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Three Faiths Work Together as Innkeepers for Homeless

On Wednesday evenings in the Sport Science building, Belmont University students and Nashville area volunteers created a modern day story of the Good Samaritan. In the Biblical parable, a man was beaten and robbed and his needs overlooked until a Samaritan bandaged him and took him to an inn.

“In this case we put him in a Kia or a Chevy and took him to a gymnasium,” said Belmont Vice President of Spiritual Development Todd Lake. “We found people in other religious communities who were willing to set the alarm clock early or miss time with family and friends to be here and help people who needed help.”

Room in the Inn is an organization that coordinates shelters for homeless people and offers them emergency services, transitional programs and long-term solutions to help people rebuild their lives. Belmont began hosting guests with Room in the Inn in 2011, becoming one of the only universities in the country to shelter homeless guests in on-campus facilities.

Two nights a week–Wednesdays and Fridays–from November to March Belmont students cook dinner for the homeless and fellowship with them before they turn in for the night on cots. Although they had the eagerness and willingness to serve, students often did not have transportation to get the homeless to campus this year, so students turned to members of other faiths in Nashville for help.  The Islamic Center of Nashville and Congregation Sherith Israel sent volunteer drivers and chefs to work alongside students at a Christian university to aid the homeless.

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Belmont staff and students ate lunch with volunteers from the Islamic Center of Nashville and Congregation Sherith Israel on April 10 to celebrate their partnership to serve the homeless.

During a recent informal celebration of the partnership’s success, Belmont Director of Outreach Micah Weedman said, “One thing all of our religious traditions share is a common commitment to hospitality, particularly to those on the margins of our society and those considered outsiders. One of the fundamental elements of Christian life is to welcome strangers so that they might be our friends. At a University where we strive to address issues like global poverty and homelessness, it’s important that we learn also to become friends and share meals with those we wish to serve, and with those we’re learning to serve with.”

“Thank you on behalf of Belmont students. People are always telling me how much this experience changed them,” said sophomore Jeanette Morelan. “Through Room in the Inn, we came to learn someone else’s perspective through dialogue. It’s been incredible to see how much students from the Belmont community wanted to give, and it pouring back into our loves. Thank you for facilitating that experience.”

Drost Kokoye, who worships at the Islamic Center of Nashville and works at the American Civil Liberties Union, recalled how much fun she had using the last of what was in the kitchen cupboards, beans, spices and cheese, to make chili with Belmont students.

“It instilled that our values are very much in line with each other and helping people and getting to know each other better is what our faiths encourage,” Kokoye said.

“It’s a good opportunity to meet people in challenging situations, talk to them and understand how they face challenges. And it helps us to feel good about ourselves. It was a pleasure to meet the Belmont University students because they were real passionate about what they were doing and really involved,” said volunteer Abdelhamid Askarne.

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