For years the Anawim board has been concerned what would happen if Steve (me) would no longer be capable of leading the ministry. Everything depended on me, connections, finances, supply lines, peacemaking, etc. So we discussed what would happen if I had a stroke? Not a very comfortable conversation, but also no real answers emerged. For the last two years we took some steps to depend less on one person, and more on others, but nothing seemed to stick.
Three months ago, in August, it was clear that I was unable to continue. Something inside me had broken and I was unable to function. (If you want to learn more about this process of brokenness and what happened during these months, you can read my journal here: http://stevekimes.blogspot.com/ )
On August 11, I had reached a turning point: I could no longer lead Anawim. My path had led to a place where I could no longer continue. Having no direction from anyone, I determined this: I had a group of the homeless and formerly homeless who I was training at that time. I would give them an opportunity to take on leadership in Anawim. If they worked out, then we could talk about continuing.
I took the month of September off of everything. I rested, developed some disciplines to improve my physical, mental and spiritual health. I left Anawim in the hands of those trained, not only seeing if they could do the work without me, but also see if they could deal with the inevitable crises without me. If I found that I couldn’t do any of the work anymore, or if the new workers couldn’t bear the burden, then Anawim would end.
At one point in my month off, I whined to the Lord. It’s good to do that, once in a while, just to see what He replies. I was whining about the difficulty of the work, with so few people to help, to donate, and so many people to tell you that you’re doing it wrong or caring for the wrong people. The Lord replied, “Just stand back and see what happens.”
As a leader, I forget that part of the process of leading is letting go. If we want to teach our kid how to walk, we guide them by the hand, but we have to let them walk on their own. Yes, they will fall. And fail. Maybe they will hurt themselves. But until you aren’t there anymore, they don’t learn to go on their own.
I don’t feel that Anawim was ready for this time of homeless leadership until this year. A core group of leaders just weren’t there (I could be wrong, but that’s how it seemed to me). It was always my ideal to let the everyday work be done by those receiving the most. And to give the poor the true reigns of the work, to let them make the decisions.
And now, only because of my own weakness as a human being, my limited capacity displaying itself at the right time, we have it. We are a self-sustaining unit (except financially… but in time, we will.) The work is continuing and no one else has to burn the candle at both ends.
All the neighbors that were complaining and afraid of our homeless folks have now good things to say about our work.
The city wants to work with us, as does our larger church organization.
I no longer fear for the future of Anawim. The Lord is as good as his promise. If someone had told me, “You know in two months this and this would happen,” I would have laughed at them.
That’s the way God’s work is. The laughable comes true right when you least expect it.