Gadara? Yes. It is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. In the darkness…
On this side we have peace, lights, food. All saints, good people. On the other side are the pagans, the unfaithful, the dirty, even the demoniacs (see Gospel according to Mark, chapter 5, verses 1-20).
I know it’s a different world. However, I am crossing the sea to the other side. To Gadara. And I am talking about the one in Dublin…
I volunteered on Thursday night. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the post here about the help given by the Dublin West Seventh-day Adventist Church to Hope in the Darkness. This was on the Sabbath of 11th of November. On the following Sunday, the goods that you can see in the pictures below were delivered to Sinead Kane, the leader of Hope in the Darkness. So, I decided as the pastor of this church to go there on a night to see for myself, and to help. To volunteer!
At 8pm last Thursday I was present at the GPO. Several other people were there, roaming around. It looked like something is going to happen. And it did. (You will notice that I switch to present tense – just because everything… just happens!)
A small car stops. And from there come out boxes, bags, a table. As the table unfolds, the bags and boxes are opened. In less than 5 minutes everything looks like is being set.
That crowd of people roaming around now becomes a queue. There are tens and tens of people, most probably more than one hundred. You don’t have time to count, to talk that much. No time for selfies (sorry, the pictures were taken later. I repost also the video here).
100+ people. Strangers and yet coming together. These people are here for food. We have stew, rice and curry, chicken. On the other side of the table there are trays with sandwiches, biscuits. At the end, some containers with hot water for tea and coffee. Not to forget some fruits and other sweets. We give water also.
There are like 5-6 of us, volunteering. But there are many known and unknown helpers. Somebody brings food, hot food. Beef. We add it to the table. Another pops in with a big bag of bread. A couple, man and woman, bring two bags of clothes. One of the team disappears for a short time and then comes back with maybe 10 boxes of pizza. That is new food on the table.
You see all kind of people. You hear many languages (including my own, Romanian). In a glance you notice people from Ireland and from afar, be that Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia. There are mostly men. Some look like homeless. In fact they are (later, when we finished, I recognized them in their sleeping bags, on cardboards in front of the big brand shops on the street). Some are not homeless – probably living in hostels. They are workers, coming late from their whatever jobs found, and stop here for food.
Food. Free. Hot and fresh.
It is cold outside, but Sinead is wearing short sleeve. She knows why – you get so active it feels hot. Time is running fast.
Everyone in the team knows his part. I jump to help serving food. Somehow is a good opportunity to see most of them, look them in the eyes. Somebody tells me: “I’ve never seen you here before.” I confirm acknowledging is my first time here, and I imagine some are old clients. Sinead talks to one and says: “I know you since you were little.”
One guy is drunk. As he pushes himself, another one responds. A fight? Suddenly a big guy comes in between and pacifies them both. Another one is mentally challenged. I help him guessing what he wants. There are some women also. There is one with a child. How sad!
A man asks if the food he points to has any pork inside. I presume he is a Muslim (maybe a refugee). I turn him to chicken or beef, just to be sure. Somebody comes for seconds. That’s fine. We still have food, although I see it disappearing quite quickly.
When the pizza comes, I watch how the older volunteers are doing. Later it comes my turn as they get busy doing something else. I give one slice of pizza to each. At a certain moment, somebody who looked more in need than others stops there. I’m thinking to give him two slices. Breaking two slices and giving him, he does not want two. “Leave one for others…”, says the man. It is impressing, wonderful.
As said before, some are just normal people. Others are drunk. I sense that the drugs have also taken the toll of some.
We are in front of the GPO (such an iconic place for Dublin).
People come and go. There are so many shopping places around. Looks like we are living in two different worlds. And the two worlds don’t touch, though they are so close.
Yet, from time to time it happens. Here come two ladies with hands full of bags. Passing by, they stop. One of them tells us how much she appreciates what we are doing (“tremendous work”). She puts the bags down. In a moment she reaches out for her bag, takes the purse out and gives some money.
Some tourists also pass by, not really sure about what is going on. One guy even reaches for a slices of pizza. I give him although I confess I would have liked him to give, not to take… (maybe some other night he or others will do it better).
In two hours most of them are fed, although some more are still coming. Some go back to their places, wherever that might be. One man comes from work and now is asking if there is any food left. The hot one is gone. But we still have pizza, and more sandwiches (in the mean time more food came).
At 10:30, after more than two hours of work we stop. The street and the place is almost empty. We pack. One gets the broom. The other cleans waste to the bins. One clears the table. The table folds, everything is put back into the car. In 10 minutes it looks like we’ve never been there. We say thank you to one another and good bye.
I walk to my car and see the sleeping bags on the cardboards. These are people. One is sleeping. Others are talking. One of them looks up to some dark sky…
I am reminded of the words written on the vest of one of the volunteers in the team:
“Don’t look down on anyone unless picking them up.”
(Christian Salcianu, pastor of Dublin West Seventh-day Adventist Church).
Update: After presenting this to the Romanian Seventh-day Adventist Church and to Emaus Dublin (a Bible study group in Blanchardstown), I got more volunteers to come with me on Thursdays. If you want to come also (as some of the volunteers at Hope in the Darkness are burned-out), please add yourself with a comment below and I will contact you. If you want to help in other ways (food, clothes, money) please comment below or contact me also. Thanks. Christian (email@example.com, 085 223 4482)