Hoping to raise $500 tonight on our Crowdtilt to help start 2 new programs for 2014! https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/help-sym-start-2014-right Who can help start the ball rolling?
I got a phone call from a client named “Tommy” in the evening. He started, “Something strange is happening on the Drag.” I braced myself as Tommy continued, “I want you to see what I see! I think really good things may happen soon.”
My client is not the first to have asked me “Do you see what I see?” About two years ago, a pastor from a church on the Drag once informed me that he had come upon a group of clients praying. Someone had just gone to the hospital, and a group was sitting and praying, some distressed and crying and others leading a prayer. The pastor had never seen this before.
All the credit goes to God’s glory, but we began teaching our clients how to pray every week almost four years ago. We also placed emphasis on taking prayer requests from them and sharing them with prayer warriors. We have poured countless hours into nurturing their prayer lives so they feel comfortable sharing with God… their needs, the good times, the bad times, and the ugly. And God has changed their lives.
A pastor that I meet with for supervision remarked during one of our sessions, “I have to stop and simply give praise that the street youth have become a praying community.” It was a very promising sign. Do you see what I see? Tommy’s news promised to be even better!
Tommy said, “People are talking about Jesus tonight. I don’t mean preachers. I mean that street youth are talking to each other about Him!”
Many street youth have come to Christ over the years. We know because they write to us from wherever they have settled down and tell us about their successes and transformation. But lately, we’ve seen clients come to know Christ on the street.
Again, all the glory goes to God. Many people work with street youth in their daily lives and it is always our goal to get them plugged into local churches. The people we have poured into for years have become saved!
But even more is going on. I want you to see what I see! There are at least five clients who are regularly going to local churches and sharing their faith on the street.
- One is a Saul-to-Paul story of intense persecution of Christians until his conversion.
- Another is a story of black-arts magician to Christian.
- One was a drug-crazed person constantly going to jail and now is totally transformed.
- Another is the story of a shy young lady who could barely speak in public now sharing her faith openly.
- And Tommy is a man healed, once crippled by mental health issues and now fully in love with God and loving others.
God has met each of these people with his transforming power. Oh the joy of seeing what I see!
And fruit has begun to multiply. I couldn’t be more excited that these people are taking their street friends with them on Sunday, and helping them receive the Gospel. At least one more has been baptized through their work (and is now away at a rehab). Another has renewed her faith and joined them in spreading the Gospel.
Do you see what I see? I can hardly believe my eyes! It is so wonderful to see the strength of these young people turned into Gospel tools for His Kingdom.
I taught our last Bible study of the year. Being the last study before Christmas, I wanted to talk about Jesus’ coming. Clients have asked to study the Old Testament and have reacted positively, so that’s what we have been doing.
Always someone says they love the Old Testament, and then someone else says God is too mean. That gives us a great chance to talk about God’s unchanging nature and how the Gospel and grace can be found throughout history and throughout the Bible.
I decided to use Old Testament passages about Christmas. We read Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
We then talked about which Christmas traditions are found directly in the Bible, which are reasonable Biblical, and which are apparently invented for other purposes.
Then we studied another Isaiah passage. But first we talked about where Isaiah is in the Bible and what a prophet is, both in contemporary terms and Biblical terms.
Then we read Isaiah 9:6-7:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.“
We went through this passage phrase by phrase, taking it apart and figuring out what it could mean. The government is a hot topic for street youth, and the government sitting on Jesus’ shoulders is a pretty frightening concept. We decided that this refers ultimately to Jesus’ role in Revelation, since kings were in charge back then and men (Presidents, congress, etc.) still are in charge of governments.
We discussed the titles given to Jesus. Prince of Peace was their favorite. Street youth long for the world that is promised by Isaiah and Jesus’ coming. A world where justice and righteousness prevails. A world ruled by a Prince of Peace. That is so different from the world they experience now. But there is a built-in longing in them–indeed in all people–for such a world and such a ruler.
And finally, we discussed how Jesus brings this kingdom about. How his Kingdom breaks through on earth even today for brief and sometimes extended moments. And how his Kingdom is coming, as described in Revelations when a new heaven and new earth are provided and all of nature and everyone is made right with God. And we discussed how confessing our short-fallings, asking for help to be made right with God, and wanting to do better is how Jesus can make us right with God even this very day.
A miracle happened last Thursday evening.
Even as we loaded up our last sweaters and coats and blankets to give out on the street, a small group from Austin Stone called to help serve in the cold. What a blessing to have their help!
We served 26 of our clients that night, and everyone managed to find what they needed; despite us not having very much to start with. It left us critically low and still facing multiple freezing weather days in the forecast (not to mention the fact that it’s only early December)!
But at the same time supporters and volunteers from Austin Ridge, Covenant Presbyterian, NW Jazzercise, Cub Scout Pack 459, and Lavernia, TX were at work.
The supporters and volunteers dropped off collections of blankets, coats, jackets, sweaters and sleeping bags that filled up “the sleigh” to overflowing.
We were ready for tomorrow and the weekend!
One of our recovering clients has one of the the best wits I know. I love following his observations of life on his Facebook page. He has such a great ability to see the comedy in everyday life.
He recently was sharing how disturbed he was about terrible things a self-proclaimed Christian was doing in this world. This resulted in a flame contest with one of his followers as Facebook conversations that involve guns, politics, or religion are apt to go.
I was very proud to see him explain that people of faith, and of no faith, have all done terrible things. And that many people of faith do wonderful things. And many people of no faith do wonderful things, too. It’s common sense, but it’s not a common sense that you find all that commonly today; in this extreme and polarized world.
He also said, “One of my good friends, Terry Cole, runs a youth ministry that helps homeless youth, and he was a great help to me.”
We are proud of this recovery client.
He works, pays rent, pays taxes and gives to organizations that help others. He got: clean, stable, and married. He’s an asset to the city he lives in. He may have little, but he follows his empathy and compassion to give of himself, and part of what he works hard to earn to help others.
A reflection from this summer.
Last August I was convicted, by a couple of things, that I needed to stop doing ministry alone. First, in a couple of events, I had to give my attention to keeping order and protecting our partner’s building and room; rather than on the needs of a client in trouble.
I balanced my duties as best I could, but my client suffered; in that I couldn’t give them the best that I could. Then I listened to several sermons on the Global Leadership Summit on sharing ministry load. The sermons were so compelling that I went home a broken spirit. I was failing to share the load and the ministry was suffering as a result. Fortunately, God pumped me up again, for the second day of the GLS and the message was very encouraging. So, I committed.
Right after that, we lost two rooms for our planned indoor events. Remodeling, or simply the message, “it would be better if you met somewhere else”, were the reasons. I tried to find solutions before shutting down the events, but I failed. I talked with every church partner we have and many new ones. After three weeks, I was nowhere. So, we shut down our events and began to wait. In fact, I went away on a retreat to Guatemala.
When I returned from the retreat in Guatemala, God had been working on the problem, because we now have offers to use at least 5 rooms in the week. Awesome, or so I thought. However, there were no established volunteers at any of the new times. How hard could it be, I asked myself.
I started calling, emailing, and messaging. I committed to finding about 12 helpers for each of the time slots, one for scheduling, and two as co-facilitators to step in on occasion. After several weeks, I was pretty frustrated. I literally have added one available name to the list for the first event I wanted to start; our Bible study on Tuesday from 11am to 1pm.
I was tempted to cheat. And God really is sending messages about how many people want our Bible study to start. I got asked every day by clients if I’ve found a place yet. In an alleyway, a young kid called me over to confess his fear of addiction, even as he experiments with hard drugs. Faith isn’t a resource for him, but he told me he would come to a Bible study if I held one. The same day, in that same alley, a young man spoke to me a memorized Islamic prayer and asked me if I would teach him about Christianity. My heart was breaking that we didn’t have our Bible study. I was so tempted to cheat. But that would be cheating our clients. They deserve me and a couple of helpers; so that everyone would get the attention they need.
I awoke Wednesday morning realizing that I needed to switch my prayer meeting with other ministry leaders; to that morning. I hurried to get there. The topic that day was praise and thanks.
I offered my thanks:
- for the many locations we had,
- for the clients who want to study the Bible,
- and for the reason that God had already solved our volunteer problems (even if I was frustrated by waiting).
At the end of the prayer time, the young minister who had sat next to me, told me that his group had been convicted this year by not having a homeless ministry. And he now plans to work with me to staff our Tuesday Bible study, including the co-leaders, scheduling and helpers!
So, I patiently and expectantly wait. In faith. And with great expectation of what it may be like.
We will open:
- a Wednesday Bible study 2pm to 3:30pm,
- a Thursday clothing closet 2pm to 4pm,
- a Friday job club 11am to 1pm and perhaps even more.
God IS good. And the right answers are worth waiting for.