double as a sanctuary for a much needed nap. The burden of life’s hardships is written all over their faces.But the sound of laughter, of talking, of conversing with old friends seems to overshadow the solemnity of the moment.

Sunday morning means it is time to worship.

The ceiling fans have to work overtime to cool down the excitement when the worship service starts.

“I have never experienced a church with so much power in a service and love for people,” said Cassia Triebel, a junior health and fitness major, who volunteers her time at the worship center.

The music begins as the words are projected on the wall, not that it seems to make much of a difference. It appears the congregation knows the words by heart.

Twenty-six years ago some seminary students decided to minister to homeless at the Fort Worth Water Gardens with coffee and doughnuts.

Two of those students are keeping the ministry alive today.

Mike and Sarah Myers have seen the humble beginnings in the Water Gardens, to the Sunday worship services in a borrowed room at a Catholic soup kitchen. They were there when the building was donated to them and now they are able to serve the homeless every day of the week.

Mike Myers said he never expected this to be the direction his education would take him. He originally was interested in youth ministry.

When he started experiencing this type of ministry, though, he said, he fell in love.

This job has allowed him to see more of what Jesus did, Mike Myers said. It is not the typical view one might have of Jesus, he said, but the Jesus that would spend his time with the lowly and those “at the bottom of the well.”

And that was just the beginning.

The Beautiful Feet Ministries in east Fort Worth is based on the lessons set forth in Matthew 25, Mike Myers said.

‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.’

Donations from area supermarkets and restaurants allow Beautiful Feet to serve two meals a day, seven days a week. The ministry sees 200 to 300 people on Sundays alone.

Sam’s Club, Albertsons, Kroger and Starbucks are just a few of the companies that give to the ministry.

Private donations are also readily accepted, such as the time a resident assistant from TCU had her hall make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kitchen.

‘I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.’

During the hot summer months, when walking to the ministry on Sundays might seem a daunting task, volunteers drive the Beautiful Feet bus around local shelters and neighborhoods picking up children and adults and bringing them to the building.

The visitors take shelter from the heat indoors, where a bevy of fans function as the building’s only form of air-conditioning.

People sleep wherever they can fit. A moment to steal, where they can relax and truly sleep in an environment they know is safe.

“The best thing about Beautiful Feet is it has a good environment that makes you feel welcome,” said Lawrence Terrell, 55. “You can just come as you are.”

That environment is what has kept Terrell and his friends coming back for the past 10 years.

Howard Edmonson, a 47-year-old Sherman native, said the greatest thing about Beautiful Feet is everything.

“The people are nice and respectable,” Edmonson said. “They will help you if you want to help yourself.”

‘I was naked and you gave me clothing.’

Sarah Myers said they always pray that God will use the donated clothing as a ministry to the people.

While some shelters might sell the clothes at an inexpensive price, Beautiful Feet gives the clothes away, she said.

Every Sunday people line up against a wall in the sanctuary, anxiously awaiting a bag of clothes.

“It is important for them to have clothes to go to work in,” Sarah Myers said, “especially when they are going out trying to get a job.”

There is never enough men’s clothing, Sarah Myers said. In fact, she said, they ran out of clothes to give out last Sunday.

With the winter months coming up, blankets and coats are in high demand, Myers said.

‘I was sick and you cared for me.’

Medical and dental care is provided free of charge for the homeless once a week, thanks to local doctors and nurses that volunteer their time.

Christian Community Health Clinic is housed inside Beautiful Feet and works alongside the ministry.

Brenda Parmer, a nurse, volunteered one time three years ago to see what the experience was like.

Parmer has been there every week since.

“This is something that I enjoy because it feels like we are providing something people need,” Parmer said.

The clinic provides basic services for its patients including checkups.

Health problems can range from high blood pressure to chronic disease, the medical staff said. This summer, they have been seeing a lot of severe spider bites because of the outdoor living situations of some, Parmer said.

Dr. David Capper, a physician who has been at the clinic from its first day 17 years ago, said the inherent humbleness that a service like this brings is invaluable.

“The rewards that we get back are greater than those that we bestow,” Capper said.

‘I was in prison and you visited me.’

At least once a month, the Beautiful Feet crew travels to Carswell in Fort Worth to lead a worship service at the only hospital at a federal women’s prison.

Every Friday night, the Myers and volunteers go out in the community, anywhere from shelters to known homeless hangouts, and take their ministry to the masses.

Previous Friday nights have been spent watching movies, passing out hot dogs and snow cones at shelters or distributing hygiene kits that they have made.

Although the Beautiful Feet volunteers cannot meet all the needs of the homeless, Mike Myers said, they try to meet what they can.

Mike Myers said they are looking for all students to come and make a difference in the spiritual life of people on the streets as well as inner city youth and children.

“Someone can make a difference in a small amount of time,” Myers said. “It’s a pretty neat reward.”

Tarrant County by the numbers

63% of the homeless men have served a term in jail.

38% of the homeless women have served a term in jail.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development definitions of homelessness:

Homelessness: people living on the street, in shelters, in transitional housing programs specifically for homeless and disabled.
Chronic homelessness:
unaccompanied people with disabilities who have been homeless for at least a year or people who have had four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

Chronically homeless
1,076 / 23%
Otherwise homeless
4,202 / 78%

A large proportion of the
homeless is centered on the
near-east side of downtown of Fort Worth.

Primary reason for

38% of men said their primary reason for homelessness is unemployment.

23% of women said their primary reason for homelessness is domestic violence.

93% of homeless in Tarrant County are in Fort Worth