Local Pastor Raises Poverty Awareness Through His Actions…Going Barefoot For A Week…His Mission…To Bring Awareness To Issues Affecting The Nation By Starting With His Congregation…He Demonstrates The African Philosophy of Umbutu…Without Even Knowing or Mentioning The Word
BELTSVILLE – Inspired by Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Washington D.C. area, a local pastor decided to take a similar humble approach to life by personally exploring the needs of the community.
On Sept. 19, Pastor Tim Madding exchanged his church clothes for something a little more humble. His mission: to begin his journey as a homeless person for one week.
Madding slept in shelters and ate at soup kitchens around the area with only $20 in his pocket. The following Saturday he relayed his experiences to his congregation of 600 members at the Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“As a pastor, my job is to encourage my congregation through all of the teachings of Jesus. In the bible he teaches about loving and serving others, being compassionate and ministering to the needs of others,” Madding said. “Sometimes Christians get a bad reputation of being more selfish, concerned about themselves or not thinking about others. So I said I was going to take several weeks to focus on compassion and loving other people.”
About a year ago, Madding decided to embark on a sermon series that drew special attention to world issues by choosing to go seven days without something specific. Madding said the world has an increased amount of refugees, homeless families on the streets, families who are struggling, and orphans who don’t have a home.
“First I chose to go seven days without a home. After service two weeks ago, I didn’t go home,” Madding said. “I went to D.C and spent seven days in the street. I slept in the bushes off the street hiding so that I wouldn’t be found. I slept in my car for two nights and spent three nights sleeping in shelters.”
All of the food Madding ate was through soup kitchens and various ministries’ programs in D.C. He showered in the same facilities and spent time with homeless people throughout the day. He documented his entire experience and shared it with the congregation.
Madding said he immersed himself into homelessness during his seven days without a home by taking the time to get to know homeless individuals and their struggles.
“One thing I learned is what most homeless people have in common, and that is a lack of friends, family or a support system to fall back on,” Madding said. “For whatever reason, they don’t have that and they have to resort to other places like living on the street.”
Madding also spoke with homeless people who have families where the father or mother will work during the day and stay at a shelter during the night.
“The second thing I learned is we do not see the homeless,” Madding said. “Just sitting on the street watching, a businessperson walking down the street would see a homeless person and immediately shut them out. They turn their head and keep walking and ignore them. They treat them like an outcast and don’t see them in a greater depth of that word.”
Last week Madding came up with another idea.
“This last week, to bring awareness to people without clothing, because the bible says ‘when I was naked you clothed me,’ I decided to spend seven days without shoes,” Madding said. “Of course I wasn’t going to go naked. But for the past week I’ve been walking without any shoes on.
“I go shopping like I normally would, go to restaurants like I normally would, and walk where I normally walk.”
He said this specific action was to raise awareness of the 300 million children worldwide who don’t have adequate footwear and as a result are more susceptible to disease, infections and injuries. Last year the Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington gave out 400 pairs of shoes.
“People have been bringing bags of shoes and it’s been exciting,” Madding said.
After service on Oct. 3, Madding began a seven day fast to highlight the issue hunger in the nation.
“There are so many people in the D.C. area, especially in Beltsville, who are poor and don’t have adequate nutrition and food. Because of that I will go seven days on a limited intake of 1200 calories or less,” he said.
Madding will eat foods such as plantains, rice and other things eaten in countries like Congo, “a country that has the worst and least amount of access of food,” Madding said.
“Throughout the series I am encouraging my church to step up and do something, including making a care package for the homeless and helping provide assistance.”
Madding’s wife, Andrea, has supported of his decision, but has struggled with it at the same time.
“I was very concerned because he just told me that he was going to do this and I didn’t really have a choice,” Andrea said. “Yes it is for a good cause and I am supportive of these efforts, but it was frightening for him to be homeless. The fact that he had his phone and I could get in touch with him was good, but it would have be really wonderful too if it wasn’t my husband going out there.”
Many of the women members told Andrea they would never let their husbands do what her husband is doing, but the idea began to catch fire in the congregation, as well as across the nation.
“Starting Tuesday I’m going without food as well, only eating 1200 calories or less,” Andrea said. “A lot of my friends in Kentucky and Tennessee are going to do it as well, so the idea is opening a lot of people’s eyes.”
Last week, the church took up a special offering for the homeless, tsunami victims in Chile, Syrian refuges, and the 100 Prince George’s County residents displaced by a recent fire in District Heights. All proceeds from the gathering went to Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), a charitable organization that helps disaster victims in the U.S. and around the world.
“I am so impressed with what this pastor did. I truly hope that his concern for the homeless and those without shoes will inspire pastors of all denominations to become involved in helping the needy throughout Maryland who may have been impacted by the terrible flooding this past weekend,” said Rockefeller Twyman, a member of Madding’s congregation. “The pastor’s compassion reminds me of Pope Francis.”
Julio Munoz, associate communication director at the Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division, is a member of the Beltsville church and said he is thoroughly impressed the Madding’s innovative ways to connect with the community.
“It is very easy to become focused on the black and white or what’s right and what’s wrong in society. But what Pastor Tim is focusing on is those who are in need in the community. The poor, the homeless and the widows,” Munoz said. “It’s different when we go into the community and live amongst them. He is living their life to see how we can better serve them and connect with them.”
Pastor Madding hopes that his actions will inspire others in the D.C. area to donate funds to urgent causes impacting the entire world.