Archive for September, 2010

September 27, 2010

It hurts to fall

I can’t believe I’m back on the streets again. I hate the street. I hate being out here. I can never sleep well outside.

I was working my butt off at my job and doing good. Getting paid. Paying rent. Had a nice bicycle to get around. I was making it. And then, SLAP… I’m back right where I started again. It stinks!

I really just want to leave… run away from Austin. But I love my job and it will be hard to get another.”

As I listened to “Joey,” I allowed him to vent and spill it all. Then I replied, “Joey, I know it’s hard. I know it feels just like you say. And I’m not going to argue with you. But can you try to see yourself through my eyes for a moment? … Can you?”

He said, “Sure.” But half heartedly.

I began, “I see someone who knows how to make it. I see someone who wants to get off the street. I see someone who isn’t drinking himself into a stupor for something to do. I see someone who isn’t numbing out with drugs. I see someone who knows what he wants and is willing to fight to get it.

“And I see someone who is a million miles from where he was when I first met him. I don’t see someone depressed, ticked-off all the time, and not caring about anything. Instead of all that…I see you.”

He thought and then agreed that he isn’t those things and that he used to be. 

But it’s hard. I had it all and now I’m slapped back to nothing again. I got detailed by the police but they were mistaken and let me go. While I was detained, my bike got stolen. And I just paid rent to my roommates, and then they locked me out. It’s not a documented lease, so what can I do? They are just using my money and laughing. I’ve got nothing and I’m right back where I was.

I replied, “I know you’re hurting. Let me give you a visualization because what you think can effect how you feel, just as much as the other way around. Can we try it?”

Imagine a “Super Ball.” Remember those bouncy, practically indestructible rubber balls? Put it down on the ground in your mind. Let it roll around aimlessly. Let it even get kicked occasionally around as people go by. It’s rebounding here and there, but it doesn’t really bounce because it’s on the ground. Now in your mind lift that little ball up to some place higher, even just a little. If you drop it, it bounces almost as high. If you throw it, it bounces back even higher. Now even if it gets whacked down hard, it comes back fast! It bounces back immediately, fast, in a particular direction, and almost as high. And with a little help, it bounces higher and higher. Sure, it hits the ground every once in a while, but it spends most of its time in the air. That can be you.

We talked a little more about some healthy ways to vent his frustration. Then he gave me a special gift with these words that I cherish:

I don’t like it out here, even though I have some friends that I care for. But you are the only one I listen to… the only one I let give me advice. You’re the only one who I take things from because everyone else wants something in return.

My prayer is that Joey bounces back fast and stays in the air most of the time. I pray that he also comes to know more people he can trust and that more people show him kindness and the light of Jesus Christ.


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September 20, 2010

A Humble Encounter

I recently had a brief counseling session with a street youth in front of my good friend, Mark. This friend has walked with me through discerning my call to ministry, starting the ministry, and watching it grow. But the events that enfolded one day during our regular coffee time allowed him to see how SYM works with homeless people on the street. And Mark graciously agreed to share his observations:

Terry and I get together for coffee on UT’s campus nearly every Thursday afternoon. It’s a bit of free therapy for both of us, I suspect.

On one recent Thursday, he and I were talking about some particular biblical passage. (Our conversations often weave in and out of the Bible, although we never have an agenda toward that end). Terry mentioned that some of his street kids were particularly knowledgeable about things biblical. Since I’ve witnessed the decline in biblical literacy among the general population, I thought it particularly ironic that street kids–many of whom never even finished high school–may be the biblically astute ones among us.

As were we discussing this, John–an older street kid of about 30–wandered through the student union, needing to use the restroom. We kept talking. On his way to Wendy’s, John walked right by us. Terry said, “Hello,” and John stopped to chat. He told us straight-forth that he was mulling over the significance of a particular piece of Scripture which he quoted to us. We continued talking. A student union representative–noticing that John seemed out of place not because of his age but because of his attire–sauntered up and wondered if John was bothering us. “No.” In fact, she was the one bothering our conversation.

John was bothered by the attempt to shoo him away. This led me to assuring him that he was worthy of attention and love. “John, you are a wonderful creation of God. You are beautiful and lovely.” John replied, “You know, I think I really needed to hear that just now. You start to doubt that living on the street and being treated the way we are.”

[Mark continues:]

Like many of the kids Terry works with, John is navigating not just a personal world of emotional challenges but a social world that wants him to disappear. It’s ironic: nobody else would’ve guessed John’s biblical acumen, even though we were sipping coffee on a university campus. It brought to my mind how Paul asserts in Philippians 2 that we “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” What a tall order for us. We don’t often do that with our families and peers, let alone street kids. Perhaps it’s time.

September 9, 2010

My Savior Was a Tramp Like Me

I am focusing on community around Street Youth Ministry this year. To build community, I will teach leadership and invite two different groups to have a stronger roll in SYM. The first is the community of West Austin. That community is dominated by thousands upon thousands of students who walk through and live in the neighborhood. They see my clients and  some give them something (leftovers, a small handout, or a small purchase from a store), some shake their head in disbelief or disapproval, and some cross the street to be away from them because their street culture is just too foreign. I'm praying, "God, help me to give these students a voice in SYM by Your grace. Help me to invite them into classes to teach loving with boundaries and to teach about the street culture. Help me to invite them into volunteering in our activities. Help me to hear from them what is needed for this neighborhood and work with them to enable solutions."

The second group is the clients themselves. They are great at showing up and have proven they truly want the types of services and treatment they receive from SYM. But these individuals are so capable and gifted, and SYM hasn't been good about giving them a role in the ministry. I'm praying, "Jesus, help me to help the street youth organize events, prepare materials for events, use their talents at our events, and lead events. Let me hear what services are needed from them and work with them to enable healthy solutions. Help me to train those with leadership skills to use those gifts in new ways. Allow street youth to develop a healthy voice in Street Youth Ministry."

Even as I'm praying, I thinking, "These two goals are huge. How can I do this? The students of UT are not engaged in SYM… few even know SYM exists. And the street youth typically are in a mode of showing up and receiving. And they move so often, how can I develop leaders?" I have so many questions and challenges it's overwhelming at times.

On the student front, I have relationships with a few churches in the area. And I have relationship with Campus Renewal Ministry, a group of almost 80 Christians ministries that work on the UT campus. So I have some place to start.

And just to give me encouragement, God opened my eyes to something in the street youth. 

My music CDs were recently stolen (first time anything was stolen from the ministry in 26 months). So we don't have worship music for our weekly Bible study. One youth plays  his guitar for money on the sidewalk and always carries it with him. I told him it would be wonderful if he were willing to learn something Christian and play for us each week. He replied, "I know a Jesus song or two already. I could play today." 

After we got the food out and got settled down, I asked "So will you play something for us?" He got out his guitar and played this song. It turns out he wrote it, lyrics and melody. Now I'm praying, "God, I am so humbled to know these street youth that you created some wonderfully. Help me to help them discover and release their talents and gifts. Help me to help them learn about You and your Kingdom so they may take their rightful place, both leading and following in the Body of Christ."

My Savior Was a Tramp Like Me 

(c) Shea Grant, Used by permission

Let me tell you a story 'bout a Tramp
Saved my life so I wouldn't be damned
The story's very old, as I'm sure you've been told
His name is Jesus and He was a Tramp like me

He walked throughout all of the land
Spreading Good News and Salvation for man
He fed five thousand heads with two fish, alittle bread
My Saviour was a Tramp like me


He was Trampin' to the very end

Teaching Love wherever He went

Resurrected the dead without a place to lay His head

My Saviour was a Tramp like me


The high priest, they wanted Him dead

'Cause they didn't like the things He had said

But He kept ramblin' on 'cause His time was yet to come

My Saviour was a Tramp like me


With His buddies He broke His last bread

Then betrayed by His own friend

He was beaten and flogged and he was nailed to a Cross

My Saviour died a Tramp for me


Those roads must've been very hard

'Specially 'cause they didn't have any cars

I've done wrong and am ashamed but He loves me just the same

My Saviour was a Tramp like me


He died and rose again for the forgiveness of my sin

My Saviour was a Tramp like me

You can read more about Shea and all his poetry at

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