Homeless ministry has a very distinct scent.
It smells like alcohol and honesty.
It smells like methamphetamine and hard times.
It smells like body odor and living in tents.
There is a lot of homelessness in our city, and it continues to grow as each year goes by (approximately 2,000 people living on the streets in 2011 has grown to about 3,000 in 2013). Over the past 2 years, we’ve made a lot of friends with particularly broken people on the streets. Some people stay broken, because they either don’t believe they’re fixable or because they don’t believe they’re broken. Ah but some… SOME of these beautiful people with worn out clothes and worn-out spirits… they’ve found Jesus, and they haven’t been the same anymore. They find purpose in getting up in the morning other than fighting to survive.
Jesus was homeless, too, you see. He knew what it was like to not have a place to lay one’s head.
Andreas and I have been a part of a homeless ministry in our city for the past 2 years. Just recently, the founder of the ministry moved back home to Minnesota, leaving Andreas and I “in charge” of the ministry
Mary cried when she left. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was time to move on from Colorado, but she cried because she loves the homeless community so much. She was homeless herself at one point, and I have not met anyone quite like her. For the past 2 years, her passion has been being a voice for the homeless, visiting those in prison and at the hospital who don’t have families anymore, and loving on the unloved. After experiencing a lot of life, she has just finished her B.A. in pastoral ministries and is figuring out the next step for what God wants to do with her. Back here in Colorado, Andreas and I are trying to figure out the same thing.
Every Friday night, we go to choo-choo park with 200+ pieces of fried chicken and lots of bottled water. Everyone eats until the food is gone (most of the time we have enough for seconds), and those who want can stay for a message from God’s word and for prayer.
There are two things unique about this ministry:
- We have no building, so we meet the homeless community where they are., which is usually in this particular park under a big pavilion.
- We have dinner first, then a message V.S. forcing people to sit through a message first and then feeding them (which seems a little like bribery to me, but that’s up for debate, I suppose).
We want this to be a ministry that changes people. Yes, we want to meet physical needs, but we don’t want to (and won’t) enable people to stay stuck if we can help it.
But a big part of loving people is meeting their needs. So what are your needs, ladies and gentlemen of the city curbs?
These are the people who were carpenters and artisans, medical workers and cooks, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters… before life happened to them. Some are in their current state because they made poor decisions, and some were as “normal” as you and I with houses and cars until some bad stuff happened that was out of their control. Really, guys… not all homeless people are careless drunks. They are hard workers with thoughts and senses of humor and internal organs.
They’re real people.
I used to cross the street to avoid them, but now I know them.
I used to fear them, but I don’t anymore, because I’ve found that they have heartbeats and get hungry and have dreams just like I do.