The past year has been a learning experience. Not only has UBFM learned a lot of fundamental lessons but also we have grown. We have made new friends, we have networked with other organizations, and we have gained a lot of publicity. Though this has the potential to be overwhelming at times, it is a wonderful thing. This growth has allowed us to reach more people and it is because of the volunteers and contributors that we have the opportunity to do this.
As Thanksgiving slowly crept near, I was reminded of last year’s giving holiday for UBFM. There were only three of us, it was very cold, and we decided to drive a car rather than use our bicycles to deliver food. We learned a valuable lesson that night: our friends on the streets do not respond as well to someone getting out of a warm car. Some people ignored us, many would not accept our gifts, but nevertheless we tried. This year I wanted to try something different. “Why not make it big?” I thought to myself. I called all the members who subscribe to the UBFM Facebook page to donate extra blankets, jackets, cold weather gear, and snacks. I requested that we have a large group of discyplists (pedaling disciples) on the streets of Memphis. I asked that we come together and celebrate Thanksgiving by giving to our neighbors. I asked that we meet our friends on the street where they are at and shower them with love and supplies.
I posted that message Monday night and the response was immediate. Many members responded to the event, committing help with delivery on Wednesday night others committed to donating. When I returned from work on Tuesday evening I could not get into my house due to the boxes of donations blocking the door. Ecstatically, I sorted the items and prepared them to be loaded on Wednesday night.
The next morning I started preparing everything for the evening. Members kept calling throughout the day, asking if there was anything they could do in addition to preparation. Groups of people, families, and organizations called asking if they could bring or donate food and supplies. I started to get the felling that it was going to be a big night.
When six o’ clock rolled around four people were already at the house preparing burritos and care packages. It was shortly after this when local news Channel 5 walked in. They received word of our efforts and wanted to do a story. At 6:30 UBFM members started showing up with bicycles and supplies. Some members brought pickup trucks full of blankets, coats, jackets, clothes, food, and cold weather supplies. The front room of my house started to fill with supplies to be allocated to our neighbors affected by homelessness. My front yard started to fill with cyclists with zeal to serve. The night was shaping up to be one of the biggest nights of UBFM history.
By 8:00 we were all loaded with supplies. Twenty-two disciplists stood in my front yard with loaded backpacks. Four bike trailers were loaded; one was carrying a large cooler full of hot cocoa. I was quite surprised to see so much participation for two reasons: 1) It was the eve before Thanksgiving. 2) It was 25 degrees outside. The weather forecast claimed to potentially be the coldest night of the year. However, those two factors only fueled the compassion of this group.
Before we departed I told the group to look around. I told them to look at the person beside them. I said that is what God looks like in the world today. I believe this. I believe that God exists through the love of people in the world. God works through people. When I looked over the people in my front yard waiting and anticipating a connection with our less fortunate neighbors, I saw the love of God shining bright.
That night we distributed everything we left with. I witnessed a group of compassionate discyplits devote time, effort, and love to the people on the streets of Memphis. It was a wonderful thing and a marvelous night. Thank you all for the work you do to make this ministry possible.