Pat is a regular at RedBarn, about my wife’s and my age, helping in various ways, both when she was homeless and now. She ran her own business that failed, and ended up living in her car. We would allow her to occasionally sleep overnight in the parking lot.
One night a group of three men came over to accost our homeless folks who were on and near our property. They woke up the few people sleeping in the next door park. They came to Pat’s car where she was sleeping, slammed their hands on the hood of the car and screamed at her, “You don’t belong here! Go away! Go away!” By the time she was able to get her keys out and get the car started, they were on all sides of the car, shaking it up and down. She was able to leave. I’m surprised she ever came back again.
Now she has her own apartment and a job. She’s not got much money, though, so she was out canning with a bag to get some dog food. A police officer saw her and asked her what she was doing, and where she was staying. She said that she was over by a certain corner. The officer replied with suspicion, “Are you staying at the Golden Knight?” (This is the cheap motel in town, where many homeless people crash if they can). She replied, “Oh, no. I have my own place in the apartment building.” Suddenly the officer’s suspicion turned to respect. “Sorry to bother you ma’am.”
It is fascinating that a homeless person can be treated like trash, but once they are housed they are respected. Perhaps we should stop looking at people’s station and treat people according to the kindness and respect they give others.
Amber lives on the streets of Gresham, and she is tired of being harassed. She has been told to move four times in the last three days. She is a good worker, preparing meals at a local church for the hungry two times this week, and working in their clothing room every week.
“They are telling us, ‘You know that camping is illegal in Gresham, don’t you?’ They told me that next time they see me they will arrest me for camping. Were are we supposed to go? I’m tired of being forced to move every day.”
People should not be forced to leave unless they have a place to go. Sixty five percent of the homeless in Gresham come from Gresham. It is time for Gresham to take care of their own, and provide solutions, not abuse.
We provide a place for them to shower, get clothes, cook food and get sleep during the day. And city leaders tell the neighbors that we are drawing the homeless to Gresham, rather than serving the homeless who are there.
A police officer comes over to our congregation and threatens them with arrest, until I approach him and ask him to leave because we don’t allow threats on our property. By anyone.
We arranged with the city to allow our pastor to live in his RV on church property, and he provided overnight security,and we are given fines and threats by the city.
We allowed two of the homeless who worked full time keeping the property clean to stay in our residence and we were told that we couldn’t do that, that we should make our full time workers homeless again.
Officers falsely testify that people come to our property to buy and sell drugs, when we have trained security to prevent just that.
Police have dropped people off on our property because they had no where else to go, and then we are fined for having people on our property.
When the homeless are harassed by the police in our community, then we have allowed the homeless to sleep overnight. But neighbors would come over to our property and violently threaten our people.
Our pastors’ lives have been threatened, we receive a new complaint from the city every month, we have been told that we are the major problem in our city. We have been screamed at by neighbors and the police.
We understand. Jesus said that those who did His work would be persecuted. But if any church wants to help the homeless, to provide real, survival opportunities for the outcast, expect to be attacked. Don’t fear it. We survived. You can too. But be ready for it.
In the gospel of John in the 15th chapter and the 13th verse it says there is no greater gift than the laying down of ones life for another.
There are many ways to die other than physically stop breathing cross over to the other side type of dying. It does not require some monumental feat or even placing yourself in danger.
There is a scene in the section of the trilogy the Lord of the Rings called The Two Towers. In this scene the King’s niece has made a stew. It was made with love, but the princess can not cook and the stew tasted terrible. She has just given Aragorn a bowl full in love and Aragorn has just put the first spoon full into his mouth. Now he could have spat it out and cast the remainder away and destroyed heart of the giver,but instead he swallowed the mouthful and told her it was good and in doing so saved a life.
We to have those special moments where a life hangs in the balance. Where we can be right and destroy that which God has been laboring on or we can, as it is said in Romans 15:1, bear with the scruples of those who are weak, not for our sake, but for theirs, that we might encourage them and strengthen them.
The other day Anawim received a donation of food and in the box was a lot of yogurt cups. This fragile soul had picked one to give to me. It was a Lemon/pineapple blend. A flavor my taste buds cringe at. But the gift was selected in love with the expectation of seeing me consume her gift. Just like Aragorn a soul hung in the balance.
And so with much bravado, and thanking her for her thoughtfulness I pealed of the lid and licked the top of the yogurt and took the spoon she offered and ate the yogurt. The joy on her face and the love in her eyes was well worth the nasty words my taste buds were screaming at my brain. An to insure that there would not be a repeat performance of this flavor I told her this was good but that my absolute favoritest was blueberry. She assured me that if the opportunity arises again that she would do her best to get two blueberries so we could share them together. For the rest of the day she was walking in happiness and when ever our eyes met she would wave and the joy never faded.
So, I would encourage you to look for your Aragorn moments, an fortify the work the Holy Spirit is doing in the life before you.
It is not the absence of any one thing:
the use of a body or a vulgar tongue.
Holiness is the presence of love, restoration to God.
Jesus is holiness.
He is the healing of the sick;
The welcome of the sinner;
The touching of the leper;
The calming of the insane’
Hatred into peace;
Evil speech corrected.
Which means, for holiness to exist,
for Jesus to do his work,
There must first be the sick, the sinner, the leper, the insane, hatred, and evil speech.