Zumbro Lutheran Church’s logo.

I was pretty excited to volunteer at Zumbro Lutheran Church for the Interfaith Hospitality Network in Rochester (IHN). After learning about IHN through a guest lecturer, I was interested in seeing first-hand how they run their homeless shelters. The night started off with Sarah and I looking through the large church for someone to direct us to the nighttime homeless shelter. The staff at Zumbro was very welcoming and more than happy to lead us in the right direction. The evening volunteers for IHN gave us a quick rundown of our responsibilities and showed us our sleeping quarters for the night.

After the other volunteers left, Sarah and I walked around the basement of the church to get a feel for the layout. While we were walking around we met a mother and her three children in the gymnasium. The youngest child came up to Sarah and me and asked us to play catch and basketball with him and his small, purple blowup ball. It was refreshing to see him smile and hear him giggle as we were playing. It was as if we were playing in his backyard, just trying to get those last precious minutes of playtime in before mom yells that it’s time to come in for bed (she didn’t yell).

There were four families staying at the church on this night, all singe parent households trying to figure things out. The children and parents go to school and work during the day, and then come to IHN for their evening meals and to sleep. All of the parents looked extremely tired, yet they took the time to make sure their children had everything they needed and wanted.

Sarah and I spent some time with a mother and her daughter during their bedtime snack. While we were chatting the young girl began singing a song she made up. It made absolutely no sense, at least to the adults in the room, yet she didn’t care. She kept signing and smiling until the song was over. The young girl then picked up IHN’s cordless phone and said ” I’m calling you,” so her and I played phone for a few moments before she went to bed.

It was a great experience, especially seeing the young children enjoying themselves despite their current circumstances. It was a great reminder of how people can remain happy and positive no matter what life throws at them.

-Josh Hardy