Story and Photos by Suzanne Lynch, Christ the King Catholic Church
From November until March, Christ the King continues its long history of hosting guests through Room In The Inn. This season, the ministry is opening its doors to more overnight guests, increasing from last year’s 15 homeless men, women and children to 20. With the ample room and comfortable facilities the school offers, the increase in guests is easily accommodated. And with a strong force of volunteers they are all equally cared for as well. Director John Green fondly tells the guests to expect five-star service.
Room In The Inn is not designed to be another homeless shelter. Instead, it strives to create an environment of acceptance and to put faith into action. Room In The Inn’s website describes the program as a way for more people in every sector to understand the problems of the homeless by becoming directly involved with people who are homeless. The evenings provide an opportunity to receive a blessing from God in the midst of suffering, hardship and grief.
A blessing is what you will receive when you come to break bread with the guests. “Parishioners will see a revelation of Christ when they participate,” said Louis Roberts, a long-time volunteer who currently assists John. “Guests sit and bond with parishioners—there isn’t a separation.”
Returning guests are quick to tell you how much they enjoy being at Christ the King. “You just open the door and welcome us in. You don’t push or make us do things your way,” said Gwyneth, a woman whose countenance is filled with love for Jesus and whose hard life she is quick to share. “This week I was car-jacked but God told me I didn’t need that car. God has always taken care of me.”
That is just a glimpse of a blessing you will receive—a recipient of Gwyneth’s joy for knowing Christ. You may also witness a miracle. At Room In The Inn, they happen all the time. For example, over Thanksgiving a gentleman suffering from Alzheimer’s got lost in the school and became disoriented. In the process of trying to find out who he was, it was discovered he had been reported missing by his son in Minnesota. Louis recalls how moving it was to call and tell the man his father was safe.
Many of the volunteers have been coming to help at Room In The Inn for years. Louis says it’s because the experience is so rewarding. The volunteers find fellowship not just with the guests, but with each other. While they go about their tasks preparing for the evening, there is opportunity for friendships to develop.
The evening dinner is started early in the day by Donald St. Charles, Kate Dumas and other volunteers. Donald has been cooking for the program for at least six years. By 5:30 p.m. volunteers have arrived to get the beds ready—led by Father Ryan Junior, Gina Schmid. A volunteer since her first experience as a Christ the King 8th grader, she recalls the first time she came, how friendly everyone was and that her second time, how the guests remembered her. Those relationships keep her returning every week, even Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Gina instructs the teens and younger children to put cases on the pillows and make the beds. Parents are here too, and young adults looking for a place to become the hands and feet of Christ. Carly Moffa and Matt Brown are two such young parishioners who wanted to be more involved with their church. They have been coming every week this season and bringing their friends.
“When I met Gwyneth and saw how happy she was to be here, to have one more meal—she was enjoying the moment regardless of her situation, I was inspired,” said Matt, who has been in Nashville just a year. “I really enjoy coming. It makes me feel more at home.”
Carly was moved to go a step further in caring for the guests and asked if she could offer the ladies a “girls night” with manicures and facials. “I wanted the ladies to feel pampered and to get what they needed. And I wanted to connect with them and talk to them about Jesus,” she said. So on the evening of December 3, Carly brought all the necessities, having spent time visiting salons and asking for samples as well as collecting from friends. Miraculously, of course, the same evening Carly spoke with John about her idea, he received a call from another parishioner, Michelle Fisher, who is a stylist and wanted to offer the guests haircuts. Carly also brought her friend Simone Parke who is also a stylist. The guests were thrilled and there was lots of conversation, laughter and sharing during the process. Even the men weren’t shy about getting their hair cut, beards trimmed and even a manicure.
Many people are involved every week at Room In The Inn. From the drivers who pick up the guests downtown to those who do the laundry, there is a place for everyone and everyone is invited. Join Room In The Inn every Wednesday for dinner. It’s a bargain and if you are quick, you might get a slice of Mrs. Carmen Kavass’ homemade pound cake. She brings two of them Wednesday afternoon, still warm from the oven—one for the evening meal and the other sliced and divided into baggies for the guests to take with them on Thursday.