Once a month, people from Arbor Road gather at a couple local laundromats and pay for people in the community to do their laundry. Sandra and Adam Gulick currently help at Launderland, and have been volunteering since it first started in January 2013.
Both of them grew up hearing about God, but they weren’t invested in the church. In 2012, after attending Arbor Road for the first time, they felt a need to change that. They were welcomed in and felt like they belonged to Arbor Road’s community.
Adam and Sandra recall seeing a video early in their attendance at Arbor Road about the origin of Laundry Love in San Francisco and the effect it had on the homeless community. In the video, a homeless man said, “When I have clean clothes, people treat me like a person.” Sandra said that made her rethink how she typically views people who are homeless, and Adam said, “it hit me in the gut.” Because of that, they decided to jump in.
On their first day at Laundry Love, they arrived at the laundromat in Norwalk after work, met with the other volunteers, prayed, and started setting up. They weren’t sure what to expect. Sandra said, “What made me nervous was thinking about whether or not I would need to tell them about the Bible.” Having only been in the church for a few months, she didn’t know if she would have to share certain Bible verses and if she had the right words to say. Throughout the night, however, she quickly discovered that the job of the volunteer was just to talk to people who came in. As the months went on and they figured out a routine–Sandra does check and Adam escorts people to the washing machines–they both realized that these are also important methods to help people and evangelize.
If someone had a question about the Bible, they definitely answer it, but much of the time, the people who make use of Laundry Love just want to talk about their day. Sandra recalled a father who came in with his family frequently, but didn’t talk very often. Over time, though, he became more comfortable with Sandra and started sharing his political views with her. Sandra laughed as she told me, “I may not have agreed with all of his political views, but I realized he was sharing this and I needed to be there for him. I needed to validate his thoughts and feelings.” She realized that simply offering a listening ear is what makes people feel human.
“Sometimes,” said Sandra, “I have to miss because I’m a teacher and need to meet with my student’s parents. When you’re gone, people miss you. They ask around and see when you’ll be back and if you’re ok.” That building of trust and relationship is typical of how Laundry Love works. Conversations may start timidly at first, but by consistently showing up, people eventually build lasting relationships with each other. Individuals and families who need a little break get to see the tangible love of a God who sees their humanity and cares about even their basic needs – such as laundry.
Because the Gulick’s have volunteered with Laundry Love for four years, Adam and Sandra have been able to see God provide care for the people who come in. They get to witness firsthand the growth and triumphs of the people they meet.
Adam mentioned a homeless family, Erick and Cheyanne who attended a church near the trailer they lived in. When the couple first stepped foot into Laundry Love, they were so moved that they decided to start the same program at their own church. “We hope that the money people save from Laundry Love can be used to help themselves or other people,” Adam said. For this family, that meant taking the service they saw and spreading it to even more people through their own church.
Whenever Sandra sees a person who is homeless she says, “I think about them as kids. They didn’t grow up saying I want to be homeless, or I want to be an addict, or I want to be on the streets, or I want to have a mental illness, or I want to feel lonely. They might have made choices that have lead them to this life, but this is not who they wanted to be. I want to see what I can do, I’m willing to give them something that means something.”
Adam and Sandra’s story shows that a huge part of evangelism means treating people the way God made them: as humans with value. It’s only once we treat others with dignity that we can hope to show them who Christ is. Opportunities like Laundry Love give us a chance to get to know people’s names, to hear where the grew up, what games they liked to play, what school they went to, their favorite season. You have the opportunity to learn what they wanted to be, and what they want to become. Begin a relationship. Build trust. Care for someone’s most basic need. And watch the God begin to work in their lives.
Who can you serve this week by listening to, talking with, caring for one of their basic needs?
Written by: Robert Heckert