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Archive for the ‘Homeless Ministry’ Category

Hi, How Are You?

I’ve decided to start getting back onto the blogging band-wagon again. I’m setting a goal for myself to do some kind of update every day in May. I’m teaming that up with my goal of spending time reading/reflecting on Scripture every day in May too, so that might end up being the updates for many of those days.

I thought it fitting to use this “fresh start” to move over to WordPress, especially since I don’t have comments ability anymore on Blogger. I’m still figuring stuff out and will probably tweak here and there as we go.

I felt like doing my first new post on the new platform today, as I had another “fresh start” today. I’ve been following the Street Church on Facebook for a while now, but haven’t really had any activity in homeless ministry since Christmas and 2010’s new city ordinances that have changed a lot. I finally took an opportunity to do so today, and, of course, it was great.

Robert Moran, who heads the Street Church, pulls his van up on the street behind the Marion House soup kitchen at 11:00am every Saturday. His van is loaded with all sorts of things from the usual donated clothing and canned food to new socks, razors, deodorant, etc.

I had spoken to Robert on the phone earlier to let him know I was coming, so when I walked up he saw me and asked if I was Josh. There was a line of homeless folks already queued up, so Robert just said, “Go ahead and hop up in the van. They get one pair of socks and two cans of food.”  Training complete!

Fortunately, there was another man helping, so I kind of followed his lead on how things were done. After the line died down and there was a lull, I had a chance to chat with him. Come to find out that he was homeless himself until a couple months ago, and was so grateful for the help others had given him, that he wanted to turn around and do the same in helping others. How cool is that?

I was only able to stay for a half hour or so, but it was enough to whet my appetite. As I drove home, once again I was remarking at how fun and fulfilling the experience was. I realized how much I’ve missed my “fix”. I even saw a guy I had spoken with a couple times at Acacia Park. I think my brief interaction with him is the main inspiration for the title of this post and wanting to go back and do more.

When he walked up, I immediately recognized him and mentioned remembering him from Acacia Park. Here’s the heartbeat:  after giving him socks and a razor, I simply asked “How are you?” His reaction was a mixture of shock and grateful emotion. He held my handshake for a while as tears welled up, and he gave me an emphatic “Thank you! Thank you for asking!”

Wow. Most of the time for me, “How are you?” is how store cashiers and people you pass by in church say “Hi”. But for him, someone asking how he was was such a special rarity, he genuinely appreciated my asking. So simple.

That’s going to be my new recruiting pitch for getting people interested/involved with homeless ministry: “Can you say these four words?: ‘Hi, how are you?’ If so, you’re perfect for the job.”

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Meet the Gang

I’ve shared a few names and stories from my experiences with ministering to the homeless. One thing I’ve tried to do, from the very beginning, is to think of them not as “random anonymous people”, but as people with a name, story, dignity, etc. So to that end, I’ve attempted to learn (and remember) their names as much as possible. Since my memory sucks, I started carrying a little notepad with me, to write down their names as I meet them. Ok, but what about matching names to faces? One technique has helped a lot with that, and has other benefits as well: praying for them. It’s not been as frequent in the last couple of months, but especially those first few months, I prayed a lot over individual names, and would recall what they looked like, and what their story was (if they had shared it).

So, for those who are interested, I’d like to introduce you to some of the names, and ask you to pray along with me. This list may be a tad lengthy, so maybe just pick a couple of names so it’s not overwhelming. (I’ve put down the dates when I met someone for the first time. The last few months, I’ve not met many new people, so there are fewer names).

9/11/09
Vaughn
DJ
Mike “Twisstidm”
John
Skye
Adrian
Mark
Backpack guy with radio
Matt – wheelchair

9/18/09
Bo
Scene
Zack
“Mouse” (with wife & 2 small kids)
Shane
Benjamin

9/25/09
Rashad
Dwayne
Tony
Sara
Josh
Lee (older guy I had long talk with)
Winn

10/2/09
Carl
Bishop
“Comfortably numb”
Ernest
T-ron
Sahara

10/23/09
Ramone
Ronnie White
Dave (from this post)

10/30/09
Aaron
Jim
Paul (the older guy stabbed several months ago)

11/4/09
Anthony
Billy
Chris

11/6/09
Marshall & Kallie (married)
Will

11/13/09
Merlin & Sharlene (engaged)
Roger (w/ dog Koda)

1/8/10
Kevin
Miss Kitty
(Wahsatch Camp)

Wow! There have been a couple times when I forgot my notepad, or didn’t meet anyone new, but still, I hadn’t added it up before. That’s 45 people, and I know I’m missing some. I know many I will probably never see again, even those who I’d really like to know what’s happened to them.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather, when there will be more people at the park again, and I can add to my list of friends! =)

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Since it was my first visit in the new year, I felt it a good time to catch ya’ll up on where I’m at with the Homeless ministry. (Sorry if this ends up long.)

I had hoped to be able to do something over the holidays, but between my parents staying with us and being a bit discouraged by a few Friday Failures (where I took food, but couldn’t find anyone to give it to), I ended up not going on Christmas or New Year’s days. I think part of me (perhaps slightly pridefully) wanted to say I had a perfect track record since I hadn’t missed a day since I started in August, but now that the “streak” is broken, I can let that go.

Anywho…one of the other thoughts that was born out of taking food and not finding anyone, was the logistical quagmire I’ve been creating for myself of how much food to get, and how many different locations will I drive to in order to find someone to get it too, etc.

Then one day I went to Subway for lunch, and as I drove back to work there was a homeless guy sitting on the corner with a sign (that I couldn’t read). That’s when it hit me: gift cards! I found myself wishing I had a Subway gift card so I could roll down the window and hand it to him.

So, the next time I was at Subway, I bought several cards, and Wendy got some at the store too. Subway is kind of handy, because there’s one right across the street from Acacia Park. But I’m thinking that other food/supply-type places might be good too. I still want to take down actual food, but will probably wait until warmer weather when it’s more likely to find folks.

But as for tonight…there were a couple guys that I’m used to seeing, and have been developing relationship with. Anthony and Twisstidm (Ya, for the longest time, I assumed it was spelled “Twisted M”, but whatever…)

It was kinda cool just standing there, hanging out and talking. They told me what went on over Christmas. Anthony and his friend moved to a different campsite. Twisstidm is hoping to perform soon at the Black Sheep on Platte. It’s starting to feel like they aren’t strangers that I’m helping out, but friends.

Funny story interjection: As we’re standing there, some guy walks up and looks at Anthony, then Twisstidm, then me, and decides to ask ME: “You got any weed, man?” Without missing a beat, I pulled a Subway gift card out of my pocket. “No, but I can give you a sandwich.” “Does it got any weed any it..heh heh…” “Well, you can ask them to put lettuce on it.” And so on… I was a little naive at first, but I think I’ve witnessed a pretty fair number of drug deals go down. I’ll never forget a couple months ago, when a guy walked up and asked for a dime. I start feeling in my pockets for change before it hits me…DOH!

Anyways, one of the more significant things I took away from tonight, was that I got Twisstidm’s phone number (you might be surprised how many homeless people have cell phones). And no less than three different times, he asked that I “check up on him” this week. It seems important to him, so I want to make sure and follow through on that.

Last thing: When I left the 4-5 guys I was talking with, I had 2 gift cards left. As I started to drive away, I noticed an older homeless guy walking the opposite way. But for those of you who know downtown (especially on a busy Friday night), it isn’t the quickest/easiest thing in the world to try and “turn around” with the one ways, etc. I really wanted to give him a Subway card, but I must have spent 15-20 minutes in a figure-eight pattern, expanding my search as I tracked where it looked like he was headed.

At one point, I saw another guy crossing the street and was able to give him a card, but I never could find the first man, and that vexed me a bit.

The spiritual application for me was two-fold:
1. I wanted to help the guy, but it was difficult and I failed. – Thank goodness God always knows where we are, what we need, and is able to give it to us every time!
2. Maybe a sense of the frustration and sadness I felt is similar to how God feels, in that he wants to help us, but WE make it difficult by trying to hide or do it on our own or rebel, etc.

At any rate, I somehow feel encouraged, and look forward to continuing this calling in 2010. I even found a group on Facebook called “Colorado Springs Tent Community Help” that looks like a good resource too.

It’s really late and I’m really tired, so that’s all.

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Wednesday was the last meeting of our Team Player class at church, and we had an outreach planned. Pizza and water at 6pm…and hope people come. We had about a dozen pizzas, and there were about 5 people at the park.

Plan B: A few guys in our group took a couple pizzas and went walking down the street, hoping to find someone to give the food to. Once they got back, we got directions from a guy named Aaron to a camp with a few people. So, our group caravaned there (after a few u-turns of the blind leading the blind) and indeed we did find a few people…3 to be exact.

Oh well, we left the remaining 6 or 7 pizzas with a guy who called him self “Tools” and his family. Hope they like leftovers.

But it was fine; it was a bit of an adventure, and neat to get out of my Acacia Park “comfort zone” and find others that need food/help too. It was also fun getting to share the whole experience with a larger group of people and talk to them about what it’s been like for me.

Then tonight, despite past evidence, I had a silly urge to doubt and think I’m gonna end up wasting time/food. I got a couple dozen 6-inch subs from Subway (November special has them at $2 each) and showed up promptly at 5:30…with not a soul in sight. *sigh*…ok, maybe I drive around to where I know some camps are and try to distribute that way. But wait…what’s this? Oh, a group of 20 people walking over from the other side of the park. DUH!

So I got to meet a few new people, and even a couple small children whose mother was happy to have something to feed them. And the married couple Marshall and Kallie making plans on how to get back to their tent. Drea is frustrated from having to find a different place to sleep every night. Will is very quiet and seems sad. Anthony hurt his knee. Aaron looked happy to see me again. Etc…

Always an adventure. Always a blessing. (For them and me) I love Friday nights!

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Acacia Park Update

Whoops! No update for over 2 weeks….my bad.

So I’ll give the skinny on what’s been happening with the homeless ministry, and then maybe do a separate update about other stuff in my life.

So two weeks ago, the most memorable thing I took away from that visit was Dave.

I had gotten some Taco Bell, and brought Famous Dave leftovers from my previous workplace. When most of the food was gone, this guy who had been staying a little ways off moved in as the crowd cleared. Right away I could tell something was “off” with him. He was up on the stage, and just came by the food and sat down. His eyes were red and not pointing in the same direction, he had food (or something else?) on his face and in his beard, he had scabs and scratches all over, and his nails were over an inch long and black with dirt.

I used to have the inclination to avoid this kind of person. But as he sat there and started to look over what food was left, I noticed how even the other homeless folks moved away and gave sideways glances to him. I don’t fully understand how or why, but God moved me to compassion, and I suddenly felt very interested and drew close to him. Now I know that I had to take anything he would say with a grain of salt. He might be confused, he might lie….but my approach is always one of understanding and wanting to be an ally and friend.

He told me his name was Dave, and he said he just knew he would hurt somebody tonight. !!! “Why do you say that?” I asked him. He looked around and said “Look at these f***ers…see how they act? They think they’re all hard…they don’t know hard. They’re just acting…..whatever….” That is a distilled version of what he actually said. He was hard to understand sometimes, paused a lot and repeated what he said, and swore a lot. Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, I learned that he had left Nashville a couple weeks ago where his girl is. I didn’t get the full history, but a couple times he said “I love that whore….I don’t know why, she’s a b***h….I just love her.” Ok. He said his parents were killed when he was 16 and he’s been on the streets for the last 10 years. At certain points while talking I could tell he was tearing up even though his eyes were already pretty red.

The hardest part was watching him pick through food scraps. I had gotten chicken and a couple different salads, and had a bunch of apples. I tried offering the food to him, even to plate it up for him, and he would just shake his head and mumble, and fish around through the bones and crumbs. As I was getting ready to leave I asked if there was anything I could do for him, and he said not unless I could take him to Dallas, Texas.

So for all of that, I don’t know how much, if any, good I did. The only thing I feel might have been of value was sitting next to him for 20 minutes, locking eyes with him, and talking/listening to him. I figured that was more than he got most of the time from most people and might help him feel human again. Even though he said that nobody has loved him since his parents died, I tried to tell him several times that I know God loves him. “I hope so….I doubt it, but I hope so….” he said. I leaned in and said “Trust me, I know for a fact that God DOES love you.”

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Cold Weekend!

Snow and ice hit CS this week!
(It took me at least a good 15 minutes to de-ice the Sub this morning)

Fortunately, it was relatively warm/dry Friday night when we went to Acacia Park. I was once again joined by my brother, and Tim, Bethanie, and Chad from church. I picked up 10 pizzas, and Tim and I joked about how we once again fell for the silly mind-game of “Uh-oh…we have too much food” to the 30-minutes later thought of “Uh-oh…we don’t have enough food!”

Steve put out the word at work, and actually brought quite a few blankets and jackets. I wanted to make sure they could try and stay warm back at their camp, and planned to drive down and drop them off. I wasn’t able to find it last night, so I went out this afternoon and found it. They have some tents and tarps set up among the trees right between Fountain Creek and the Greenway trail behind the Wal-mart by Cimarron & 8th St. (info for the locals)

I got their permission to take photos, so here’s a photo tour:
From the south-side of Wal-mart there’s a path that heads down to a tunnel going under the road:

This is the Greenway trail…

…only about a 5-minute walk till you see their spot through the trees:

Just a few feet away from the creek:

And I helped Matt, Lolo, and Fatboy get a nice fire going!:

After hanging out with them for a while, I mentioned that I was going to be at church tomorrow, and would see if I could get some help getting them some items they need. (tarps, rope, matches/lighters, firewood, hand-crank lamp, gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, jackets) Then came the highlight of my day/weekend: Matt again thanked me, and was really appreciative of my help, and said he’d like to go to church with me next week!

Woo-hoo! I know I need to take everything with a grain of salt, and not give up or be disappointed if he changes his mind by next week, but I see it as a step in the right direction, and I’m really excited.

I’m also excited about the “Idea” I referenced in my last post. After talking with Matt last night, he agreed to let me try to do some kind of informal documentary/interview type thing. I basically just want to have video of him telling his story (and maybe include a couple other people that are willing) to show to folks at Vanguard and hopefully get more help/involvement. I’ve been feeling a sense of urgency to do this soon, because Matt has stage 4 Hodgkins-Lymphoma, and might not be around much longer.

Ok, that’s it for now. I’m going to enjoy some of Wendy’s fabulous chicken tortilla soup, and reflect on how thankful & appreciative for hot, yummy soup, a warm home, and a warm, comfortable bed that I’m blessed with.

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Wow….since my lay-off last Wednesday, I feel like I’ve been pretty darn busy and active. Guess I don’t fit the welfare stereotype of sitting at home collecting unemployment checks. Seeing the comments on Facebook alone is proof how covered in prayer we’ve been….we are so blessed to have so many friends/family thinking about and praying for us. I can honestly say that I have experienced nothing but peace and joy during this whole process. Thanks to our friends/family, and thanks, praise and worship to our Jehovah Jireh…our Provider.

I even forgot to do an update as to what happened with Acacia Park last week. As I was driving there, I was thinking about how every single visit has been different, so I had every reason to believe that it would again be a unique experience and I would encounter something unexpected.

So here’s what was different:
•Apparently, I arrived a few minutes after most of the “regulars” had cleared out
•I was disappointed at first, fearing the food would be wasted (silly Josh, you
should know better)
•I was pleased to get to spend time in conversation with Matt again (wheelchair)
•We were interrupted when cops started chasing one of Matt’s acquaintances down the
street on foot. (“Africa” apparently had swiped a laptop)

Of course, God still moved. I have faith that although I may not be seeing immediate results of “Kingdom impact” I know that we are ministering to people by providing physical needs with food/coats/scarves…and ministering to their souls by talking to them and (hopefully) making it clear that I’m interested in who they are and listening to them.

It was great to have my brother spend the evening with me side-by-side as well. And in my weekly conversations with Matt, I’m starting to get an Idea…I’ll expand on that as I flesh it out a bit.

As for the job situation…again, nothing but praises as we sit back in awe of God’s hand. I was officially laid off on Wednesday, 9/30. On Thursday, 10/01 I had an interview with Jaxon Engineering. It’s a newer company, owned/operated by the parents of friends from church (and other Vanguard people work there). Then on Monday, they call and ask if I can come in again on Tuesday to talk again for a little bit. Sure! At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, they say they will discuss it over the weekend and get back to me on Monday. Orrr….maybe less than 24 hours later they call and offer me the position!! Whaaa? How’d that happen?

Here are several key factors I see playing into this:
•The owners/CEO (as well as most employees) are believers
•I had a fantastic chat for a good 20 minutes or so with the CEO
•The position is a combination of HR/Security/Purchasing – they need someone who
has at least some experience/exposure with these (which I have), but more
importantly someone who is willing & able to be flexible (which I am)
•Timing: when I suddenly became available “conveniently” coincides with when the
company started feeling a need for someone in this capacity
•They hadn’t advertised the position; no other candidates – they just heard my name
and situation and wanted to “feel it out”
•X factor – the unknown variable that I will just attribute to God knowing & seeing
far more than any of us can.

Almost every day for weeks, I’ve been praying for wisdom and clarity in searching for a job, and especially when faced with a decision like this. I had another job possibility that I was getting ready to dive into if the Jaxon thing didn’t pan out. I was waffling a bit as to which way I should go, but then in my conversation during the 2nd interview, and when they called and made the offer, I felt like I got slammed in the face by a 2×4 made of wisdom & clarity. It was almost – dare I say it? – easy!

There is still plenty of uncharted water out there. On Monday I start my new job doing….umm, not sure exactly what. But I’m confident (and apparently so is Jaxon) that I’ll get it figured out and look forward to looking back at this a year from now and continue the marvel and praise at how God works in our lives.

My heart is so full, and I feel like I could ramble a bit more, but I’ll tie off this bleeder for now and come back. Heading out to Acacia Park again tomorrow night! (With no set expectations, of course)

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