|Tom Stover (at right) in photo from April 2011|
Here's Tom's Story (from holytrinityalcc.org/2012/07/the-beginning-pastor-tom-stovers-story)
“…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… What you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me..”
During my first year of seminary one of our required courses was that each student would need to spend five days in the intercity of Minneapolis and St. Paul involved with outreach ministries to the poor. We would be spending these days meeting with different ministry directors in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis learning about their ‘calls and passions’ and then we would get our hands dirty doing ministry. What I must confess to you is; I entered this course skeptical and with a very negative attitude. I was at seminary to learn Scripture, theology and doctrine and not to be spending my time pretending I was getting something done driving around the intercity. To tell you the truth, I really believed that if people wanted to do better for themselves all they needed to do was to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, work harder and quit making excuses. Again, I do feel ashamed to tell you this was my attitude and it wasn’t that I didn’t care; it was that I really believed that the best way that we could help most of the people there was to educate them on the value of good hard work.
I need to tell you that on my first night out on the street I had a major paradigm shift concerning the homeless. It was a very cold January evening and our group was brought to the Catholic Charities facilities in downtown Minneapolis where we were going to give out some hot food, toiletries, prayer and encouragement to the men and women who were at the shelter. When I entered Catholic charities on the first floor that night and I looked around at a sea of cold and tired men taking cots and trying to find some space on the crowded floor amongst all the chaos, I was overwhelmed. A thought came to me, “that most of these men couldn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps because they don’t have any boots and if you gave them boots they probably wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway.” It was at that moment I felt in my spirit the Lord say in a very somber way, “Hey Tom, how’s that theology of yours working now?”
Much of my world view changed that night. That was in January of 2003 and I’ve been in the intercity doing ministry ever since. Over the years the Lord has been very gracious as he has taught and mentored all of us at Holy Trinity Ministries. One of the wonderful revelations the Lord has shown us is; as we begin our ministry to the poor and the needy most of us begin with the idea that this is all about those we minister to however, the fact of the matter is, our ministry to the poor and needy is as much for us as it is for them. As we reach out to help those who are hurting the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out as we begin to see everything new – how we judge people, how we love on people and how we see our own circumstances with a new spirit of thanksgiving. It always amazes me how involved and how close the Lord is when we are doing this ministry; I believe it is something very dear to Him!
Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”