Archive for August, 2010

August 27, 2010

Farewell my traveling friend

Then we listened to Johnny Cash's "Let the Train Blow the Whistle (for me)." We described ways we'll miss Tink. They will miss his attitude about street unity. Tink really believed that even though street youth have differences of opinion, they really needed to stay in unity. Some said they would miss his dog, Boxcar. I said I would miss how he took young travelers under his wing. I will definitely miss Tink this fall when we have a new crop of young travelers coming through. I could count on Tink to help them understand the rules and how to be safe.  I read the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept." He felt the sadness of the death of a friend and cried. He felt the grief of the community that lost the friend and grieved alongside them. Even though he knew he would command his friend Lazarus to rise form the grave in a matter of short time, he took the time to grieve. It's important to feel the loss from one who passes from the community. 

Then we listened to our final song to move us into celebrating again. We heard Grateful Dead's "I Know You Rider." I admitted to them that Tink and I had only a few conversations about his beliefs. I knew only that he believed in God for sure and that God was a almighty. I regret not knowing more. I read from Hebrews that we have a savior who does not hold god-hood above us but rather knew temptation in every way–and yet was without sin. We can approach the throne of grace and mercy without fear because we have a savior who understands Tink's life, who understands the troubles, who understands the pain, and who understands the simple pleasures that Tink taught so many to enjoy. 

We closed in fellowship and community, something Tink would have approved for sure! We had food galore from a generous donor… sandwiches, chips, cookies, snacks, cold water, and soft drinks. In honor of dogs, we had leaches, collars and dog food. In honor of traveling kids, we had sewing kits, wash clothes, and fresh socks for everyone. 

We left a bunch of flowers and Tink's photo at the place where I first met him some years ago. He was sleeping against a tree. He looked kind of scarey in his hat and leather jacket, and he was asleep. I had a bag of goodies in a ziplock… socks, shampoo, water, maybe a few other things. I timidly asked, "I've got a ziplock bag here with some things that might be useful… socks, shampoo, water. Could you use them? They are yours if you can." He looked up, scowling a little menacingly at first, and then broke into a smile and said, "Yes. Those look great." Then he saw a big bright note inside, made by the 5th grader who assembled the bag. It said in crayola, "I hope this bag makes you smile." He said, "Can you take my picture so this kid knows I got this. And tell him it made my day." In fact, that photo is the photo I shared for his memorial. I just softened and blurred it a bit to help us understand that he's not with us anymore.

Good-bye, my dear traveling friend. You lived too fast and too hard. You're gone too soon. But we noticed you and thank you for letting us know you, to love you, and to serve you. It was an honor.

Here is a poem composed by a street youth for Tink:

Wrong Turn
Dedicated to Tink from Angel

When times are hard we run and hide
Seeking help not wanting to die
Afraid of my shadow that dwells within

Showing I'm not afraid or scared to see
I hide my pride in my self-pity

But all in all I know what's best
So now I lay my life down to rest

To my friends I am still here
Gliding through the wind but disappear
Do not cry I am still here

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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August 22, 2010

Thank-yous can take awhile

I was at a conference listening to the amazing story of Kazi, a formerly homeless orphan who now runs a huge ministry for street kids in Brooklyn. He coaches the kids to make hip-hop CD and music videso. There is a new movie out about it. He was the closing speaker and his topic to inspire us was "that you don't always get the thank yous but you need to know you make a difference."

He told his story of growing up as an abandoned child in poverty and abuse. It was very hard to hear, but it was real. And he named by full name the people who made a difference in his life. The lady who first fostered him from the orphanage. The social worker who helped him when no one else would. The theater teacher who taught him and his thug friends ("street pharmacology majorw and five finger discount businessmen") drama when they otherwise never attended school at all. The man who kept telling him "to write that–your dream to help street kids make their own music–in your dream book; someday you may make it come true." The man (an incognito philanthropist) who believed in his dream and funded it. The executive directors who financed his CD project and now the movie project. They all had names. And they all worked without thank-you from Kazi for years. And he remembered them all. And now he's called them all to say thing you… sometimes 25 years later.

He assured us that each of us do make a difference it the young lives we work with. He had us pair up and thank one another for the sacrifices we make. For the giving we do. For the thankless tasks we endure. For the difference we make in young people's lives. I left feeling great.

Later that day, my phone rang while I was doing outreach. It was hot. I was working alone and the bags were heavy. I was passing out food. I didn't plan to answer the phone, but I did. It was a client, "Johnny," who lives in Oklahoma. I worked with Johnny two years ago. I've spoken online with him in the past year. Today, "I just thought I should call you and say thank you. I'm here visiting with 'Jimmy,' who just came up from Austin. He's telling me all the wonderful things you are doing. We both want you to know that you're making a difference. People notice and care that you care about them. Keep up the great work."

I have a great boss who makes all my work possible (JC). And I have great donors and volunteers and in-kind donors, without whom the ministry would surely have closed long ago. But it was great to hear that the ministry has made a difference and continues to count. Thank you, Johnny! Thank you for sharing.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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August 20, 2010

The Holy Spirit of the Streets

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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August 7, 2010

Reflections on Leadership Summit

This year I was privileged to take two maturing Christian clients of SYM to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. This is my 6th year to attend! It always inspires me and fills me up. I have made many new friends there. But the greatest joy I have ever gotten was from taking two of my clients there and seeing it through their eyes!  And the conference coordinator let me know that next year, Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church wants to arrange scholarships so that more street youth can attend.

Here are  some of their thoughts taken down at Amy's Ice Cream, as we celebrated the first annual taking of Christian leaders from Street Youth Ministry to the conference!

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. 

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."

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