There is a really wonderful ministry in Wheaton, IL called Repeat Boutique. It’s primary ministry is to missionaries in the US for training or on furlough, seminary students, and other Christian workers. The mission provides clothing and household goods at no cost, which is such a blessing.
Imagine coming from Russia with nothing, here in the US for a few years for seminary or some sort of language school, and finding out you can get most of what you need to set up your home for free! Everything is used, but it’s been carefully sorted so it really is a treat! The mission allows Christian workers to come and “shop” a few times a year. I went today. Wow! What a blessing to walk through the isles without any concern for cost.
The mission also serves the needs of the surrounding community as they get referrals from different social agencies. If someone qualifies for food stamps, welfare, etc. they can come to the mission to get clothing, household goods, etc. too.
As I was looking for finds today, I overheard an older gentleman who volunteers there comparing the “Christian worker” shoppers to the “Community” shoppers. He was complaining about how the “Community” shoppers grab as much as they can possibly carry without regard for size or style. If they can fit it in their allotted baskets, they take it. They shop quickly- grabbing, stuffing, and leaving the place ransacked. He sounded very put out, very hassled, very annoyed. I guess the “Christian worker” shoppers are much more polite, probably less needy, pleasant, and clean.
Flipping through the girls clothes, I began to imagine what it would feel like to walk into this thrift store in a different pair of shoes…
What if I hadn’t had new clothing in years? What if my children were wearing rags? What if I hadn’t gone “shopping” since my husband had lost his job a few years back? What if my power was going to be turned off? What if I hadn’t eaten in a day or two? What if I knew I was bringing home my baby a new outfit, but couldn’t feed him dinner? What if I wasn’t just shopping for the 4 people listed on my card, but for an entire extended family packed into my apartment down the street?
You betcha I would grab, stuff, ransack, greedily rummage – and I would do it fast. My heart would be racing with relief, fear, guilt, and shame. I’m sure I would be grateful too, but it wouldn’t be my primary emotion.
Dear Mr. Sweet Old Man,
Please show compassion and love to the families that come to the mission…the ones that hastily haul off as much as they can carry and leave the place in shambles. They don’t make polite conversation and shop tidily because they can’t. Please carry their load, pull out special things you’ve been saving behind the counter, and give candy to the children. Please tell them to come back soon, to bring any friends they have who are in need, and not to worry about the unfolded clothes. Give them a hug when they leave, and tell them Jesus loves them.
A “Christian Worker” shopper