The Word Became Flesh: Mobile Mission Volunteers
Mobile Mission is Bethesda’s street ministry that goes out every Friday and Saturday night to provide blankets, clothing, sleeping bags, hot coffee, water bottles, other supplies, and prayer to those living on the streets of Harrisburg.
Jenny Greene and her husband, Wallace, have been volunteering at Bethesda for almost 20 years. They first got involved through their church serving meals at the Men’s Mission but very soon went out on the Mobile Mission van.
Sitting down for lunch with Jenny Greene is like meeting up with an old friend even if you’ve just met her. She is warm, humble, wise, and a friend of Jesus. Originally from Tennessee, Jenny and Wallace moved to Hershey when he got a job at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where he still works as a doctor. Jenny has and still does work as a teacher in a variety of capacities.
Jesus in Skin
The Greenes first went out on Mobile Mission with former Bethesda staff member, Karl Beardsley.
“Getting to know Karl and watching him with the people we would meet was like Jesus in skin,” Jenny said. “He would pray with people when they needed it. He would always have a little pad of paper, and he would write down their needs.”
Karl retired from the Mission in 2018 and now Mobile Mission is run by volunteer teams. Jenny and Wallace go out once a month with a group that they bring from Hershey, where they live. They have a set route of 5 stops that they make in downtown Harrisburg.
Jenny has a bank of stories to share from and has made many friends during all of her years volunteering.
“When we first started, some of the places we would go with Karl, we would look at each other thinking ‘is this safe?’” Jenny recalled, chuckling. “He was so comfortable that it made us feel comfortable.”
“For us the most rewarding thing is when somebody opens up and shares their story,” Jenny said. “Then the relationship goes to another level and that helps Wallace and myself continue. We’re always thinking what can I do to help this person, and maybe it’s just prayer.”
A Pair of Boots
One of Jenny’s favorite stories is a time she saw God provide for a woman in a way that was specific to her needs. One night there was a teen girl volunteering with Jenny, and the girl’s mom had given Jenny some of the girl’s old clothing and shoes.
“It was a very, very cold night, and we were under the Mulberry Street Bridge,” Jenny said. “There was a couple standing there. The woman had hardly anything on — a very lightweight coat, no socks and tennis shoes that had holes in them and her feet were freezing.”
Jenny remembered the things from the teen girl that she had stashed underneath a seat in the van. There was a pair of boots in those items that were the woman’s exact size. The woman hugged the teen girl and thanked her for the boots.
“I’ll never forget that moment because that’s what Jesus does,” Jenny said. “You think you don’t have something but then God just provides it.”
“When our kids grew up and went off to college, we got involved with youth and missions,” Jenny said. “One thing we could count on is kids would love to come with us.”
Because the Greenes are involved in their community in many ways, they will often bring teenagers that need community service hours to volunteer with them on Mobile Mission.
“That’s probably the biggest way that I get to know kids is usually because they’ve done something stupid,” Jenny said. “I’m always ready to bring them to Mobile Mission. That gives us a great time to chat about choices.”
A lot of times the teens realize they like volunteering and choose to come back after they are finished with community service.
Creating an Understanding
Something that surprises first-time volunteers is the fact that people are living in the conditions that they are, especially during the cold winter months. Whether it’s under a bridge or in an abandoned warehouse. In the winter, they see around 30 people a night, but in the summer that number can explode up to 90. In the summer, people will come out to socialize with each other as well as get things from the stock of supplies in the Mobile Mission van. With the availability of shelters in Harrisburg, it’s easy to ask the question “why don’t people go to a shelter instead of sleeping on the street?”
“Some people live paycheck to paycheck, and if they don’t get one, they get kicked out of their apartment,” Jenny said. “The Mission has rules that would be a big obstacle to many people. They can’t or won’t follow rules to get clean or better themselves to be self-sustaining. Mental illness is huge. A lot of times it’s addiction, and they aren’t able to hold a job because of that.”
“Not everyone is sleeping on the street or under a bridge,” Jenny said. “Some of the people are in an apartment, but they need some of the necessities and that’s why they come out.”
“We see God every time we’re there — that’s why we go! He’s alive and serving through Bethesda,” Jenny said.
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