To know, love, and serve street-dependent youth
Yesterday I counseled a 22 year old man names “James.” This is is second bout with street-dependency after several years of being housed. He lives on the street, has taped up shoes, relies on handouts for food and clothing. He showers by finding someone in the campus area who will let him use their place to clean up. Can you imagine looking for a job like this? But he is!
Imagine the courage to apply for jobs in this condition. Imagine the strength it takes to go in, apply, explain yourself, and promise that you’ll clean up, get a place to live, and new clothes once you get that first pay check.
But James is doing it. He’s found temporary work now, even in this very tough economic environment. And it looks like he’s going to get a job at a sandwich shop with what promise to be substantial and reliable hours of work every week! This has to be so exciting for James.
I asked him, “So how are you feeling? How’s your head?” He honestly replied, “Terrible. I’m so down on my self. It’s hard, dude.” “What is bringing you down? I mean, you’re doing it. I know you can do it. I know you will move through this. So what’s bringing you down?”
James explained, “I’m hearing my ex-girlfriend say things about me. I know she’s critical of me. I know she may even come after me for some things. And it worries me.” I explained, “Psychologists tell us that what we think effects how we feel. And what we feel is what we begin to act out. So, perhaps you can remember that your ex-girlfriend isn’t here. Those words in your head are your words. And they probably make you feel terrible. And they could influence how you act soon. Be careful letter her words into your head. You’re a great guy. If she’s going to cause problems, then let them come at their own pace. Let her say the words. Don’t fight her battle for her.”
“James, how do you get ‘UP’? What makes you think good thoughts?” He replied instantly, and his reply caught me off guard. “I read the Bible. Just yesterday I read the Bible and it really helped me. And I go see my ex from last year. It helps me to talk with her. It gives me hope that I can put my life back together like it was when I was with her.”
I had to return to the Bible thing. “How did the Bible thing happen yesterday? Tell me more!” James said, “It was weird. I was thinking about reading the Bible. You gave one to me earlier, remember? You wrote in it and everything. But I put it off because I have already read it… all of it. But there I was thinking about it, and there was this college dude sitting at a table. He asked me if I wanted to read the Bible with him. And I thought, ‘Why not?’ So we read in Romans together. And there were 6 verses that completely explained how I was feeling that day. It made me feel so good to know that I wasn’t just nuts.”
I told James, “I don’t believe this was a coincidence, dude.” “Neither do I. God sent me to that guy! I don’t normally even like to do Bible study, because I don’t think anybody has the right to tell me what the Bible says. You just read it. I mean… it’s all there.”
I smiled. “James, you’re right about part of that. I and nobody else have the authority to tell you what the Bible says. But Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to help with this and many other things. When we read, the Holy Sprit wants to help us understand. But me… when I read alone, I sometimes get in the way. I sometimes want to put my own spin on it and ignore the Holy Spirit. That’s why I like to read with other people. Because the Holy Spirit can work through them and you. It helps give us an easier way to listen to the Holy Spirit when we study in groups, just like he worked through the group you had with the college guy yesterday. You can read and read and read. But when the Holy Spirit shows you a phrase or a verse or a passage, it can jump out like you never saw it before. Or you can see it in a new way that just rings true but that you never saw before.”
Imagine being on the street. Imagine going through life’s difficulties without comfort of house, home, shelter, shade, cool.
Isn’t is wonderful that our Lord provided through the anonymous actions of a college student brave enough to read his Bible in public and daring enough to offer to share it with a street kid? Isn’t it wonderful that our Lord provided the Bible through generous and kind supporters? Isn’t it amazing that Jesus, present when the world and everything in it was created, doesn’t hold his Lordship over us when we stray but chose to empty himself out on a cross so that James could receive guidance and comfort from a few versus? I am so blessed that the Holy Spirit moves in the streets. May we all learn to be a bit more like James, a bit more like the college student, and a bit more like Jesus.
“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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It was not by accident that we attended the conference. Speakers said this many times. God put us there. God puts things in peoples' paths to help them become leaders. and eventually he comes to them with a task. Things happen for a reason.
People at the conference were very friendly and treated me with respect. One guy told me to stay how I am, because I can reach people who might not trust a normal looking person.
It was nice to see people who were not afraid to show and act on their faith in Christ. They people speaking got up before a hundred thousand people to make a difference with their words. And not to benefit themselves. For at least a moment, they gave me that same courage!
A lady came up to me to tell me that it angers her that there aren't enough services for people who like on the street like I do. And she told me that she admires my courage and strength! I don't always feel like I have courage, but I like that she encouraged me by seeing it!
The lady pastor who cam from a messed up background, Christine Caine, impressed me. Now she is able to give people hope. And she called everyone to look around and find people to help out!
I loved hearing from people with real experiences, who have been doing things a long time. I really liked the GE dude, Jack Welch.
I loved the drama they enacted from the feeding of the 5000 and getting out of the boat. It reminded me to keep my faith, even when I have very little of it, because God can multiply it!
It was so great to see people reading and teaching from the Bible with such passion and such character!
The author of The Land Between, Jeff Manion, hit me hard. We're all kind of stuck here, just trying to get to the other side. I was having a very hard time before I came, even angry at God. Now I see a way forward through the desert and out of the desert, but not staying stuck in the desert.
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