Archive for May, 2010

May 22, 2010

Ministry Reactions

I’m out in ministry every day, caring for street-dependent young people in the 12 blocks west of the UT Campus. I experience different reactions from the community. Here are some:
  •  A sidewalk food vendor watches me carefully. One day he calls me over. He says I’m doing a good thing. Talking with me, he reveals that he was a troubled youth like my clients. He gives me cash donations from time to time and also food he can no longer sell so that I can share it with the youth.
  • A young man completing a degree in Architecture, who has always been drawn to helping these street-dependent young people who are so like him in age and interests, decides to get a social work degree. He did original research to help determine what type of housing options this age group wants and needs.
  • A sidewalk vendor who travels from place to place tells me: “I have done my part. I fed the bird. This is more important than feeding the homeless.” This man seems to live a sad and shriveled life. I am left speechless by his views but do pray for him.
  • A man I used to work with collects a certain toy. He literally has dozens, maybe hundreds. One day he decides that one more in his collection will not make him happy. Not even a hundred more. So he sells the whole collection on eBay and donates the funds to SYM. He tripled the investment and turned it over to help the ministry to know, love, and serve street-dependent so that they may come to know Christ and connect with Christian community.
  • An older man, street-dependent one year ago, volunteers regularly and donates food items when he can. He was befriended by the street-youth population and now gives back. He takes them to dinner occasionally, as well.
  • A street vendor in the market square shares herbal remedies for many things that troubles a street-youth. She was once a street-youth herself.
  • Another street vendor in the market square meets me at the curb and yells, “You can’t stand here. I’m calling the cops. This is a market and not a sidewalk. You encourage the youth so I’m calling the cops.” The police declined to come. I continue to pray for her troubled and angry life.
  • A young woman going to school notices me hanging out with street youth she has met in the past. She inquires. She becomes a regular volunteer. Because of her love and training as a volunteer, she successfully and safely invites street-youth to her church for dinner and worship.
God, let the ripples from each of these reactions spread out into the community. Let those that are not from you, dissipate quickly into nothing. Let those that come from your will, your love, and your spirit spread and grow, bouncing off the many rocks and obstacles and continuing without limit or bounds.

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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May 7, 2010

Do we encourage street life?

"Do you ever worry that you might encourage street youth by all that you do? I mean…I know it's good to help out, but I've always wanted to ask this. I figured you might know."  This is the question that "David" asked me.  It's one that comes up more frequently from the community than from street kids.  I said, "Frankly, you're probably the expert here. You should tell me. Do the social workers help or not? Do I? I'll tell you what I know but I also want you to tell me what you think." He agreed.

I said, "The social work name for encouraging a destructive behavior is enabling. Social work organizations, religious organizations, and I all worry about it. I get asked about it from potential donors and volunteers almost every week.

"David, if I could change only one thing for those to whom I minister, it would be to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Once you know Jesus, if it's OK with Him for you to live on the street, then it's fine with me. If it's OK with Him for you to drink, then I have no problems. I'm not the judge. I believe that God is so big and so powerful that I can trust him to help make whatever changes a person needs once they get to know Him.

"I provide relief as a way of getting your attention, as a way of getting to know you, as a way of loving you. Frequently I come empty handed; I don't want to be seen as Santa Claus. I want to come and enjoy your company. But, sometimes I get caught up in the stuff and in the numbers. When I do that, I sin; I separate myself from God and take His ministry off course. When I began providing sandwiches on Friday, I promised myself that I would never apologize for not having any or enough. Sometimes I do worry about it. That's a temptation that I feel on an almost daily basis, and it's a problem that I think every organization faces, including the social work ones and the religious ones. What do you say, David? Are we enabling the kids or not?"

He said, "I've been on and off the streets for 15 years. I'm older than many of these kids out here. There is no question that you make it easier for me to stay out here. I knew you'd be down here with food today. But if you didn't come, I could find food anyway. But you do make it easier for me. I think only 15% of the kids are listening right now. And that's worth something. I mean you're planting seeds, and you don't know what happens down the line. But most just want to party and stay out here right now."

"I agree with you. The Bible even uses words like you chose, David. We do plant seeds. Some are swept away by forces of the world. Some don't grow well or even sprout at all, but some do. The Bible says those who do grow well multiply greatly and are very valuable. Jesus is so gentle he would not break a bent-over stem or blow out a candle while even the smallest glow remains. (Don't get me wrong… In the end, Jesus will judge those who do not know Him.) So I rejoice in sharing whatever I have to give, David, in the way of relief. But I treasure most moments of real authenticity and conversations about God, just like this one."

May 4, 2010

Possum Update

Some of you loved the story a little over a month back about the possum babies adopted by street youth. They found them after a big storm, apparently orphaned one way or another.

Here’s an update on one of them. She’s going strong. Very same. Spends most of her time riding on one of her two owners. She’s extremely friendly and loves to eat bugs and worms.