Archive for March, 2010

March 26, 2010

Big hearts

March 23, 2010

Today in Ministry

I recently had request for a description of what I do in a day for ministry. Here was Monday:

9:00 Daily Bible Reading (at home). I read with a group of folks following a reading schedule. We email one another when we’re done to help keep accountability. The group is described here. Anyone can join the group. was founded by a friend of mine. The theme today was God is Faithful.

10:00 Prepared for Bible Teaching on Tuesday. I’m teaching through Matthew 8 this week. The focus will be on the value of faith. I will also help the street youth relate to as many of the people described in Matthew 8 as possible. Some might relate to the leper, the Roman solider, or the demoniacs. (Not that they are any of these, but these men suffer in some of the same ways as many of the street youth.) In addition to reviewing the scriptures and commentaries, I also designed an group session. We will start out by talking about how someone they observed was sick and recovered and how that felt. Then we will share a time we felt really sick ourselves. This will go with the healing theme found in Matthew 8. After the Bible lesson, we will play a memory game with two teams. The game pieces are all items relating to faith. I will ask whoever makes a match to describe someone they know who values whatever the match is. I printed out 15 matching photo pairs with things like prayer, worship, bible… and money, church, running. And we will conclude with a personal time of sharing about the value of faith to them… high, low, strong, weak. How do they take care of their faith? How do they feed it? I printed the lesson plan and emailed it to my helper.

Noon: Had a lunch with my wife. It’s one of the benefits of us both working out of the home! I had a meatloaf sandwich made from marked-down ground beef. We try to use money stewarded to us by donors wisely. After my delicious sandwich, I had my big indulgence for the day: my one cup of coffee. I get irritable after more than one cup and it messes with my sleep, so I enjoy my one good made-at-home cup of coffee after lunch. Mmmmmmm… I checked up on FaceBook and email while I enjoyed it.

2:00 Volunteered at the Street Drop-in Center of Lifeworks (located in the basement of a church on the Drag). Actually I’m an adjunct staff member. This was my first day there in a week because I took Spring Break off from Lifeworks. So everyone was happy to see me again and there were some new folks. I screened a couple of new folks for eligibility. I had to turn one away because he was 24 and was able to help the second with the in-take paperwork. I helped him with food and advised him how to get the bus pass he was seeking. I checked in with a couple I counsel… I regularly ask about their stress and anger levels on a scale of 1 to 10. Both were superb… a very welcome change. I also followed up with a couple of people who I knew were thinking of traveling soon. I tried to follow-up with a very young client, but he was not open to my questions. I tried to follow-up with another young man. He let me know that he was having a terrible day and didn’t want to talk. I respected that and let him have his space. A couple of people started physically play-fighting. I broke that up because the drop-in space has to be safe for everyone. No horseplay allowed. I noticed one young man in bad physical shape. I checked in with him to find out why he was hurting. I helped refer him to some medical advice. I signed one young lady up for dental treatment on Monday. I sat with another young girl who was scowling. Turns out she’s on some medication that is really upsetting her stomach. We talked about what options she might have to help this. I found some saltines for her to take away. All in all, I visited with 19 street youth. Three were new to me. 

3:45 Drop-in clean-up. Each day we spray down all the furniture with bleach water to kill germs and parasites. We sweep the floor and take out all the trash.

4:00 (outside) I walked the Drag from 26th to 19th street. I found my first group in back of a parking lot near 25th. They were talking about one street youth’s birthday party over the weekend. I wished him happy birthday. I followed up with one of these youth about getting an ID. He lacked an address for receiving some important paperwork so I helped him look at his options. I invited them all to Bible study the next day at 2.
I met my next client waiting to cross the light. He’s a very regular Bible reader, but today he was limping. I asked what was the matter and found out that he had gotten a bad foot fungus over the weekend but had begun to treat it. 

I met a trio from Maryland next. They are new to town so I tried to familiarize  them with the rules of downtown Austin (no sitting on sidewalks, no panhandling near ATMs, what aggressive panhandling means). I don’t expect them to follow all the rules, but traveling kids always seem to appreciate someone helping them learn what’s what in a new town. I invited these newcomers to Bible study tomorrow also. 

The next group I met were begging for spare change (they call it “spanging”) at the corner of an abandoned storefront at 24th. I held an impromptu drug counseling with two of these. They have both expressed being sick and tired of addiction. One is taking action to look for a job. The other is thinking of starting over in a new location. I offered options for getting help to both and suggested that both have to start dealing with the addiction… neither jobs nor a new location will be good unless the addiction get addressed. There is no easy path for either of them. However, they can choose which way to go and how much help they accept. Both were appreciative of our discussions. At the same location, I met a young man who I hadn’t seen for a while. He’d been in jail last week. He was drunk and a little out of control. But he was at least talking with me. He has a very big hurt in his life that he needs to eventually deal with. I asked how he was doing… OK. I asked what he’s up to. “What I’m best at,” meaning taking risks and hurting himself. I prayed for him as I stood with him. I pray for him to come face to face with his trouble either working with me or some other person who can offer support. He’s alone with his hurt now… and it’s so much to carry. I reminded them all that they were welcome at Bible study.

The next person I met was one I had seen in the drop-in earlier but who was having such a bad day. He wanted to talk now. I listened to what was bugging him. I was relieved because, even though it was sharply painful for him, it wasn’t severe. We talked about some options he had to relieve what was bugging him. He adopted a plan and set about it. I reminded him about Bible study tomorrow.

This continued as I worked my way down to 19th street. In all I met with 26 people this afternoon. That’s a pretty high number. I gave out nothing today while walking. I do that on Fridays. While it would be wonderful to give stuff out every day, I’ve got a couple of issue with it. First, I’m not buying their relationship and I want them to know that. Second, it takes a lot of time to manage all the material, moving it from donations to storage to loading it and giving it out. I reserve that for Tuesdays and Fridays.

6:30 Dinner with the family. First day back from Spring Break was good for everyone. 

7:30 Responding to emails. A new monthly donor needs to be thanked for letting me know a regular check will be going to Covenant to support my family and ministry. I edited my web site because I noticed some horrible mistakes on the donation drop-off site page. I responded to a donor who wants to drop-off a needed boom-box and to help proofread future publications. I sent thank you notes and photos to the sandwich providers from last week. I uploaded photos from my camera that will be used for an upcoming blog.

8:00 Updated my records for last week. I write down the names of everyone I visit with each day. This helps me learn their names and serves as something I can pray through in spare moments. I enter the records each week into a spreadsheet that updates my web page graphs at far this year, I’ve met 154 new kids and reconnected with 58. I’ve had 1605 contacts so far this year with new and old clients: 143 for witnessing, 28 for crisis intervention, 71 for counselling, and 422 for follow-up discussions.

8:30: Created a welcome email for all those people new to our mailing lists but who haven’t yet received a newsletter. I haven’t sent a newsletter since January, thinking everyone heard quite enough from me in November and December! However, it’s important to keep people aware of FaceBook, the web page with sign-ups, ministry needs, donation methods, etc. I am told over and over again that it is impossible to over-communicate to busy people! The email should be waiting in the in boxes tomorrow morning of the 120 people who are new to Street Youth Ministry volunteer, newsletter, and donor lists since early December 2009.

9:00 Wrote and edited this blog entry.
March 14, 2010

Traveling Youth

Traveling kids are part of the street youth culture. These kids, unlike clients who stay in Austin, ride trains around the country. They get crusty and dirty. They come to town, stay a few days, and often move on. They don’t always fit in with the rest of the street youth. They are sometimes harder to get to know. And yet they are a joy to know when we get the chance.

At the beginning of outreach this past Friday, I saw a very experienced traveler named “Peter” sitting quietly on a church lawn. He was in an out-of-the-way corner with another younger traveler, “Joe”. As you can see from his photo, Peter’s appearance is very distinctive; he has tattoos all over and wears a lot of leather and metal. He clearly stays outside all the time, but his sleeping bag is good and his heavy pack is filled with gear and supplies. Peter was feeling terrible the day before and had been abrupt with others.  Still, I wanted to say “hello” again and offer both some outreach materials: food, water, and information. Peter is suffering from a set of things that are sometimes fatal to traveling kids-complications of a life led hard and fast. Sometimes they get over it… sometimes they don’t.

I said a prayer of healing for Peter as I approached the two of them. I smiled. I called Peter’s name. He looked surprised, probably thinking I was going to complain or ask him to move along. But then I saw that he recognized me. He smiled back. Today, he was in a better mood. 

“Hey! I’ve got some sandwiches and snacks. Need any?” I asked. He pointed to a box of food on the ground. “A dude name ‘SteamTrain’ just kicked down a bunch of sandwiches. I’m good. Full in fact.” “Wow! SteamTrain is back!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen him in…9 months or more. Wow! I can’t wait to see him again.” “He’s pretty famous. He’s been traveling a long time. It was cool to sit and talk with him this afternoon.” Then Peter asked, “Do you have any juice or something?” “I have drink flavoring and water. Would that do?” “That would be awesome! It helps take away the bad taste that sometimes hangs in your mouth.”

“I also have a goody bag. Would that help out?” He said, “Sure,” but it was half-hearted. I handed the full gallon zip-lock bags to him and his friend.  As he looked it over, I explained, “4th and 5th graders made them. I taught them about the things a traveler might want.  They put the bags together and put a note in each one. I taught them that you like some of the same things they do, so they each brought a toy from home to include.” Peter looked the bag over. He smiled and said, “This is the very best outreach bag I’ve ever received! Usually it’s just a pack of crackers, a bologna sandwich, and maybe a bar of soap. But this is packed with cool and useful things.” He read the note and said, ” Take my picture with it so the boy who made it can see and know that I really appreciate it! Oh my! There’s a P-38 can opener in here! This really rocks!”

[Peter’s note says, “God loves you. In the bag there are things for you. Love, Clayton.”]

Joe held his note up and said, “Let the boy know that I smiled when I read his note. This is so cool!” 

[Joe’s note says, “I hope this bag makes you smile. (heart). God loves you! M@dden”]

Both of these guys were new to Austin. I took the opportunity to give them a “Know your street rights” brochure. This booklet, prepared by some local lawyers, explains Austin laws pertaining to downtown and street folks. They were so appreciative. While they may be unable to choose to follow all the rules, they don’t want to cause trouble and prefer to know the rules. “We want to get along. We don’t want to ruin it for ourselves or others.” I noticed they had a bag and had picked up all the trash from around the area they were sitting.  “Thank you for doing that,” I said as I pointed to the bag. Joe got up and picked up even more trash from the whole lawn, obviously stuff that had been before they came along.

I said, “I guess it’s time for me to walk on. I’ve got more ground to cover today. I have a question, Peter. Would it be OK if I prayed for healing for you? I know you’ve been feeling bad and I know it can be very serious. I’d like to pray for you.” He said, “Of course, man. I’d love that. You’re a good man and your prayers might just help.”

The rest of the day of outreach was fantastic, perhaps one of the best days on street outreach that I can remember. I kept my promise and prayed for Peter several times that afternoon. I worked late into the evening because I had opportunities to lay hands and pray on one troubled young man, chances to offer drug counselling to a couple who hope to clean up soon, check-ins with at least four clients who are no longer on the street and working to maintain and improve their more stable lives, and the opportunities to meet and greet in the name of Jesus Christ more than 20 street-dependent individuals. 

As I drove away from my parking space that evening, Peter and Joe were peacefully sitting in the same place in the dark. I said one final prayer. “Lord, please help them pass the night peacefully. In their dreams, let them have visions of knowing you. Let them know the truth of who you are. Let them wake tomorrow with a need to respond to your love and a hunger to know more about you. In the night, repair Peter’s body and help him to make choices that will allow it to keep healing. Thank you for allowing me to minister to these two and all these others in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
March 8, 2010

On the value of Donations

I know that is donations are a touchy subject. Talking about finances is a bigger taboo today than talking about sex! Some assume I’m independently wealthy after 25 years of high tech. That’s not the case. I do, however, have enough saved for college for my kids and an eventual simple retirement (and it was invested like everyone else’s so it’s little again). However, for the daily food, clothing, transportation, bills, and ministry expenses, I depend on donations.

That was hard to swallow at first. But after studying the Bible for about 3 months (that’s how long it took to go through all the passages that relate to how God supported his prophets, disciples, and those called into service), I was convinced that relying on the support of others is Biblical and even right for me. It humbles me and puts me in the proper position for daily ministry.

I want to share a few of the valuable donations I have received:

  • When I first began this journey in the summer of 2008, I was scared and feeling like I was a complete nut case. Fearing failure from the end of one career, I was second guessing myself at every corner about a calling to mission. But one man in particular made me talk it out and figure it out. He listened and he believed. And that belief became infectious as it took root in me. This man’s financial donation came unasked and unexpected, even before I had begun fund raising! The faith with which he put money in action shored up my own faith in God’s calling. What a difference it made to me and my family.
  • I have a prayer newsletter that goes out every month to dear people who pray for the ministry. I let them in on the needs of clients, the ministry, and my family. Their contribution is so valuable. One dear woman on this list is widowed and barely gets buy. But she sent me a handwritten letter and a $5 check. That check made me cry. I wanted hold on to it forever. I knew this would offend her so I cashed it. I will remember that check for a long, long time.
  • In my study of fund raising in the Bible, I came across many passages describing how right it is for the students to pay for the teacher. I thought, “That would be cool, but my students are homeless and poor. Fat chance of that!” One day, a young man on the street came to me and said, “I was going to buy beer with this, but I want you to have it for your ministry. You come out here and expect nothing in return, so this is yours.” Others have done the same. To date, I have received $2.58 from the street kids. I keep careful track of it because it means so very much to me.

There are many more stories of sacrificial giving, generous giving, giving without being asked, giving because they were asked, and more. Each donor has a unique story. Each donation is an act of love and worship. I’ve highlighted a few, but what an amazing gift it is to be supported financially in God’s Kingdom. 

Whether God supplies you from your employer, from your hard work as self employed, or from a church: know that it all comes from God. Perhaps you will be as lucky as me to have it shown so obviously that every penny comes from God. It is certainly a blessing to me.

March 2, 2010

WWJD: What would Jesus DRINK?

I was standing today with some kids out in the 40 degree rain, under the eaves of the Scientology building. It was an unlikely place for a deep discussion to develop about Jesus, but I’ve learned that you just never know about such things.

A couple of the kids had gotten a gift care for doing a research interview and had sent someone to the nearest grocery store for “cigarettes and such.” I said, “It’s OK. You can say alcohol around me!” They smiled, “OK, then. We send him for beer and cigarettes!”

Then a familiar discussion started. A street girl said, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. That’s Proverbs 31:6.” “Yes, I said. The Bible has no absolute issue with drinking. And neither do I. I drink.”
Many were listening, now. Another young man joined in, “If Jesus were here right not, he’d sit down and drink with us.” I thought and said, “Perhaps. I think it might depend.”
Yet another youth said, “His first miracle was making wine. And it was for a party. If Jesus were here, he’d party with us!” Again, I said, “Maybe. It would definitely depend.”
I continued, “Jesus helped people. So his drinking with you and partying with you would only be if it helped you and didn’t hurt you. We all know people who hurt themselves with drink. Jesus wouldn’t want to be part of that by drinking with them. He wouldn’t want to help you hurt yourself, but I bet he would be here. He would hang out with you. I just don’t know if he would drink or not. He and you are the ones who would be able to decide if drink hurts you or not.”
I was about to say something else, when”Adam,” another “street youth” came up. Adam is saved, but he’s addicted and trapped in street life. He’s been on the street since his late teens. He was told he’d never live to 20. Then 30.
Adam had listened to our conversation and had this to add: “I don’t know about  Jesus drinking with us or not. I do know that Jesus wouldn’t get drunk. I do know that Jesus wouldn’t get out of control. Jesus wouldn’t go too far and let alcohol control Him. And I do know that Jesus wouldn’t use alcohol to cover up pain or avoid what he’s supposed to do. Jesus refused wine on the cross that would have taken away some of his pain. And he bore that pain to save us. So I don’t know if he would turn around and be part of us hurting ourselves with alcohol.”
I could only add, “Bring it, Adam! I don’t have to preach more. You’ve said it just right.”
If Jesus walked into a part of your life today, what would Jesus “drink with you?” You can substitute anything that tempts you for the “WWJ drink with you” question.  The point is that Jesus could navigate our world today without sin. We are unable to do so. This is no surprise to Jesus since he saw each of our individual sins from his vantage point on the cross on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. BUT–“Adam” is right– Jesus chose to feel the pain of our separation from God long ago. He paid for it. So we can choose to return to God through Jesus Christ. Let us live so that when Jesus walks into Austin he finds us busy doing His work, loving His people and one another, and praising His Father! I bet he’d want to have a glass of wine and throw a party at that point! Amen.