Not long after Mosaic had moved into the old Wal-Mart, a homeless man named Raymond began attending faithfully from week to week. Typical of those on the street, he was disheveled and, in his case, often reeking of alcohol. Each Sunday, he would first head for the bathroom to clean himself up before coming back to get a cup of coffee and sit down for worship.
One morning during the service, I invited the congregation to break up into smaller groups for prayer. As I left the platform, a young high school Latina named Sandra motioned to me. She was concerned for Raymond, who was sitting close to her, and wanted me to pray with him. Sitting down with the man, I began to talk with him and, more important, to listen.
During our brief exchange, Raymond spoke sincerely from his heart. He confessed that drugs and alcohol had consumed his life and had left him isolated from family members living nearby. At Mosaic, he said, the people were friendly and treated him kindly. Coming to Mosaic each week gave him peace and hope. He said, “I feel so good here! I feel the Spirit of God here. I may live like hell Monday through Saturday, but I like to come here on Sunday because it makes me feel so damn good!”
Taking hold of his hands, I prayed for him and, touched by the interaction, concluded the prayer time by asking Raymond to come forward to share his story with the rest of the body. As he spoke, it was evident to all that Raymond truly desired to be cleansed from his addictions and restored to his family. Having shared from his brokenness and despair, Raymond asked the church to come and pray for him. In response, about a dozen Mosaics came forward and embraced him warmly. It was the first physical touch or affection he had received in a very long time. Laying their hands upon him, they led the entire church in praying for Raymond that day. It was a beautiful sight to see—the body of Christ extending the love of God to this man who had come, “just as I am.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
In time, men from Mosaic helped Raymond to enroll in a twenty-eight-day detoxification program. He then entered rehabilitation and, after completing it, came by the church a completely different man. Soon Raymond, again, stood before the church, this time to ask forgiveness for the times he had taken advantage of generosity. More important, he shared that he had recently committed his life to Christ. At last interaction, he continued in sobriety and held a steady job at a local fast-food restaurant.
Along with Raymond, others like him soon found their way to Mosaic; and with them, their needs for basic things such as food, clothing, and medical attention. This led us to begin stocking a small closet at the church in 2004 - first with food and then with clothing. In time, these needs grew beyond mere food and clothing. They needed beds, prescription medicine, treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, and many other things we had no systematic way of providing.
In those days we simply asked the body to donate as we became aware of needs, and most of the time our people came through. In time though, led by Cesar Ortega, Mosaic’s Pastor of Community Engagement we began to store such items in order to be more proactively prepared. As word of mouth spread, the demand on our time and resources grew exponentially requiring of us greater organization, more planning, and the involvement of people beyond our staff and membership. After assisting some two hundred and fifty people in the first twelve months of this ministry we call The Orchard, this past year (FY 2012) we provided free food, clothing, and material goods to 17,564 people (from 2,563 unique households) living in 72204. Amazingly, this number represents 53.44% of the entire population residing in our zip code. Furthermore, since 21.77% of the population living in 72204 is living in poverty (2,707 households), this means that 94.68% of households in poverty were directly served through The Orchard in FY 2012.
When a local church is multi-ethnic and economically diverse for the sake of the Gospel … when it reflects more than the community, but rather the kingdom of heaven on earth … being missional isn't a program to embrace or something you do. It is simply who you are.