Posts tagged ‘Uncategorized’

June 3, 2010

Ministry in the Rain


I love ministry in the rain. It feels different. Everything becomes clean. Ordinary people on the street hurry from destination to destination, bundled, covered, and head down. The roadway glistens. The trees and plants catch raindrops like jewels. The air puts on a fine perfume of sweet ozone.

 
Imagine being a street kid. …

 
You get a questioning glance. Eyes avert when you look to another's face. Some people avoid you. Another bumps into you. Some give you dirty looks. You have an epithet aimed at you. A sense of anxiety develops and goes with you all day.

 
But when it rains, all that washes away. Fewer people and fewer cars are around.  People focus on staying dry and pay less attention. The sound of raindrops hits everything. The sound of splashing water from cars and buses covers other sounds. You stand tall in the rain. You gather together undisturbed. You play in the puddles. You run in circles with arms upstretched to the clouds.  Your body is washed and your hair becomes sleek. Your face shines. You smile. You laugh.

 
Yes, I love ministry in the rain. I look forward to it. The downpour dominates all other forces on the street. The sweet fragrance of rain overshadows all other smells. The rain washes clean the sidewalk, the plants, and the roadways.  Rain washes clean the street youth. Rain washes clean the community. Rain washes clean the servant. What a wonderful metaphor for the healing grace of Jesus Christ… for nature, for the community, for the workers, and for the street youth.

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May 22, 2010

Ministry Reactions


I’m out in ministry every day, caring for street-dependent young people in the 12 blocks west of the UT Campus. I experience different reactions from the community. Here are some:
  •  A sidewalk food vendor watches me carefully. One day he calls me over. He says I’m doing a good thing. Talking with me, he reveals that he was a troubled youth like my clients. He gives me cash donations from time to time and also food he can no longer sell so that I can share it with the youth.
  • A young man completing a degree in Architecture, who has always been drawn to helping these street-dependent young people who are so like him in age and interests, decides to get a social work degree. He did original research to help determine what type of housing options this age group wants and needs.
  • A sidewalk vendor who travels from place to place tells me: “I have done my part. I fed the bird. This is more important than feeding the homeless.” This man seems to live a sad and shriveled life. I am left speechless by his views but do pray for him.
  • A man I used to work with collects a certain toy. He literally has dozens, maybe hundreds. One day he decides that one more in his collection will not make him happy. Not even a hundred more. So he sells the whole collection on eBay and donates the funds to SYM. He tripled the investment and turned it over to help the ministry to know, love, and serve street-dependent so that they may come to know Christ and connect with Christian community.
  • An older man, street-dependent one year ago, volunteers regularly and donates food items when he can. He was befriended by the street-youth population and now gives back. He takes them to dinner occasionally, as well.
  • A street vendor in the market square shares herbal remedies for many things that troubles a street-youth. She was once a street-youth herself.
  • Another street vendor in the market square meets me at the curb and yells, “You can’t stand here. I’m calling the cops. This is a market and not a sidewalk. You encourage the youth so I’m calling the cops.” The police declined to come. I continue to pray for her troubled and angry life.
  • A young woman going to school notices me hanging out with street youth she has met in the past. She inquires. She becomes a regular volunteer. Because of her love and training as a volunteer, she successfully and safely invites street-youth to her church for dinner and worship.
God, let the ripples from each of these reactions spread out into the community. Let those that are not from you, dissipate quickly into nothing. Let those that come from your will, your love, and your spirit spread and grow, bouncing off the many rocks and obstacles and continuing without limit or bounds.

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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May 4, 2010

Possum Update


Some of you loved the story a little over a month back about the possum babies adopted by street youth. They found them after a big storm, apparently orphaned one way or another.

Here’s an update on one of them. She’s going strong. Very same. Spends most of her time riding on one of her two owners. She’s extremely friendly and loves to eat bugs and worms.

March 8, 2010

On the value of Donations


I know that is donations are a touchy subject. Talking about finances is a bigger taboo today than talking about sex! Some assume I’m independently wealthy after 25 years of high tech. That’s not the case. I do, however, have enough saved for college for my kids and an eventual simple retirement (and it was invested like everyone else’s so it’s little again). However, for the daily food, clothing, transportation, bills, and ministry expenses, I depend on donations.

That was hard to swallow at first. But after studying the Bible for about 3 months (that’s how long it took to go through all the passages that relate to how God supported his prophets, disciples, and those called into service), I was convinced that relying on the support of others is Biblical and even right for me. It humbles me and puts me in the proper position for daily ministry.


I want to share a few of the valuable donations I have received:

  • When I first began this journey in the summer of 2008, I was scared and feeling like I was a complete nut case. Fearing failure from the end of one career, I was second guessing myself at every corner about a calling to mission. But one man in particular made me talk it out and figure it out. He listened and he believed. And that belief became infectious as it took root in me. This man’s financial donation came unasked and unexpected, even before I had begun fund raising! The faith with which he put money in action shored up my own faith in God’s calling. What a difference it made to me and my family.
  • I have a prayer newsletter that goes out every month to dear people who pray for the ministry. I let them in on the needs of clients, the ministry, and my family. Their contribution is so valuable. One dear woman on this list is widowed and barely gets buy. But she sent me a handwritten letter and a $5 check. That check made me cry. I wanted hold on to it forever. I knew this would offend her so I cashed it. I will remember that check for a long, long time.
  • In my study of fund raising in the Bible, I came across many passages describing how right it is for the students to pay for the teacher. I thought, “That would be cool, but my students are homeless and poor. Fat chance of that!” One day, a young man on the street came to me and said, “I was going to buy beer with this, but I want you to have it for your ministry. You come out here and expect nothing in return, so this is yours.” Others have done the same. To date, I have received $2.58 from the street kids. I keep careful track of it because it means so very much to me.

There are many more stories of sacrificial giving, generous giving, giving without being asked, giving because they were asked, and more. Each donor has a unique story. Each donation is an act of love and worship. I’ve highlighted a few, but what an amazing gift it is to be supported financially in God’s Kingdom. 


Whether God supplies you from your employer, from your hard work as self employed, or from a church: know that it all comes from God. Perhaps you will be as lucky as me to have it shown so obviously that every penny comes from God. It is certainly a blessing to me.

March 2, 2010

WWJD: What would Jesus DRINK?


I was standing today with some kids out in the 40 degree rain, under the eaves of the Scientology building. It was an unlikely place for a deep discussion to develop about Jesus, but I’ve learned that you just never know about such things.

A couple of the kids had gotten a gift care for doing a research interview and had sent someone to the nearest grocery store for “cigarettes and such.” I said, “It’s OK. You can say alcohol around me!” They smiled, “OK, then. We send him for beer and cigarettes!”


Then a familiar discussion started. A street girl said, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. That’s Proverbs 31:6.” “Yes, I said. The Bible has no absolute issue with drinking. And neither do I. I drink.”
Many were listening, now. Another young man joined in, “If Jesus were here right not, he’d sit down and drink with us.” I thought and said, “Perhaps. I think it might depend.”
Yet another youth said, “His first miracle was making wine. And it was for a party. If Jesus were here, he’d party with us!” Again, I said, “Maybe. It would definitely depend.”
I continued, “Jesus helped people. So his drinking with you and partying with you would only be if it helped you and didn’t hurt you. We all know people who hurt themselves with drink. Jesus wouldn’t want to be part of that by drinking with them. He wouldn’t want to help you hurt yourself, but I bet he would be here. He would hang out with you. I just don’t know if he would drink or not. He and you are the ones who would be able to decide if drink hurts you or not.”
I was about to say something else, when”Adam,” another “street youth” came up. Adam is saved, but he’s addicted and trapped in street life. He’s been on the street since his late teens. He was told he’d never live to 20. Then 30.
Adam had listened to our conversation and had this to add: “I don’t know about  Jesus drinking with us or not. I do know that Jesus wouldn’t get drunk. I do know that Jesus wouldn’t get out of control. Jesus wouldn’t go too far and let alcohol control Him. And I do know that Jesus wouldn’t use alcohol to cover up pain or avoid what he’s supposed to do. Jesus refused wine on the cross that would have taken away some of his pain. And he bore that pain to save us. So I don’t know if he would turn around and be part of us hurting ourselves with alcohol.”
I could only add, “Bring it, Adam! I don’t have to preach more. You’ve said it just right.”
If Jesus walked into a part of your life today, what would Jesus “drink with you?” You can substitute anything that tempts you for the “WWJ drink with you” question.  The point is that Jesus could navigate our world today without sin. We are unable to do so. This is no surprise to Jesus since he saw each of our individual sins from his vantage point on the cross on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. BUT–“Adam” is right– Jesus chose to feel the pain of our separation from God long ago. He paid for it. So we can choose to return to God through Jesus Christ. Let us live so that when Jesus walks into Austin he finds us busy doing His work, loving His people and one another, and praising His Father! I bet he’d want to have a glass of wine and throw a party at that point! Amen.
February 23, 2010

What’s in your pockets?



I recently got the most surprising and perhaps best question I have ever heard during a presentation! It came from one of about 25 4th and 5th graders at Tarrytown United Methodist Church.

I had already heard all the normal questions: “Where do you see street youth?” “Why do they live on the streets?” “How do you help them?” And I had heard some really intriguing questions: “Have they ever sicked their dogs on you? Has any of them ever captured and trained a coyote to be a pet?” (For the record, the answer to the last two are no.)
But here is the one question that really game me pause: “What’s in your pocket?” I was wearing sort-of-baggy jeans and had a lot in my pockets, so it wasn’t such a weird question. I thought about dismissing the question, but then I decided to go for it! 
I pulled out one pocket: keys and phone. “The keys are for transportation. I take lots of food, water, clothing, and toiletries to the kids. It would be hard to do this job without my truck. I also have a can opener on my key-chain. I put it there so I can give it away when someone asks.”
“The phone is for safety. Every missionary needs safety. I have about 40 people who pray regularly for me, but the phone is in case I need to dial 911. I also use it to receive emergency phone calls from the kids. I don’t yet have enough money to have unlimited calling, so I keep it for emergencies.”

I pulled out the contents of the other pocket: a camera and a notebook and pen. “I use the camera to take pictures of people with smiles. When I give them food or clothing or a backpack, or one of the manna bags that you have made for me to give out, they smile. I like that so I take a picture. And I share the picture with volunteers so they feel involved in the ministry and want to keep giving!” “
My daughter made the custom notebook for me., and I use it to write down everyone’s names that I see. I write down their first names and the name of their dogs. They are just like everybody else, and they enjoy it when you can remember their names. I also use the list of names to pray for them. And I count the names to have some idea of how I am doing. From this notebook, I know that I see an average of 70 different people every week. I know that I see about 10 new faces every week. And I know that I have a reunion with someone I haven’t seen in a while about 8 times a week. I also have some other important things in this notebook. I have a list of phone numbers to give kids when they want to call for help. Help with alcohol problems. Help with drug problems. Legal problems. Numbers for housing programs. I make notes on lessons or sermons that I plan for the kids.”
I reached to my back pocket and pulled out a “duct tape” wallet. “I made this wallet with the kids. I showed them how to make duct tape wallets. They often lose their things (because they live outside and constantly move around). So if they lose their wallet, we can make a new one. And just like you and me, because they made it, they tend to keep it longer. They are really cool. I can come back sometime and help you each make wallets! I also have a duct tape card holder, phone cover, and money clip. You can make just about anything if you put your mind to it! And in my wallet I have cards to give out. It tells where the kids can email me, FaceBook me, MySpace me, or call me.”
So this is what’s in my pocket. It says a lot about SYM. It was missing one thing that day. I wasn’t carry the Word of God. However, I put that on in my heart and mind every day. So, what’s in YOUR pocket?
February 16, 2010

Into the Wilderness


I was unsure how to help a group of street-dependent youth relate Matthew 3. I take the Bible stories in order to teach chapter by chapter, but I don’t ever want it to be dry or seem irrelevant to the mostly homeless youth that I work with. Some weeks are more challenging than others. This week, I felt challenged with the material. I finally decided on my approach and prayed it would work.

We watched Matthew 3 on video. It’s a nice video, with word for word NIV narration. Nothing skipped and nothing added. I watched the kids as John the Baptist preached to the Jews in the wilderness, sitting around peacefully seeking after God as a community. I watched the street-youth squirm and express disgust with their mouths and body language as John preached fire and brimstone to the Pharisees. I watched them take in the scene of John begging Jesus to baptize him, only to have Jesus say, “No… It’s right for you to baptize me.” And I think I saw looks of pain as the words from God, “This is my son. In Him I am well pleased,” words I think they may never have heard from their own father. Now it was my turn. Time to make this relevant and attractive.
We reread the first section that describes John the Baptist. I asked the kids, “Who is this guy? What did he behave like?” They correctly saw him as an outcast… some kids even called him homeless. I asked, “Where is he? Why do people go where he is?” They answered, “In the wilderness… in the desert. You go there to get away from people and everything else.” “Right! The Bible doesn’t say, but I’m sure that John the Baptist is escaping from some troubles. He doesn’t fit in. He’s got problems with how things work in his day. He stays out in the wilderness for a reason. Sound familiar?” They nodded.
“Who or what is he running from?” The kids imagined all sorts of answers: the police, his family, people who really bug him, trouble in his own head and thoughts. Answers all too familiar to them. I prompted, “I think the answer is in these people who come talk to him. Who are they?” One young man answered, “They are the religious leaders. They are the pastors and preachers.” “That’s right!” I ask, “How does John the Baptist treat them?” They answer, “He calls them names. He calls them out. He tells them they are going to hell!” I ask, “How does this make you feel?” “We hate that kind of talk. We’ve heard it before. People tell us that all the time. Attitudes like that are why we don’t like church!”
I paused. Then I asked them to look at John the Baptist again. “What was he doing out in the wilderness with people before the Pharisees came?” “He was preaching and baptizing. They were sitting around in the video talking. It was peaceful.” “Exactly!” I said, “John is a peaceful man with a message. And people came from all around to hear it. They sat with one another to share ideas about it. The people responded to the message of repent… to turn back to the right path.” I continued, “John didn’t start yelling until the Pharisees came. Then he told them the truth. They were disrupting what was going on and John wanted them to either change and be a part of get out.”
“Do you ever feel that way about church?” Heads nodded. “I’ll never go back to a church because they scare me with all their damnation talk.” “I understand,” I said. “I was converted by that scary talk when I was 13. And I think it was a real conversion. BUT nothing else really happened in my faith life until I was 35. That’s when I started reading the Bible with friends and God really started working in me.”
Then one kid said, “This is the only church I’ll go to. We’re here with you learning about the Bible.” “Yes, it’s a lot like John the Baptist in the wilderness, isn’t it?” I said this with deep satisfaction and joy welling up inside me. Matthew 3 was relevant and attractive to them! They had gotten the message and here we were, out in the wilderness, about to discuss the baptism of Jesus and those wonderful words: “In you I am well pleased!” It was a good day!
February 9, 2010

Is faith a resource for you?


Is faith a resource for you?

I learned this most useful and disarming question from a good friend of mine many years ago. I use it all the time. It's a door opener and not a slammer. On a hunch, I asked the question yesterday to a street youth and this conversation ensued:

"Chuck, can I ask you a question?" I was facing a 20 year old male whom I see about once a week. He has a place to stay and goes to school to become an artist. But he comes to see me once a week or so.

"Sure he said." I explained, "It's a little bit of an odd question. Is that OK?" (This is a good technique for working with the street youth. Always ask permission for your nosy questions.) "Go ahead!" he replied.

"Is faith a resource for you?" He began to smile. "Oh, yes! I wouldn't be here without it."

He continued, "You probably don't know my story. Three years ago you wouldn't recognize me. I was into drugs and alcohol. I was a mess. But now I don't do any of that and change wouldn't have been possible without Jesus."

I said, "Wow! That's awesome. So faith changed your life?"

"I was reborn. A new creation. I had to go through a treatment center. I had to get away from here… from the Drag… from this place and all the people I got high with. I had to leave all that old stuff behind."

"How it is to be back here now?" I asked. "I walk down here once a week because it's comfortable for me. I spent so much time here. Three years ago I was strung out just like some of these kids. In fact, I see some of the old guys every once in a while. But that's not me any more. I don't need that. I don't even want that."

"Do you go to church or some other Christian community?" I wondered. "I go from time to time. To a local baptist church near my house. I like to worship. I 'm shy, so I don't always like to get to know the people there."

"Give it time," I said. "Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It's amazing to me that three years ago you were like some of those I minister to daily. Strung out. Looking for your next hit. Doing nothing and going nowhere. I'm so glad that this changed for you. And it gives me hope that it can change for them."

He left. While I in no way take credit for his outcome, to see folks like Chuck is the goal of SYM. To offer faith as a resource to see kids come to know Christ, stabilize their lives in a new creation, and connect with Christian community. God is awesome! And the greatest resource around. Why keep it a secret! 

February 9, 2010

Is faith a resource for you?


I learned this most useful and disarming question from a good friend of mine many years ago. I use it all the time. It’s a door opener and not a slammer. On a hunch, I asked the question yesterday to a street youth and this conversation ensued:

“Chuck, can I ask you a question?” I was facing a 20 year old male whom I see about once a week. He has a place to stay and goes to school to become an artist. But he comes to see me once a week or so.

“Sure he said.” I explained, “It’s a little bit of an odd question. Is that OK?” (This is a good technique for working with the street youth. Always ask permission for your nosy questions.) “Go ahead!” he replied.

“Is faith a resource for you?” He began to smile. “Oh, yes! I wouldn’t be here without it.”

He continued, “You probably don’t know my story. Three years ago you wouldn’t recognize me. I was into drugs and alcohol. I was a mess. But now I don’t do any of that and change wouldn’t have been possible without Jesus.”

I said, “Wow! That’s awesome. So faith changed your life?”

“I was reborn. A new creation. I had to go through a treatment center. I had to get away from here… from the Drag… from this place and all the people I got high with. I had to leave all that old stuff behind.”

“How it is to be back here now?” I asked. “I walk down here once a week because it’s comfortable for me. I spent so much time here. Three years ago I was strung out just like some of these kids. In fact, I see some of the old guys every once in a while. But that’s not me any more. I don’t need that. I don’t even want that.”

“Do you go to church or some other Christian community?” I wondered. “I go from time to time. To a local baptist church near my house. I like to worship. I ‘m shy, so I don’t always like to get to know the people there.”

“Give it time,” I said. “Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It’s amazing to me that three years ago you were like some of those I minister to daily. Strung out. Looking for your next hit. Doing nothing and going nowhere. I’m so glad that this changed for you. And it gives me hope that it can change for them.”

He left. While I in no way take credit for his outcome, to see folks like Chuck is the goal of SYM. To offer faith as a resource to see kids come to know Christ, stabilize their lives in a new creation, and connect with Christian community. God is awesome! And the greatest resource around. Why keep it a secret!

January 29, 2010

A Simple Memorial


Street Youth Ministry had the privilege of saying goodbye to a client on January 15, 2010. He died January 10 in the early morning. It was the last day of our severely cold weather. He had been cared for each night by the SYM Cold Weather Response teams. He had engaged in more than usual amounts of conversation with me.

 
About 15 people gathered in the cold rain under a tree frequented by street youth in the West Campus area. It was sort of like being in a TV show… us gathered together in the cold to say goodbye and the rain coming down hard all around us.
The service began with a country western song. Billy liked country western songs. “The Simple Things” by Randy  Travis opened the memorial service. Billy liked the simple things in life. He had to. It’s all he had. The people gathered together celebrated his life by sharing memories of Billy:
  • He would share anything with me that he had.
  • He would wake me up at 6 in the morning like it was nothing and just start talking to me.
  • He loved to sing. He’d be singing that song we just heard over and over if he were here now.
  • I personally never knew if Billy would be angry or good with me. It was different every day. But I looked forward to seeing him and giving it a shot. It meant a lot to me when he would say, “You do all right by me.”
After everyone had a chance to remember the good times with Billy, the folks assembled to remember Billy listened to a more poignant Randy Travis song, “A Place to Hang My Hat.” After the song, I asked what people would miss. Everyone admitted that Billy wasn’t always easy to get along with. I, too, never knew whether Billy would greet me with anger or cheer.  They said:
  • I’ll miss his frankness.
  • I’ll miss long talks with him at night. He knew his Bible and loved to talk about it.
  • I’ll miss him telling me I didn’t do right, shouldn’t get his help anymore, and then walk away telling me he left me a beer hidden behind such and such a bush.
  • Personally, I looked forward to seeing Billy. I will be seeing him out the corner of my eye for a long time. I never knew if he’d be happy to see me or not, but I always wanted to find out.
Then we listened to Amazing Grace by Amy Grant. The lines “My chains are gone… I’ve been set free” hung around us as we sat in silence. Billy suffered from seizures much of his life. He was unable to maintain his medication regime much of the time. They became more serious the last year of his life. Unfortunately, his seizures looked a lot like overdosing from heroine. Billy was often mis-accused of being high when he was really walking around with a seizure in progress. The paramedics often warned Billy that he had to seek help immediately when this happened. Billy sought self medication much of the time as well. All of this made Billy very angry.

I asked those present to celebrate what Billy believed in. He was now right where he always longed to me… sitting in heaven in the crowds that surround his Lord and Savior. And he’s no longer angry. He’s no longer tortured by seizures and the need to self-medicate. Billy has a Savior who understands human existence, even difficult trials like Billy went through. We shared the Gospel that Billy believed in and celebrated its good news.
After the memorial, we shared sandwiches and cookies and hot chocolate provided by SYM volunteers out of the back of my pick-up. Most gathered there knew Billy. Some liked him very much, but some came more out of respect for him than like. Some came not because they knew Billy but to honor a fallen member of the street community. Several volunteers from SYM came or sent their condolences because even they had been impacted by serving Billy on different occasions.

 

As we left, it seemed the only sign of the memorial were flowers and a photo lying at the base of the tree in the rain. However, a little bit later, one street youth remarked, “No one has ever done that for one of us before. You know, it really feels good to say good-bye like that. Thank you.” The effects of the memorial were more lasting than the photo left behind. This community needs to be loved. It longs; it hurts; it grieves. It also hopes; it also celebrates; it also loves.

The truth is, I did the memorial as much for me as for the street youth. I will miss Billy for a long while. I am so grateful that he could know the Lord. And I pray that Billy has finally found the peace and home that he longed for.