Beans, Rice, and Jesus Christ.
Yep…that about sums up our mission on the streets of Uptown Charlotte. By “our” mission, I mean the mission of Rice N Beans (RnB), a grass-roots, missional organization that officially is out on the blacktop to “feed the body, restore the soul”.
I’ve been a team leader with RnB for about a year and a half now. I had no idea it existed, and only found out about it because my community group at the time (Center City) and the Cotswold group did a joint serving event together. I had been trying to find an outlet for serving in Charlotte, while also seeking a group / people who differed from me (older, had more experience in their faith, had different life experiences, etc.). It just so happens that I found both.
Missional serving is important for and helps diagnose the underlying spiritual health of all believers. It reveals hidden idols, transforms perceptions, and challenges you in ways you can’t imagine. Let me share a little deeper.
Feeding The Body
"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." – James 2:15-17
James explains why an outflow of action / good works is a result from, not a means to, an intimate relationship with God through Jesus. We see physical needs being met often in the New Testament (from Jesus feeding the 5,000 to establishing deacons to serve the early church in Acts). RnB specifically focuses on meeting the physical needs of those in the homeless and in-transition communities. If you’ve ever read the book “When Helping Hurts”, you know this can be a slippery slope. RnB desires to thoughtfully meet physical needs, but does not seek to support these situations in perpetuity.
This is something I had to learn early on: giving money or other items because of instant gratification or because I didn’t take time to understand the underlying need can actually hurt in the long run. Serving in this context flipped my understand of helping on its head.
Restoring The Soul
“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” - Colossians 1:13-14
I believe we tend to have a limited view of the Gospel. Jesus came to do more than save sinners, even though we often think of His ministry as only redeeming the elect.
The Gospel restores all things, and thus we do a great disservice to those around us if we do not share it.
RnB realizes that our friends on the streets live in and are surrounded by immense darkness (drugs, death, violence, etc.), and Jesus is the only one who can bring light to these things.
The second part of RnB’s mission is to minister to the souls of those we serve. We desire and yearn for radical heart change that leads to a repentance and change of actions. This is in addition to the fact that most people (we) choose to ignore the homeless on the streets mostly because we don’t have time, don’t care, or don’t know what to say. RnB seek to restore a measure of humanity to their lives by having intentional conversations and building relationships, much like Jesus did with the prostitutes and tax collectors.
To all those from Redemption who have served with RnB – Thank you! It’s been amazing to see a weekly presence from so many people. If you have an interest in serving alongside us, or with other organizations in Charlotte, please reach out to me. I’d love to have a conversation with you about serving in general, and can get you connected to something that may be of interest to you.