Archive for June, 2013

June 29, 2013

Why do we care?


A client walked alongside me as we finished street outreach. We had given out 20 meals on a chilly Friday afternoon.  He asked me, “Why do you make life easy for the people you choose to serve by giving out food? Shouldn’t you be teaching them to fish instead?” It’s a good question.
The client at my side hasn’t come to any core events so he has only seen me reaching out to people on their home turf and on their own terms. So my first answer was, “I don’t give out food or stuff to make life easy. I do it to start building a relationship.” He worked on that for a while as we continued to walk.
“Why do you want a relationship with them? So you can mentor them and teach them how to get a job and stuff?” Another good question. I told him, “We form a relationship with them for lots of reasons, but the biggest reason isn’t to teach them how to get a job. We’ll glad to share things about getting jobs, learned mostly from successful clients over the year, as well as point you to some some people who help with jobs all the time. But that’s not the main reason we get to know people.” He puzzled on that for a bit and then asked for more.
“The main reason we want a relationship is so people will ponder important questions,” I said. “We want our clients to ask ‘Why are you here?’ and ‘What do you want from me?'” He responded, “That’s what I want to know, too.”
I continued, “I’m here because, after a journey of some years, I’ve concluded that God truly loves me and always has. And in response to that love, I want to know and serve you guys… I want you to have another chance to get to know God personally. I think it matters. I think it’s important.” He replied, “I believe in God. I know He’s out there. I just don’t believe in all that Christian stuff.”
I answered, “That’s OK. I understand, but I’ve decided that Christian stuff is real and can make a difference even out here on the street. I’m here so that you will wonder why I do it and what makes me Christian. I’m here so that in our relationship, you will feel safe enough to ask questions. So you might trust me enough to start praying and talking with God. So you might risk enough to start reading and trying to understand the Bible. So we might know one another well enough that we can be real about life, about what hurts, what we want, and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ might fit into that in a real and relevant way.”
We want our clients to be stable, sober, and have a relationship with God, and to join communities of Christian believers. When this happens–and it has been happening in record numbers this year–it’s a wonderful new beginning. But we cannot make it happen. We believe that a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the only sustainable fix for the lives of our clients. They are unbelievably strong in so many ways, and a personal relationship with God becomes a huge asset for them. Together with God, they often repair their lives and move from the street to become productive people with friends, families, and strong futures.
It begins with a question: “Why do you care?” Volunteers, supporters and encouragers are all part of causing clients to ask this question. Thank you for being part of SYM.

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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Text or call: (512) 553-3796
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Arrange a meeting with me: doodle.com/terry.cole

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June 15, 2013

Creating a praying community on the street


Some supporters ask how we approach our clients about prayer requests. Many are not Christian, and most do not pray on their own regularly. We simply ask “What do you want God to do for you?” at an appropriate point in our conversations. We like this question because it places emphasis on God’s provision, which is available to believers and unbelievers every day. It also puts God in an active role. Often the answer is “whatever He wants” or “just bless me.” To that we reply, “That’s fine, and we’ll pray. But the more specific you can be, the more helpful it may be. I believe God really wants to know what you want. Maybe He won’t do it, but He wants to hear it.” 
Another way we get into prayer requests is when we are asked for something (like shoes, guitar strings or a backpack). If we have it, we simply say, “God provided one of those today, and I’d be happy to give it to you if it will help.” If we don’t have the thing they have asked about, we never promise to go buy it. We turn it into a prayer request. We write it into our prayer book. And we share it with a prayer team member. The street youth have come to value that a lot. One client puts it this way, “When things go into that little book of yours, Terry–they just happen!” We also usually give them a little homily when they ask for things. We tell them: “Jesus said ‘Ask, seek, and knock.’ The ask part is what you just did. We’ll ask God for it with you, too. The seek part means you start looking for it. We’ll watch out for it, too. And nobody who wants the door opened knocks once and runs away. It means keep looking and keep asking.” More frequently than not, the street youth finds the item before we meet them again, giving us an opportunity to talk about God’s provision for them even on the street. And that’s awesome!

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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Text or call: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: doodle.com/terry.cole



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June 10, 2013

Grateful Message from a Recovering Client


We try hard to keep up with recovering clients and clients who are not in Austin. We use email, Facebook, and SMS message. We got this voice message today from a client who’s working and reached out to us with a prayer request in frustrating few days…
Hey Terry, I’m on my break, so I only have a few more minutes. But I just want to give you a call and tell you thank you so much. Because every single time my faith seems to start to waiver–and things get too much, you remind me of Who I need to turn to. And I really appreciate that Terry. And I really appreciate you. Thank you for everything you do for the street kids, and thank you for everything you did for me when I was on the street. Thank you for all that you do. We ALL appreciate you so much. Alright. Bye.
We love to hear from clients! Drop us a line on FB, by text, or by email. 

Support SYM.


“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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Become a fan on Facebook!

Text or call: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: doodle.com/terry.cole

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June 8, 2013

“There’s nothing better”


Yesterday in our weekly prayer time, a client started a sentence with “There’s nothing better than the feeling you get when…” That got my attention. The client had been quietly reflecting on our prayer time and filling out a brief worksheet designed to help him take something personal away from the group prayer time.
I asked him to repeat the sentence for everyone. “There is nothing better than the feeling you get when someone gets their crap together and gets off the street. It’s so great when they come back to visit.” He went on to describe how happy he was for several clients from Austin and from his home town of El Paso that have gotten clean, housed, employed and “together.”
We love it when clients come back to visit, too! We agree with our client, but we add one thing: there is nothing better than the feeling you get when a client gets their stuff together and claims their rightful place in God’s Kingdom!
In the rest of the prayer time, clients shared what it’s going to be like then they get their stuff together. I’ll be clean. My family will accept me. I’ll be completely sober. I’ll change my habits. I’ll have a nice place. I’ll be a good dad. I’ll start a career. I’ll make music every day. I’ll see doctors who keep me healthy. 
Join us that these prayers come true, and that our clients do find their place in the sun in God’s Kingdom!



“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Wishlist   Publications  Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up

Become a fan on Facebook!

Text or call: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: doodle.com/terry.cole

Follow SYM: Facebook LinkedIn Blog RSS Twitter Plaxo Blogger YouTube Google Plus

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June 4, 2013

The Economics of Used Clothing and Shoes


Today I read an article that Oklahoma doesn’t need used clothing and shoes. I want to say that SYM categorically does need them in Austin, Texas. There flat out is insufficient supplies of adult clothing for our our impoverished people here in Austin. Clothing is rationed and people regularly are turned away with shoes falling apart or pants torn due to lack of stock and sizes.
The agencies responding to the crisis in Oklahoma correctly point out that cash is more flexible and requires far less work to manage. They point out correctly that is makes more sense to stimulate the local economy in a crisis by enabling people to purchase new items for themselves. SYM completely agrees with all of this, however, we have to be practical when dealing with a daily flow of impoverished clients seeking help. Funds are not available to cloth our impoverished in Austin. However, we are blessed with volunteers and people willing to donate used clothing. And I know there is a lot  clothing out there. We just need to organize it and get it to the right spots.
First, let’s establish some scale of need for SYM. I would love to receive 500 to 1000 pairs of used adult practical shoes today. We and those we are partnered with can give out 30 or 40 pair of practical adult shoes weekly, about 25% women and 75% men. We can use flip flops, practical sandals, work shoes, work boots, army boots, and even practical dress shoes. Most used shoes don’t last long, unfortunately, and especially when they are your only pair and worn without “rest” every day. We have the storage for about 1000 pairs right now. We don’t have the money to ship it, but we can manage it once it’s in Austin. Would we prefer money to purchase 30 or 40 new pairs of shoes weekly? Sure… but we have to be practical. And there are choices… we’d far rather spend that type of cash on food or rehab or health, for example. For the records, we need about the same number of shorts and belts. These are always in short supply, especially for men. I’ll finish this paragraph by stating that we also give away about 100 pairs of socks every week and could probably give away about that many underwear. (Our ladies prefer panties and our men prefer boxers or boxer-briefs.) We strive to give away new socks and underwear but sometimes we don’t have them.
With that paragraph out of the way, let me share my dream. I dream of the local church in the Austin area collecting used clothing, laundering it, folding it, sorting it, and holding it in a closet. Each church would become part of a network of churches, feeding upwards toward every clothing closet in the city. Some would be collection points; some secondary hubs; and some primary hubs. We’d have a supply network with storage, ready to deliver when needed by a closet. It’s not easy to run a clothing closet, but it would be easy to be a collection point and supply hub. That’s our dream! Certainly we’d like to see it for our most excellent clothing closet partner, University United Methodist Church, and we’d love to see it for every clothing closet in the city. UUMC has the most space dedicated to clothing storage for the poor that I have seen in Austin, and yet they must ration mens clothing and rarely have shoes to fit their clients. We could change that! Distant small towns saving clothing and moving it on occasion to suburbs. Suburban churches saving clothing and moving it to larger hub churches. Volunteers at clothing closets sending out emails to their hubs with monthly needs to be filled. It would be awesome!
Why bother? I think it’s important that the local church gets involved in the lives of all the impoverished people right in their back yards. I know that simply buying “new” clothes would be “cheaper” if you factor in people’s time. But the time is a precious gift, and it may make more of an impact that the clothing can ever do.
If you’re part of a network of churches who would like to organize this clothing railroad, please contact us. This railroad would have a lasting impact on our city for years if not decades to come. It would be green, it would foster fellowship and church inter-working, and it would be run by people who care for and encourage those impoverished in the city of Austin–now 11th largest city in the country. It would be a blessing to the poor and, I know, the volunteers would be blessed as well.

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