In the midst of an unprecedented heatwave, Black Mountain United Church of Christ in Scottsdale, AZ, embarked on a mission to extend a hand of compassion and care to those who needed it the most. Led by our Mission Team leader, Joyce Suggs, Kathy, Ron, Judy, Wilbert and Christopher turned our thoughts and prayers into action by visiting Justa Center in downtown Phoenix, a haven for unhoused senior citizens struggling to survive the harsh conditions in The Valley this summer.
Mission in Action
With generous funds donated by our church members and friends, combined with the church's own Mission Fund, we were able to provide ice, cooling towels, underwear, pallets of water, deodorant, and many other essential supplies to the members of Justa Center.
The task wasn't just about handing out supplies; it was about connecting on a human level, sharing stories, empathy, and finding inspiration in unexpected places.
A Connection with Laurinzo
As we mingled with the members of Justa Center, I (Christopher) had the privilege of connecting with Laurinzo, a man in his 60s with a story that fascinated and inspired me. I was drawn to him by the creative and optimistic drawings he was working on, reflecting a spirit unbroken by whatever his circumstances were.
Our conversation flowed naturally, as Laurinzo shared his life experiences, ranging from growing up with a single mother to his affinity for cooking, his military service in the Navy, the loss of a job that led him to the streets for the first time, the subsequent abandonment by family and friends and his struggles with addiction.
Despite his trials and tribulations, Laurinzo's insights into overcoming the seven biggest barriers in life, and his current project on writing a book about it, shone through as a testament to human resilience.
The Blessing of Interaction
Our time with Laurinzo, and indeed with all the members at Justa Center, was more than an outreach; it was a spiritual exchange. We talked about faith, ministering to people, race, and relationships. Laurinzo's centered, peaceful, and wise demeanor was a true blessing to me, as it enriched my perspective on humanity and compassion. It was a further reminder to me that we can be enriched and inspired and blessed ANYWHERE at ANY TIME by ANYONE, we just have to remain open to people and extend a hand of fellowship and friendship, no matter how much we think we do or don't have in common with them. Sometimes it can be difficult for me/us to really fully humanize those who are suffering because it makes me imagine what my life would be like in that situation, and it can be painful to consider. But Laurinzo reminded me that there is far more that unifies us than separates us as human beings.
The day spent at Justa Center was not just a mission; it was a celebration of the human spirit, of community, faith, and mutual respect. The smiles we witnessed, the stories we shared, and the friendships we forged have left an indelible mark on our hearts.
At Black Mountain United Church of Christ, we believe that to serve is to love, and this mission was a beautiful manifestation of that belief. May our small gesture inspire others to reach out, connect, and discover the blessings that lie in the most unexpected places.
Note: Laurinzo provided his permission to share his art and tell his story in the hopes that he can be an inspiration to others to live their lives in faith and service to others.