There is a program in Portland, as well as many other cities, in which the most needy homeless are granted an opportunity to move into an apartment for six months, cost free. The idea behind this is to give a homeless person an opportunity to get off the street permanently. At the very least, for six months, they are no longer homeless.
However there are large percentage of homeless who are unable to stay in an apartment even for six months. Sometimes they leave of their own accord, but often they are thrown out due to drug use or for too many people in the apartment. Some hear this and think “how ungrateful.” The social workers who made a huge effort to get them into apartments are upset because the effort seems pointless. However, the reality is more complex.
The homeless who moved into the apartment understood and agreed to the requirements of the apartment building. However, when they were on the street, they learned about the need for community living for survival—the benefit of one becomes the benefit of all. And so how can they, who received housing through no effort of their own, not share it with their friends who helped him out when he was in need? So the apartment quickly becomes full of people, some bringing their addictions with them. But what else could they do?
Some of the same folks, after living in an apartment, find that after living for years on the street four walls are too enclosing, too claustrophobic—the air is too still, too stifling. There are too many people around them, it is too noisy. And they don’t know that they want to take on the responsibility of paying for bills again. It all seems too difficult to deal with and they aren’t sure they will ever be ready to live a “normal” life again.
Unfortunately, many of those working with the homeless, trying to get the homeless apartments or trying to find “solutions” to the “homeless problem” don’t know about these issues. They can’t imagine that an apartment isn’t a great solution for every homeless person.
In James chapter one, there is a wise statement: “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” James is saying that it is easy to make assumptions about how other people think or what they really want. When we have something that we really need, we assume that everyone has that same need. When we find something that is a solution for ourselves, we assume that everyone must have that same solution, offered to them in the same way. God, however, recognizes that each person has different needs, and God offers them different solutions to their unique problems. This is why although Jesus is the answer, the question looks different for each person and the solution Jesus offers differs depending on the question. God gives the Spirit to speak to each person in their own unique way, that no one can replicate.
For those of us who aren’t too sure, we are not God. And we don’t know the hearts or motivations of people. There is only one way for us to find out: we must ask and listen. We must trust what they say and act out of love in response to their need. Most of us recognize that if we want to speak to a person from another country about the gospel, we would probably need to learn another language, or perhaps learn a bit about their different point of view.
If we were going to speak to a Native American or a naturalized immigrant to our nation, we understand that we would have to communicate a little differently because we do not know their cultural perspective, and we don’t want to offend them by accident. Those who live in poverty live in a different culture than those of us who have always had a middle class life. They have different assumptions, different ways of communicating, different aspirations, different ideas of how the world works. They have different needs and different ways of meeting those needs than we who have always had our needs met.
Ruby Payne spoke of Hidden Rules among class groups that are basically cultural characteristics (you can find the lists here) These descriptions help us realize that there are cultural distinctions between classes. However, any list of characteristics do not apply to all people of these classes, and some of them not even the majority of the people who represent each class.
In the end, even if we learn a person’s culture, their language, their mode of communication, their background and their worldview, in the end, if we want to understand the person in front of us, we must talk to them and listen carefully to what they say. Only if we spend time with a poor person (or any person) can we expect to minister to them.
Only by listening can we express our care for them.
Only by listening can we know what another person’s needs really are.
Only by listening can we participate in being part of their solution.
So, last week we made the decision to stop running around like crazy people on the weekend trying to “attend” two churches.
We love our Calvary Chapel church but haven’t felt that was exactly where God wanted us to stay since we started attending. Which was hard to understand and we took several weeks before submitting to that nudging of the Holy Spirit. We feel He definitely had purpose in us being there, the church was and is everything we wanted, we wanted a church that had a heart for outside the walls and we met some incredible people that will forever be a part of our missions journey, the messages are great and the worship is amazing, but we still felt disconnected from something, then we started to feel the burden of our schedules and realized we were attending a traditional church on Sunday because that’s what we were “supposed to do”, that was in addition to our St Johns ministry which is amazing (and i could go on about it for multiple rants). We really begin to examine what “church” means, what we say it means and what our schedule demonstrates it really means to us.
Our St Johns Trails ministry is a church, we gather, worship by serving and we testify to His greatness and offer the Hope of His amazing Plan, we read the Bible and pray.
So we are attending Calvary Chapel Wednesday nights for the kids Awana and our worship time, an amazing time of being fed and sitting quietly before the Lord, but no longer going on Sundays. We are also going to continue doing street evangelism on Fridays if the week hasn’t been crazy.
Please continue to pray for our ministry, that more of our people would make it to the building. We were serving about 10 regulars and 5 newbies every week under the tree on the Trail, last week we had 3 regulars and 2 newbies in the building, so we are encouraged in that. Anawim, the homeless church in the east Portland area that we are a part of, has several people that serve Trails on Sundays, they are still doing church on the actual trail, they sometimes have close to 25-30 people. Hopeful that they will eventually all begin to come indoors on Saturdays and join us for a great message about His grace and that the Sunday team will have an opportunity to move indoors as well.
Every Friday i have dreams about the room we are in being filled (FILLED) with people needing food and a Savior. I love that dream and am looking forward to it tonight.
I met Harold some ooooh… 20 years ago. Harold is about 45 now physically but he is really about 10. Harold has a sweet and gentle soul and he is always looking for ways to bless people. Even when they do not want to be blessed.
Today I found Harold at the Credit union where I bank. He had been there just long enough for security to call for back up. Somehow Harold had managed to get through the electronic security door and was busy depositing his bags of blessings throughout the offices both populated and not.
He was just starting down the row of tellers when armed security made their appearance shouting commands which Harold ignored because he didn’t think they were shouting at him! But then they grabbed him and he cried “OWWW! You are hurting me! Why are you hurting me?” in his child like voice.
I intervened and was taken into custody. I know how to talk louder than the guy bellowing commands: “He is mentally challenged. He doesn’t understand what is happening to him.” Finally one of the Bank managers stepped up to the plate and order returned and I was uncuffed.
I went to Harold and explained that he was not allowed in here. Then Harold said, “I was just giving them some holiday blessings” and he handed me a bag that was filled with red and green and white squares of paper and each one was the hand written note on the one side it says “Jesus loves you’ and on the other side ‘God bless you’. Every bag— all 40 of them— had 10 squares of paper in them and all were hand written.
I looked at the security leader and said, “Pretty dangerous stuff huh?” He turned and walked away. The manager took all the bags and said she would pass them out at the end of the day.
When asked how he got back in the secured area Harold just said that an Angel opened the door for him. Of this I have no doubt.
I took Harold home and as we were driving he said “Am I gonna get grounded for this?”
I shook my head and said “No, God doesn’t ground His messengers, he blesses them.”
Then we went and got Harold’s most favoritest food: ice cream with sprinkles.
I have this friend who was homeless for a long time, moved out of state who is now doing well with housing and meetings and all. I haven’t heard from for a while, but he called me the other day. I saw his name on the caller ID, but I was busy, so I let it go. He called me again about an hour later, and I was in a meeting and so I let it go. I knew that he just wanted to chat my ear off, so I didn’t worry about it. But then he called me again and again, each time I was in the midst of something else.
He literally called me for days. I thought he might be boasting that Obama got elected (whom he was supporting), and didn’t worry too much about it.Finally, yesterday, I got around to calling him back. He said, almost immediately, “Steve are you okay?”I told him I was fine and asked why.“The other day I had a dream about you. You were in your large chair and crying. I wouldn’t have thought about it, but the next night I had exactly the same dream. I think that if I have a repeated dream, then it’s something to be concerned about, so I started calling you. Are you sure you’re okay? When you didn’t call back, I thought there must be something wrong.”I said, “I’m really tired, as usual, but I’m okay.”And then I felt ashamed because I thought he was calling to use up what little energy I had, but in reality he was calling to minister to me. Eventually, if you give and give, people will give back, not because they want to pay back but because they really care.It’s good to know I have friends who care.
At the beginning of this month, our landlord of many years who has graciously allowed us to live in this house at the rent of 600 per month and then a year ago he raised it to 650. Now due to an increase of taxes and his wife’s deteriorating health he needs to sell the house.
So we started exploring the area to find new lodgings only to find out that rent on the average exceeds what we have as income by some 2 to 400 dollars and that doesn’t even address utilities and deposits and first and last and application fees and so on and so forth.
So what were we to do? Well I have a favorite psalm it is #61 and it says “Hear my cry, O Lord, attend unto my prayer from the ends of the earth do I call unto Thee…. When my heart is faint lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou art my refuge and a strong tower against the enemy.”
So there I am in the shower crying out saying “I have nothing but you. We have but $1963.13 that is it. Your servants will be on the street and I tell you Lord I do not want to be there and I am sure my wife would agree.” I laid out what I thought we could do but that HE would provide the finances cause we don’t have the money “and what’s more You know we don’t have the money.” And by that time I had worked myself into a state of tears standing wet naked and crying before God. Then this remarkable peace just settled over me I had been heard and now I needed to wait.
Last Sunday God sent the answer and we have the funds for the motor home and then Monday morning I received a call from a friend and there had been another pledge towards the motor home and the liberty to go from searching to hunting. So that is where we are now: hunting and seeking God’s anointing for the right motor Home. So that is where we are currently. Please keep praying……