PB & Jesus combines sandwiches with the Gospel
To some Lee students, Saturday afternoon means worship, service and peanut butter and jelly.
Meeting at the home of senior psychology major Leticia Olvera, students involved in PB & Jesus participate in a movement to love others by simply serving the homeless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and speaking with them about Jesus.
Initially an outreach opportunity in connection with The Gathering at North Cleveland Church of God, Olvera and sophomore Nathan Zakkas quickly expanded the one-time event into a weekly project. Zakkas said the idea was inspired by the Jesus Burgers movement, which originated in Isla Vista, California, and was tailored to serve the homeless.
“[The Gathering pastor] Noah Herrin asked us to lead the outreach for The Gathering, and the Lord laid it on my heart to give out PB&Js,” Zakkas said. “It’s cool that we get to provide sandwiches to [the homeless], but even better that we provide community, share the Gospel and empower them.”
For the past six weeks, students and other church members have gathered before their outreach to make the sandwiches, writing messages across each plastic bag. According to PB & Jesus participant Lindsey Laudermilk, these messages contain loving statements to encourage those who receive them.
“We write a saying like ‘You are loved’ or ‘chosen’ on the bags, and a lot of [the homeless] pick out the saying that they like the best or need to hear that day,” Laudermilk said.
With cases of water bottles and bags of sandwiches in hand, the group heads to the gazebo in downtown Cleveland to build relationships with those who are often overlooked. Sophomore music education major Christian Edwards said he sees the act less as charity and more as community involvement.
“It doesn’t feel like we are going out to help the less fortunate but [like] we are seeing friends each week,” Edwards said.
Beyond providing food, Zakkas has started giving haircuts to those who request one. Zakkas said what began as a simple compliment on his own haircut turned into the chance to boost a homeless man’s confidence.
“He really liked my hair but was saying how he could not afford to get his own haircut, so we went out and got all of the supplies,” Zakkas said. “I have never cut hair in my life, but we decided to just take a chance, and I just tried my best and cut his hair.”
Since this first haircut, requests have been made for more, leading Mia Evelyn to take after Zakkas and bring her haircutting tools to PB and Jesus. Equipped with her own haircut knowledge, Evelyn knows how a small change like a haircut can empower others to feel their best.
“I cut my own hair, and I am hoping that we can bring the aspect of haircuts into PB and Jesus,” Evelyn said. “It really makes a difference in how they see themselves, and I want to help in that area.”
Zakkas said he wants this group to allow people to humanize the other and encourages fellow college students to recognize the value of all people.
“They are real people and souls, not a service project,” Zakkas said. “We want to build a relationship with these people—not just go out one time and say hello and forget about them, but have a lasting impact on them.”
According to Zakkas, this effort will continue to develop relationships that allow students to show the love of Christ and impact the lives of the homeless in their community.
“There is nothing like the love of Jesus,” Zakkas said. “He changes everything.”