At 6 p.m. they appear at the open door. One by one they accept a warm washcloth to wipe the day’s grime from their hands and faces.

More than 150 dinner guests then begin filling a large room in the church basement at Broadway Baptist, aptly named Fellowship Hall.

Flowers rest atop each cloth-covered table.

As the pianist softly plays, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” volunteer table hosts stand and raise an arm in invitation. “Welcome to Broadway,” a kind voice says from the podium. “We have plenty of seats. C’mon in.”

David Grebel smilingly surveys the long parade of tired guests, men and women of all ages, from all walks of life, and their children.

Many, if not most, are jobless and homeless.

They are the faces of the hungry and thirsty, folks who spend the summer months outdoors under a wilting sun.

“This is a good place to be on a hot night,” Grebel says.

His greeting is gospel truth.

“Come find a table. The air is cool and hearts are open.”

For seventeen years, the Fort Worth church has provided a free Thursday night dinner to all who need a respite from life on the street.

One recent evening a guest couldn’t keep the news to himself.

“Today is my birthday,” Kevin told the seven other men seated with him.

Kevin’s birthday meal looked like a feast:  Meatloaf, roasted potatoes, green salad, dessert, and limitless iced tea.

His table host reached for a wicker basket.

“God wants you to have this bread,” the host said to the guest seated next to him. Each guest repeated the words as the breadbasket made its way around the circular table.

Everyone recited the Lord’s Prayer and then ate until they were full.

Pat Hardy has volunteered at the Agape Meal for seven years.

“We try to feed everyone who lines up for a ticket, but we have to follow health code rules to seat only those our kitchen can feed and guests can’t take food out of the building,” she said.

Pat is wheel chair bound.

Despite her physical limitations, Pat feels called to be a part of this program every week.

David Grebel is the Director of Extended Education at TCU. His office is responsible for community programs, selected professional development and other continuing education efforts on the university campus. He has served as a “fill-in” worship leader with the Agape Meal since 1995 and agreed to take on the responsibility every week earlier this year.

“I do it,” he said, “because of the important ministry the Agape meal performs and primarily because it is fun.”

After the meal, David invites guests to speak of their needs and share their blessings, large and small.

•  A man searching for his sons for 18 years is thankful he recently re-connected with them.

•  A woman close to giving birth asks prayer for her baby’s safe arrival.

•  Some ask for peace on earth.

• Every week more than one guest asks God to watch over our soldiers stationed half a world away.

Grebel shares a message of hope with his Thursday night friends. He recently told about his own son adopting two children. “We are all God’s children, he reminded, “even if we don’t share any DNA.”

The first time I volunteered at an Agape meal, I thought, I want to be a part of this every week. This is a good thing.

Check out these titles of hope and healing:

What Difference do it Make? by Ron Hall

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall

Sorta Like a Rockstar: a novel by Matthew quick (YA)

I Beat the Odds: from homelessness and beyond by Michael Oher

Breaking Night: a memoir of forgiveness, survival, and my journey from homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray

Susie Casstevens serves as the librarian for the AH Meadows Public and High School Library. Contact Susie at 972-775-3417 ext 1061 or visit the web at library.midlothian-isd.net