A laundromat is an unlikely mission field. Who could share Jesus' love amidst washing machines and clothes dryers? Members of New Day Church, that's who.
New Day volunteers partnered with Laundry of Love to bless individuals when they arrived at the laundromat to wash their clothes. Armed with quarters, detergent, fabric softener sheets, and a friendly smile we greeted clothes washers with a gift: free wash and dry. The first response was always, "Thanks, but what's the catch?"
We washed clothes for several homelesss people during the day. What a humbling experience to watch them strip off protective layers of clothes. The cold weather is brutal right now, even in sunny Florida, and the homeless layer their clothes against the cold. How embarrassing it must have been for them to disrobe in front of strangers. Of course, they didn't strip bare; just enough to get the outside layers of clothing washed.
One woman we met was robbed of all her possessions at a truck stop in another city. She had two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks and a couple of pairs of pants and a few shirts. I can't imagine carrying all that I own in two small bags. I can't imagine having to depend on the goodness of strangers for my next meal or even a cup of coffee. But, that is the life of the homeless among us.
My new friend once owned a home and had three jobs. She had a family whom she loved and who loved her. Through a series of events, she lost everything: home, job, and family. She became one of the homeless masses. At one point she tried to take her life; she showed me the scars on her wrist. She wanders from truck stop to truck stop with no destination in mind, going wherever the next ride takes her.
I bought her some undergarments, socks, and toiletries. Her two bags were bulging and would be difficult to carry, so I went back to Walmart and bought a wheeled duffle bag. Someone else bought her a sleeping bag. She had the basics to continue on her aimless wandering.
I prepared to leave and hugged her goodbye. She asked if she could speak privately with me, so we went outside the laundromat. She wouldn't look me in the eye and appeared to have difficulty asking me something. I asked, "What do you need? How can I help you?" She finally gathered her courage and with red-rimmed eyes said, "I want a cross. My cross got stolen with all my other stuff. I hate to ask you for anything else, but I really would like a new cross."
I was wearing a bejeweled cross I recently purchased and started to take it off. She hesitated a moment, and I said, "Is this too much for you?" She laughed and said, "Yes."
I then said, "Do you want to go to Walmart and get a cross?" She broke into a beautiful smile and said, "Oh, yes. I'd like that." We walked up to Walmart, and she picked out a cross. She handed it to me, and I put it around her neck. She reached up and touched it and softly said, "Now, I'm complete. I've got my cross back."
I am grateful for the opportunity to be Jesus' hands for a few hours on a Saturday morning. My new friend blessed me more than I blessed her. She reminded me of the Scripture, "as you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me." This woman definitely falls into the "least of these" category.
The next time I pass a laundromat I will see it with new eyes. I'll look beyond machines and detergents and know that even a common, everyday laundromat can be a mission field if we see it through Jesus' eyes.