When you first meet Marsha Grim, the leader of The Vine’s Homeless Ministry, you may wonder how that much passion could come wrapped up in that small of a person.
Diminutive in size she may be, but her heart is huge – and you know it as soon as you know her. Marsha has run our Laundry-Shower Ministry for the past few years, providing guests with a meal, a shower, laundry service, and love. She took over the shower trailers from a previous ministry, but her heart has never been just to meet the physical needs of the people who come to the church parking lot on Saturdays twice a month. She wants to know them.
She says God has grown this ministry incredibly since she teamed up with The Vine to serve our homeless neighbors, and she loves the time she spends with both her team and the guests. Though hosted by The Vine, this has become a multi-church ministry. There are volunteers that come from half a dozen churches in the area to help with the donations table, or to serve food, or to man the mechanical issues of the shower trailer, or to just be with the guests who come.
Marsha says she could tell a hundred stories of the ways she has seen God provide just what was needed at just the right time – whether that was the right-size clothing, a Bible, a train ticket, or a friend.
If anyone feels like their faith is dry, or they don’t see God really working, just come [to the Laundry Shower Ministry] a few times, because it’s amazing… the ‘coincidences’…! Someone will come needing some particular thing, and we don’t have it. And [then] someone will pull up and say ‘Hey, I have this to donate’ - and it’s just exactly what they need.
She says her faith has grown exponentially in this process.
A decade ago, you’d still have found her serving – she was “the busiest person in church on a Sunday morning” (as she was once told by one of her pastors’ wives). She was ministering in every capacity she could, from teaching Sunday School to worship ministry to weeknight clubs, and it consumed her. She realizes now that she was ministering out of a deep-seated desire for approval. She longed to feel like she was enough - and did enough - but she never did.
She says she grew up feeling like love had to be earned, so she became an overachiever. She was first in her class and excelled all through school, but it never felt like enough. She married a wonderful man, and still always felt like she wasn’t enough for him. She ached for approval – from God, from her husband, from the world. And in the church, she was finding that approval she craved. But after some time in full-throttle ministry, she discovered that her life and marriage had begun to fall apart.
My husband was starting to resent it, but I was hooked. It was like that was my drug - the approval I was getting from everyone else. But I really wanted it from my husband, and I really wanted it from God, but I didn’t know how to do it any other way… and that finally came to a crash in our marriage, to the point that I thought we were going to have to split, because things were so bad… and that’s when I just had to stop everything.
And she did.
I pulled out for two years and did nothing. I disconnected from everything I’d been involved in and said, “I just need to sit at Jesus’ feet for a while.” I didn’t know it was going to be two years, but that’s what it took.
During that time away, things changed. With the help of counseling and hard work, her marriage was restored. She had been serving in too many directions for too long. Now, she listens and waits for God to lead.
I think he had to empty me of all of that to show me what he really had for me to do in ministry. And [now] I don’t ever feel like I’m trying to earn God’s approval…The foundation of my faith before was incomplete. Now, I really can rest in God’s goodness and his faithfulness.
And maybe the biggest change is how adored she feels by God (no matter what she does or doesn’t do).
I was so busy trying to do for God - without knowing I was doing it – that I was somehow trying to earn his approval, and… If you’re really trying to earn love, you can’t really accept love.
And I had to have that sense of approval from God before I could pour it out. You can’t work from a fairly empty cup. It has to overflow, so it’s gotta be full! …what has changed is that I feel washed in God’s love all the time. I never doubt how he feels about me.
Her reentry into ministry was slow and deliberate, looking for where God was inviting her at each step. Aware that “that’s how people burn out – either doing things they’re not suited for, or doing more than they should be doing, and just not letting the Holy Spirit guide [them]”, she said “no” to many opportunities that came up, and remained open to where God might be leading her.
And that’s why - unexpectedly, not looking for it - I began to notice the homeless in my own town…I felt like I wanted to get to know them, but I didn’t know how.
She started small, laying out beds at a shelter near her home.
As God drew me into homeless ministry, I really felt like I was seeing people with his eyes. Sometimes, I’ll see somebody I’ve never met, and I’ll just love them… I don’t even know them! And I know it’s not my love… Sometimes I wonder, when other people look at someone on the street, what’s going through their mind? For me, it’s: ‘Do you have anyone who loves you? Does anybody really know you? What’s your name?’ And I know it’s God – why would that be me??
Eventually, she joined a ministry offering showers and a meal to those living on the streets, and she met some folks from The Vine that invited her to join us for church on Sunday. She was just learning to pay attention to God’s leading, and she hesitated. But then she found out her best friend had just started attending The Vine, and it seemed like God may be inviting her to check it out.
The morning she visited The Vine, it “just so happened” that one of the young men she’d connected with at the Saturday ministry was being baptized. She couldn’t believe it. And then, she discovered that - that very Sunday – The Vine was having a meeting about our Homeless Ministry. The church had been connected with a homeless ministry next door that had just closed its doors, and was looking for new directions in how to minister to our friends on the streets. She stayed for the meeting, and spoke up, inviting The Vine to join her in this Saturday ministry that was going through a transition itself.
And, so, here we are. Two Saturdays a month, Marsha and many others from our church can be found both serving and being served in many different capacities. But she no longer fears burnout. She feels so filled with God’s love, that “it can’t help coming out!” She watches out for the ones in her care, too, shepherding her team with an eye toward their potential for burnout. Because of her own experience, she loves when someone is able to say, “this [Laundry-Shower Ministry] isn’t it for me”, fully supporting them in their search for what God is inviting them into.