Well I had meant to start out this month with a homeless ministry (which you'll hear about soon!), but before I highlight a ministry designed to address the problem of homelessness, I thought we could take a step back and talk about some of the stereotypes / thought processes that we often associate with this issue.
I think we all know that there are homeless people "out there", but not many of us are necessarily aware of who these people might be.
Can you name a homeless person you've talked to or spent time with in the last 30 days? 6 months? 5 years? I don't ask that to shame you, but to help us all in being realistic with regards to how often we interact with homeless populations.
The first time I truly thought more in depth regarding homelessness was when I read Mike Yankoski's book "Under the Overpass". Mike was a suburbs kid who grew up on the top end of the middle class and enjoyed a comfortable existence.
There was a time in his life when he began to question how real his faith was, his theory being that it is often times all too easy to claim we trust God with everything, when in fact we really are relying on our bank accounts and other comforts. If all that was stripped away - if we truly had nothing, no home, no possessions, no back up bank account - would our faith waiver?
How would our relationship with God change if all of our extraneous "stuff" was stripped away?
Would our relationship with others - with those "different" than us - change?
Mike (with his friend Sam), spend 5 months living on the streets. They meet a plethora of people, of all kinds. Community people, church people, homeless people. And they learned a lot about how the church (and its members, the Christians), come across to those who have desperate, basic needs.
"...we experienced big programs, big churches, and big talk, without much love in action, at least for two unappealing transients like us."
During their time in the streets, Mike and Sam weren't looking for someone to give them a thousand dollars, or a new house, or anything really huge.
They were simply hoping for - depending on - compassion. So what better place to run than the church, right?
The best people they remembered were the people who purchased them a hot cup of coffee when it was cold, or shared a fast-food meal, or on the rare occasion even a home cooked meal.
One church group embraced them beautifully, feeding them and welcoming them with loving acceptance. Unfortunately that group was very much the exception, not the rule.
Some of the worst experiences?
The church guys who watched Mike repair his completely ruined shoes while he sat in their church with bare and bloody feet, then let him know they would be praying for him as they walked away, not even attempting to address a very basic (and very easy to meet) need that was right in front of them.
Or the pastor whose response to a question about whether he knew of anyone who would be willing to offer them some food was met with the following: "That's not what we do here. We're here to worship. We can't confuse our purpose."
When did worshipping God come to equal the exclusion of feeding the hungry, or giving water to the thirsty?
And yet...how many times in our own hearts do we answer the twinge of conviction in similar ways? With phrases like "We can't become a soup kitchen", and "Give something to one person and then everyone will be at the door", and even "Well I don't really have that much myself, so I can't really be expected to help out". If that's your knee jerk response to the needs of those hurting around you, you may need to reevaluate your heart condition.
Are you taking your love of possessions/money/etc, your greed or hard heartedness, your lack of true love and compassion, your judgmental spirit, and masquerading these things as "wisdom" and "good stewardship" of what you've been blessed with?
If that's the case, I challenge you to read the Gospel's and seek the heart of Jesus on how we are treat others, especially those we can visually see having "less than".
As I said, I will be highlighting a homeless ministry in the upcoming weeks, but before I put that out there I wanted to challenge each reader to examine their perspective of homelessness and how believers are called to meet the needs of those suffering around us.
It may look different for each of us, but ultimately I can assure you that it will spring from the overflow of the Father's love for us, and that is truly a beautiful thing.
**If you're interested in a challenge, be intentional in the next week about finding a way to give - tangibly - to someone around you that you may have never even have had the eyes to see before!
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