When the world asks what the basic needs of survival are, society answers almost unanimously: “food, shelter and clothing.” Often, these small, significant aspects of life are taken for granted and overlooked. But for some, life is no longer possible because these needs are barely and rarely met.
The need of a roof and walls for shelter, nourishment for health and clothing for the body is hardly given a second thought until these necessities are no longer readily available. As the homeless population has risen significantly in America over the last ten years, there are more and more people who find themselves suddenly having to give their needs—or lack thereof—a second, third and fourth thought.
Many find it difficult to survive, and meeting the basic needs becomes more and more burdensome. For places and organizations like the Christian Center, though, helping people meet these needs has become their mission.
The Christian Center is an organization in downtown Anderson that operates as a rescue shelter and men’s program that offers community dining, chapel services and community assistance. Their desire is to connect with, love and help people better understand and know that there is hope, that someone cares.
Helping assist the community through attending to the basic needs, the Christian Center serves three hot meals a day in their dining room, and anyone can come and be fed for free, no questions asked. The doors are fully open to the community, but the residents, those desperate for a place to reside, have the opportunity to eat first.
In order to be considered a resident, one has to apply and connect with the leadership and staff, begin to go through a discipleship program, attend chapel twice a week, follow the curfew and work for the organization for at least 40 hours a week. They, in turn, are housed, given the basic necessities and are presented with a community of others in similar situations.
There are 70 beds total in the Christian Center, but only about 45 are occupied.
Those who live in the center work either in the warehouse, in the kitchen preparing the food, at their resale shop—The Red Door—or at partnering organizations. The Christian Center works hard to meet others’ needs through preparing and providing them with better opportunities.
Some of these opportunities include making relationships with different types of people, such as AU students.
Serving at the Christian Center has been a campus ministry for at least five years, and a group of students go and volunteer—serving dinner, making relationships and playing games—every Friday night.
The ministry itself presents the opportunity for students to connect with the mission field in a very tangible and relational manner.
Junior Elijah Neal leads the Christian Center ministry and has been serving and volunteering since his freshman year. He believes that serving, encouraging and loving others makes an incredible impact.
“I don’t think we realize how similar the residents’ lives are to ours—there are a lot of correlations,” he said. Neal loves to be part of the center, making relationships and engaging in new opportunities presented by attending every week.
“I think very simply it is a journey. It looks and feels different every week, but I always get something out of it at the end of the day,” he said. “It’s a process. I learn a lot from it. I get to meet people. I get food—and the best journeys have food. It’s not always the same, and it’s not always easy, but it’s a growth experience.”
Junior Erin Eberly has also been volunteering at the center since her freshman year. She has seen growth in those she serves as well as herself.
“This ministry has really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I used to be shy, and this has pushed me to be more extroverted and to want to get to know people. Going to the Christian Center is the highlight of my week because I love seeing this group of students that I don’t normally get to see outside of Friday nights, and I love the people and hearing their stories—the good and bad—and listening to people who don’t normally get a chance to be heard.”
This ministry, the Christian Center’s and AU’s, creates a safe space for people to be heard and for development, both relationally and through providing for physical needs.
“I asked someone who has lived in Anderson his entire life—who has seen this place during its absolute highs and lows—what he would change, not about the city, but the Christian Center,” said Neal. “He said ‘Nothing. This is one of the purest things in this city.’ That was really cool to hear. He thought that this place serves as a beacon of hope, and for a lot of people in this city, they need that, and it’s really rare. This is part of the city.”
Having a universal and deeply rooted space like the Christian Center allows for positive growth and development, new relationships, encouragement and hope, and mission-based living.
In a world that focuses on one’s own individual necessities and desires, the Christian Center is a beacon of hope for those who have nothing. They open their doors to those who need food. They open their doors to those who need shelter. They open their doors to those who need clothing. And most importantly, they open their doors to anyone in need.