Posts tagged ‘prayer’

August 3, 2014

A Beautiful Dinner At An Unexpected Time


It was Saturday morning and I was very heavy with bad news from the street. I had received notice that one of our clients passed away the Thursday before. A 25 year old girl tragically died for medical reasons while in custody of the police in jail.

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I found myself suddenly involved in a visit that the family arranged for this day in Austin. They are Russian immigrants who now live in Connecticut. They came to view the body of their daughter and to say goodbye,  but they also wanted to meet some of her daughter’s friends. I have learned over the years that grieving parents do not always mix well with grieving street friends. So this made me pretty anxious and I tried just about everything to avoid it. But by Saturday afternoon, I found myself with two of the street youth and the family at a funeral home. It was difficult but very amazing to see how the street youth and family responded well to one another.

And then the family wanted to attend a Greek Orthodox vespers service together with about a dozen of their daughter’s friends. So we moved from the funeral home to the 11th street church where a group of about 10 more street youth were waiting. They waited one block away and seemed reluctant to come nearer. But we brought them near and into the church. Many of the clients looked so uncomfortable but they endured for the sake of their friend’s parents. 

They lit candles for their loved one at the door. Some made it to pews in this very traditional Byzantine church although many came in only so far as to sit in the very back row of chairs.

After the service, the parents wanted to eat together with the street youth. Pizza at a local place on the Drag, easy for all to access, was selected. It was an odd dinner. Three Russian people sitting with a dozen young people from the street sharing pizza. Each talking in their native languages (street and Russian) and as best they could having a dialog another about their daughter or friend’s life. I haven’t often seen such wonderful acts of compassion as these strangers grieving together and eating together.

The parents sat and asked, “Tell me about my daughter” and the street youth told them how much everyone loved their friend. It was a foretaste of heaven for sure for me. And to think I wanted to somehow avoid this difficult situation!

Please pray for the family who held a hometown memorial recently and are walking the mourners’ path for their only child.

Pray for the girl’s street family and that they will grieve appropriately and well.

Pray for healing in the street youth community. There is a lot of anger over this death. We held a street memorial recently to allow everyone in the street youth community to grieve and stand together in this tragedy. We did the service outside under a tree, with music, food, flowers, and eulogies. It was heartbreaking and difficult but extremely special.

​Pray for change in our justice system. Already the city and country are working to find better ways to deal with alcoholics in jail. Pray a good solutions come soon. Already some courts and agencies are hiring social workers to deal with and prevent the most frequently offenders rather than continue racking up high costs and ineffective outcomes. And of course, pray that our clients become ready for change and don’t get involved in these systems at all.​

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July 31, 2014

Volunteers Impacted By SYM


Volunteerism really matters for our clients. It’s how we can afford a lot of the social justice that we offer our clients. And volunteers keep us going; we could not even thing about serving 100 individuals every week with more than 1000 conversations or interactions per month without volunteers. It would simply be impossible.

But volunteering also blesses our volunteers in lasting ways. Here is a story we recently got from a SYM volunteer:

Please pray for me to faithfully pray for the “traveler” Scott that I shared a meal and prayer with in Las Vegas.  Scott was raised in the church and is confused why a just God allows wars.  Scott also needs to be accepted by his father as the person he is, where he is at right now.

We prayed that Scott would forgive his father for his hurtful expectations and we prayed that Scott’s father would forgive Scott for not fulfilling all the father’s expectations; and that this forgiveness is by Christ’s work on the cross and not our power, but Christ’s power.

Scott was hoping to move into a weekly rate place and earn enough money to stay there. Pray that the person who was going to help this happen is true to his word and is not seeking to harm Scott in any way. As we parted Scott said, “thanks for a time of humanity”.

I have to tell you that this encounter made the trip for me – the rest of time was nice as it was spent with family, but I am really praying that Scott makes some changes in his lifestyle. My time with Scott made me so thankful for all that SYM does.

God Bless you all, especially today, and I am praying for all that SYM does and will do. 

Love in Christ.


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December 21, 2013

Do you see what I see?


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. 


Thank you so much for being a part of this!

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September 19, 2009

Venting to God


I met one of my dear friends on the street this week. “Joe” has remarkably changed his life the last three week. Joe has become sober from multiple substances that he was abusing. He has gotten a job. He has moved into a stable housing situation. He has begun attending sober meetings and working the 12 steps. Everything Joe told me was great, but it suddenly, but as I listened to him I realized that his words were saying one thing and his voice was saying another.

I interrupted Joe, “Can I stop you and just ask you a question?” He said, “Sure. Anything.” I continued, “You are telling me all these wonderful things, but your voice sounds frustrated and stressed. What is up?”
Joe looked at me for a while and then began venting. He was frustrated because the stable living situation that he could find was a boarding house that is also a sober house. “They expect me to do 20 hours of community service every week. They expect me to give them 48 hours notice if I’m going to be out after 9. I can’t do that stuff. If I’m not working, I’m at a meeting or with my sponsor working the steps. They just don’t understand!” His voice got more and more angry. I let him vent.
Joe suddenly stopped, looked conflicted, and said, “I know I need to be grateful. I should be grateful. Really I am grateful, but I didn’t sign up for this sober house. I thought I was just getting into a boarding house. I feel like just taking my next check and running away and saying ‘Screw this!’
“I’m sorry. I need to be grateful. I’m sorry.”
I thought about what to say and what to do next. I asked, “Do you have a Bible? Are you reading scripture through all of this?” He said, “Yes and no. I’m reading the Bible but I don’t have one of my own. I’m using my sponsor’s.” I knew this was something that I could fix, but I continued with more questions.
“What are you reading” I asked. Joe opened his diary and showed me passages that he had written down. Psalm 25. (To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me….) Matthew 4:1-11 (…Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.). Joe told me why he loved these passages and then added, “And I love reading Job.”
I responded and asked him, “I love reading Psalms. Did you know that a lot of the Psalms start out with intense anger and frustration being directed at God! Some of the psalmists really let God have it: ‘Why have you forsaken me? Where the heck are you? Why are you letting the bad guys beat me up like this? I hate this! And I’m pissed at you!’ And then they end with things like: ‘But… you are my God. I will trust in you even now. I will put myself into your care. I have no other hope, so I will count on you.’
“I am noticing that you are angry but that you feel like you have to be ‘sweet’ with God. I suggest that you approach God on your knees but with all your emotions intact. Let him know how hard it is. Let him know how betrayed you feel. Let him know how scared you are. Don’t just share the grateful side of you with him–although it’s wonderful that you can be humble and grateful. Dare to share your whole self with God.
“My favorite character from all the Bible is in Job. Elihu is his name. He’s a young man your age. He sits and listens to Job. He sits and listens to the old men who are supposed to be wise. Job cries out from the pity pot of life. The three men offer him sharp rebuke in the disguise of friendship. When Elihu has heard them out, he tells them, ‘I have waited because you are old. I have listened because you are supposed to be wise. But you have totally missed the point!’ And then he tells them the truth. I love that! And I can’t imagine how God must have smiled during his speech to Job and his three ‘friends.’
“And while we’re talking about Job. Remember that Job totally loses his temper and self control in the last chapters. He cries out, ‘You have forsaken me… I want to see my God and my accuser and my judge right here… right now… right before me.’ These are angry and frustrated words. And God listens… and God shows up. It’s horrifying and humbling. Job immediately falls to his knees and says, ‘I am nothing. You are everything. I’m sorry, and I was wrong. Forgive me.’ God does. And God restores him fully… better than ever, in fact. But notice that Job didn’t get there by being sweet or even by being grateful. He got there by being real with God. And I think it’s OK… I think it’s necessary… for you to be real with God, too.”
We prayed together. Joe also needed to tell someone here on earth (a case worker) that he is frustrated with the current living solution. We practiced doing that until he could do it authentically but not hurtfully. When he was ready, Joe used my cell phone to call the human he was angry with to be real with him as well. It was frightening to Joe, but he did it.
We walked together back to my truck, and I gave him a Bible. I wrote these words in it and presented it to him in the parking lot:
“I believe in you. You are a beloved child of God. In you, He is well pleased. Be blessed by this Word and become a blessing to others. In love… Terry.”
He read the words, looked at me, and said, “Thank you. This really means a lot.” We hugged. And he went to his job and to his meetings and to the next hour of his new life.
May God bless Joe today and every day. May Joe grow in his authentic relationship with God. May we all grow in authentic relationship with God, so that we can fulfill God’s purpose for us: enjoying God today and tomorrow and forever and becoming a blessing to all nations.
March 28, 2009

Plain Talk


I am often asked what do I do when I’m on the street. I have been keeping track of my activities for the last couple of months so I could better answer that.

In a typical week during the winter (our “busy” season), I spoke with between 60 and 70 people in a week. While my target is on young people in the 17 to 27 age range, this number includes all homeless people I meet. However, about 90% of it is in the target range. And every week I meet between 10 and 15 new people. So that means in the last 3 months of winter (13 weeks) I have met and spoke with between 190 and 250 people! That might seem like a lot, but you have to remember that Austin data conservatively shows there to be between 900 and 1000 homeless people not in shelters under the age of 25.

I speak with a person an average of twice a week. So I’ve had the privilege of about 500 conversations in the last 3 months.

Now what does “speak with” mean. What’s in a conversation with Street Youth Ministry? I don’t want to mislead you and think that I have a 30 minute in depth session with each person, but I do have that with some. To further think about my ministry and what I do, I have divided my conversations into types: introduction, follow-up, witness, discipleship, counselling, and employment. I actually see far more than the number I count, but if I don’t at least have one of these types of conversations, I don’t include it in the count.

The first time I meet someone, it’s an introduction. I typically just meet them, focus on learning their name and something that will help me remember their name. Often I learn their dog’s name because the pair is easier to remember than just the one name alone. I try to find out where they are from and where they are travelling from most recently. I try to find out if they are staying for a while or just passing through.

The subsequent times I meet them, it’s typically a follow-up. Follow-up can be quick and is by far the most common type of conversation. I recall their name (or get help so I can remember it better next time). Then I ask how they are. Then I go into follow-up by guiding the conversation around to whatever they said was going on with them last time. For example, if they had lost their ID last time, I ask how it’s going in terms of planning to get a new one and in terms of problems caused by that. If possible, I try to guide them to forming a simple next step in their plan or process. This includes things like drinking, drugs, needing clothing, a job, emotional issues, relationship issues, etc.

When a person is truly working on something and I can make space and time to work with them, I call this counselling. This is typically 10 to 30 minutes in duration. In that time, I used techniques like harm reduction, the change model, and strengths based conversation to help them work toward a plan of their own to improve or better deal with some aspect of their life. It can be reduction of drinking, reduction of drug use, reduction of violent behavior, having safer sex. It can be figuring out their resources that are relevant to getting things they needs like clothing, medical care, dental care, food, transportation, ID. Sometimes it working specifically toward employment. I do this often enough that I consider that a special category. If I work on resumes, job interests, practice interviewing, or sources of jobs with folks, I call that an employment conversation.

Occasionally, a youth presents in crisis. The working definition for crisis that I use is the state where a person cannot form plans of their own. Solutions that are in their head are simply not accessible to them in the crisis state. In such a case, I help them remain calm, assess the situation, and even decide on an initial course of action. Helping them to recall how they have dealt with problems like this in the past is very helpful. Helping them identify resources and relationships they have that can help is useful. Guiding them to not be a harm to themselves or others is crucial. Typically a crisis state doesn’t last too long because these kids are very resilient and respond well to crisis counselling. Because I work in a team environment, I can often pass along severe situations to licensed social workers or to professional emergency services in Austin. However, I handle mild to medium crisis quite often. This means helping someone realize they cannot afford to ignore a health problem any longer. This means helping someone through the initial shock of being fired from a job. This means helping someone through the initial shock from a change in a significant relationship. This means helping someone who has reached the end of their rope in terms of faith.

The conversations that I covet the most are conversations of witness and discipleship. I never force these conversations, but I pray for and open the door to them daily. I often ask groups of kids to tell religious jokes. This almost always leads to one of them asking a serious question about faith. I am greeted by “You’re a Christian, right?” at least once a week by someone who has been thinking about a faith question for some time and finally comes forward. Sometimes these are not too serious and I take them as an opportunity to plan a seed. Other times, it question is very sincere and I try to make sure I take time and energy to water seeds already planted by other workers. And sometimes the questions come from a brother and sister in Christ who is in need of support and assurance.

Often I end conversations with the question of “What can I be praying for you about?” Quite often I get “Nothing. I’m good” answer but when I continue to look at them, they usually change their answer. Whenever I can, we pray together for this. Sometimes this is very heart warming and emotional. Sometimes they return to tell of amazing answers to prayer.

So I hope I have given insight into what it looks like to work on the street. It is a privilege. Almost every day is filled with finding new people, finding out new things, and discovering cool things about really interesting people. They are good folks, but they need help. And most of all, they need to know Jesus Christ and have the chance to grow in the presence of His love and mercy.

November 27, 2008

Thankful for Grace


Today is Thanksgiving. I am taking a holiday from ministry until Monday. However, as I thought about thankfulness, this story came to my mind from this past Monday…

Mark was sitting on the bench of the trailer when I went in. He was an older man, rough and rugged looking, but very thin and slight. He smiled but didn’t say much to me. He followed the conversations but didn’t tell any stories of his own. When it was time for him to go, he asked for prayers. Everyone else was working to clean the trailer at closing time, so I asked Mark to step outside. I asked him what he would like me to pray for. He answered that his children needed prayer. One was about to lose his home. One was about to have a baby. And one was not in touch. He asked that the parents-to-be would be a better parent than he had been to his children. I asked Mark if he was Christian, and he responded yes without hesitation. I asked if his kids were Christian, and he confirmed they were. So I laid hands on Mark, and he grabbed my hand as I prayed. I first prayed as he had asked me to, but I was overcome with the need to pray for Mark to forgive himself and to receive healing. As I prayed about how Jesus has forgiven Mark of his troubled past as a parent, he began to cry openly. I prayed for reunification within his family, for strength and protection, and most of all for forgiveness and healing between them all — grace enough to cover them all. We finished and he gave me a big hug.
I heard yesterday that his daughter unexpectedly called Mark and that he is on his way to see her!
I am thankful on this Thanksgiving Day for the grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit — they are all that separate us from disaster. And they are what brings joy into our lives, making it more than survival but true living.