The Floris Guest House is a week-long hypothermia shelter held at Floris UMC in partnership with other faith communities and social service agencies. Considering we just finished our third year of the Guest House, I thought it would be nice to share how the program started.

From January 24-31, we hosted approximately 40 guests with the help of 239 volunteers and 1,400 hours of service. I worked with a team of 20 people to plan this year’s program. While we took a lot of time to plan a great week, we also had a number of challenges and surprises (like Snowzilla) that volunteers and leaders met with humility and patience.

On to the beginning.

For many years, we provided meals to a hypothermia shelter in Reston every Tuesday from December to the end of March. We still do this today. It’s called the North County Hypothermia Program, and we partner with Cornerstones to provide the meals. One day, the leader of this ministry and a few dedicated volunteers came to me and said that they wanted to go deeper by working with another organization that hosts the homeless at church facilities.

Typically speaking, when a person comes to me with a ministry idea, I ask them to do more research and discerning. So I asked all the volunteers from the hypothermia program to consider volunteering for another church that was hosting the homeless that winter. Nine members of Floris UMC, including myself, spent evenings at Fairfax Baptist Church, helping them host during their week. I had a few more members go to another Methodist Church in Fairfax and help there. Soon after, I asked that group of volunteers to write a proposal that I could share with the leadership of the church.

When I asked this group what they thought the impact of this program would be, they gave me the following response:

“This ministry will allow Floris UMC to take the next evolutionary step in growing our individual and collective faith and in serving those in need in Fairfax County. When we decided to build the new building we agreed that we were building it to serve the community, not ourselves. With our abundance of space, hands and hearts, this seems like a prime opportunity to test that belief, our commitment to God and to test each other in what we are willing to do as servants of God.”

I also asked how this program aligned with the mission of the church:

“This new ministry will be one HUGE opportunity to expand what we are doing for the homeless in the local community while providing an opportunity for many in the congregation and guests to experience giving in profound and transformative ways.”

And finally, they provided scripture from Philippians:

“If therefore, there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

As you can imagine from reading these few short excerpts of a truly exceptional proposal, I was very pleased to present this to church leadership, who all believed that we should most definitely host a hypothermia shelter.

I’ll say that from the time that the members approached me to the time this proposal was approved unanimously, I felt the Holy Spirit moving through the process. It was a truly amazing experience that I was honored to be a part of.

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