Richard was homeless and living on the streets of Dallas. He was an army veteran and a felon. But there was a lot more to his resumé. In his 50s, tall, strong, and still healthy despite life on the street, Richard was also intelligent with a big heart.
God found him in prison, and he emerged with a hunger to learn and grow in his faith. Despite not having a car, he could give you driving directions to anywhere in the city. His favorite job, and source for many stories, was the time he’d spent driving big rigs across the country.
My wife, Heather, and I suggested that Richard apply for Open Table. We knew just enough about this ministry at Chase Oaks to believe that it might be what Richard needed. We knew that a Table is a group of people that comes around a “brother” or “sister” in need. The Table provides support, guidance, and help for one year, becoming that person’s network.
Open Table is not a charity. It goes deeper than just giving someone money. Table members give of themselves, providing guidance and life perspective, sharing knowledge and resources, and sometimes, just praying and supporting.
After hearing about this ministry, Richard applied. He was accepted and became part of a group of twelve diverse people who fell in love with him as Heather and I had. With the help of the Table, Richard got his CDL (no easy task, we learned, for a homeless person) and eventually found a job driving trucks.
Three years later, he’s still driving and walking with God, but there’s more to the story. Twelve people who served faithfully on Richard’s Table for a year went away in awe and changed by God’s grace.
We learned that by God’s grace, we all have something to offer, but we don’t have all the answers. We learned that poverty and need are complicated, and easy answers are few.
Not all Tables end as successfully as Richard’s, but I’ve come to believe that successful or not, God is honored when His people come around a neighbor in need.
Open Tables Coming Near You
This fall, the Open Table Ministry Team at Chase Oaks is sponsoring three new Tables.
The 28th Chase Oaks-sponsored Table will serve a couple. The wife is an unemployed mom who struggled this past year with severe depression. Her husband is starting a new job and learning to cope with his wife’s situation. A teacher for 20 years, she lost her job (and almost her family) due to the illness.
Today, she and her husband face mounting debt while their pre-teen daughter struggles to understand and cope with her mom’s bouts of depression. Mom is currently undergoing treatment and is making good progress, but the family needs a support network to guide and encourage them to get their lives back on track. My wife, Heather, and I will be leading this Table.
Table 29 will come around a single mom who lives in Plano. She has a low-paying job but no transportation. And her housing situation is unstable. She needs to improve her education to meet her life goals. She needs the collective wisdom and loving support of a group of people to get her life together. Chase Oaker Paul Havala will be leading this Table.
Table 30 will serve a single mom with three children who is caring for her mother suffering from dementia. She has a college degree but is currently working in a low-paying retail job. She has a temporary housing arrangement, but she needs to find better work that will allow her to find permanent housing and better support for her mother. Bill Erickson of Canyon Creek Presbyterian in Richardson will be leading this Table.
Supporting Open Table Ministries
Would you consider joining us as a Table team member? We hope to launch all three Tables in mid-September. Each Table needs a minimum of 10 team members.
Currently, we need at least 20 additional team members to fully staff these Tables. If you long to serve people in a deeper way than simply giving financially (which is also great), consider serving on an Open Table. It will be a life-changing experience.
If you feel that God is calling you to serve on one of these tables, you can email us at . Let us know that you are interested in serving on a Table and your table preference if you have one. Visit Open Table to learn more about the Open Table Ministry at Chase Oaks. Please note there is a $120 fee for serving on a Table.
I have learned the first step is often the hardest. But when I think back on Richard’s Table and other tables we’ve served on, I’m convinced it’s worth the sacrifice. Open Table provides a chance to not just help but also to connect. And connections are what make the difference between poverty and riches for all of us.