Acts 10 34-36
34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.
Believing this…. We head out to North First Street to try and share the Good News to whoever will listen!! From infants to the elderly….all receive the love of Jesus shown to them through many hands giving food, clothes, toilet paper, and soap. What beautiful words….”If you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.” Beautiful words of freedom, of hope, words of future, words of life! Old or young… rich or poor…can receive Jesus!! And like a turtle crossing the road…what is a short easy trip for some … is a long long journey for others. But little by little Jesus is moving people further and further along the journey to the feet of the cross!
I love Keith’s words today as he was reflecting about the day…”Ten out of ten people were so thankful and grateful today!” The poor often get a bad rap with labels like: greedy, ungrateful, hoarders. Like all people, you can always find someone to fit the mold…but after a year and a half of serving our friends, I am convinced that the majority of people who we see are very thankful and gracious…in addition to being survivors. I met a mom today who has three young children under the age of 10. She works as a nurse’s assistant and earns $10.50 an hour. This lady works 12 hour shifts and her husband works at burger king. Another single mom lives with them who also has 3 children. The nurse’s assistant does not qualify for food stamps but because of her job, but she can’t always make the money stretch far enough. Her kids are all in school and tries hard to be a good mom. We always try and pick out the name brand kids clothes for her kids because it is so hard to look different from all the other kids. They are very appreciative. I told her to please let us know if there are specific things that they need that would help. They are working very hard…..to make life work! She told us how much our Sundays mean to the people in her neighborhood. Her neighbor boy came over and reminded them that it was time to head over…It made me smile. They are good people…. Trying hard with what they have.
Others….need Jesus as much as I need Jesus…but they are shackled by ugly invisible chains that override their dying bodies and souls. As I was shaking hands and handing out granola bars in line- I asked a man if I could help him…he was drunk but I asked him if he wanted help getting into rehab. He said, “I love Julie…and I could never leave Julie. I can’t live without her.” He might actually love Julie…but I think the part that he wasn’t saying was…”He loves alcohol…and he can’t imagine life without alcohol.” I didn’t realize that the Julie he was talking about was the lady who has significant mental problems who sits by the fence next to the mission. She lives on the streets and keeps everything she owns in an old shopping cart. Julie is covered in dirt and grime and sits comatose like staring at the cement with an absent look on her face. Tom may really love Julie….but Tom really loves alcohol too. My prayer is that Jesus will invade his heart and soul and give him the courage to abandon one of his loves….and it is not Julie.
See the people who we meet on North First are at different places along the “Crisis Highway”. Some are new on this crazy road…and are shell shocked by the craziness which people travel along this path. Others have been on the “Crisis Highway” for a very long time…some for their whole lives and they know no other….We get the honor of being the flaggers along this highway. We get to hold up flags of encouragement, of hope, of love. We get to redirect them to the off ramps that lead to freedom… that lead to Jesus!!! We have wonderful people who pour their love into the food they cook for us… others pour their love into the music they play out there…while others pour out their love through the hard work they do serving where they are needed. They give of themselves to try to offer whatever encouragement they can to reduce the number of travelers along this crazy “Crisis Highway”.
One particular woman who is trying to find the off ramp of this crazy life told me that she has a psych. Eval. At D.S.H.S. in the morning! I was so happy for her because she is taking the steps necessary to reach the off ramp leading to a new life. I asked her if she would like someone to go with her to the appointment and she said “yes” so tomorrow I get to give her a little encouragement along what must be a kinda scary path. I am so happy that she wants to try… try to get the correct medication for her depression and anxiety rather than the meth that she is using. So tonight as she lays in her sleeping bag by the river under the stars…she can possible imagine a life that is a little less crazy. I just need to remember to bring her a brush so that she can freshen up a bit before her appointment. (This was her request…because even homeless ladies- want to look pretty).
Another man who we have often prayed with came late today to get a hug and a word of encouragement. I asked him if he had signed up for the rehab program at the Mission yet and he told me that he had not, but that he would in a week or two. We talked about how scary it might be but that Jesus would give him the courage to take the steps needed. We continue to pray for him. He is in the process of deciding if it is time to take the off ramp---He is starting to look for the signs on the side of the freeway indicating where the exit is…. This is progress!
As I was picking up garbage towards the end of our visit I walked up to a woman sitting on a cement planter and asked her if she had any garbage. She said no but asked if I had any water. Long story short- she did not want to eat but was extremely thirsty….as well as extremely mentally ill. The woman spoke to many people around her….even though there were not people around her…. In many variations in her voice….she rocked back and forth and had a hard time looking at me. I headed back and grabbed a couple glasses of water along with a half a jug of Kool-Aid that was left over. I brought them to her and in return was thanked by many different voices….I walked away and knew that I had given a cup of water to someone who was very thirsty….and who was moving very quickly down the “Crazy Crisis Highway”. Maybe she will slow down enough to start to see the signs of encouragement and who knows….she may one day seek the off ramp….to help…to hope….to a new direction in her life. A direction led by Jesus Christ.
After we loaded the last boxes and shut the trailer doors… we headed over to a small park by Minda Lanes Bowling. This little triangle of grass houses anywhere from 4-12 people. Now this place has a whole different feel from North First Street…. Different dynamics. We are familiar with the “culture” of North First Street, but the culture… the pecking order of this area is different. Regulars who reside on this small patch of grass have their own set of rules….of leadership- or should I say… rank and order. We pulled up with our hotdogs, mac-n-cheese, and water. Keith had come upon these people one morning after he set up the tables on North First. He has stopped at different times and visited with the people who regularly stake out the grounds. The people here were older than the folks we see over on North First and drunker too. Let’s just say that 99% of them were swaying back and forth as I introduced myself. They were very nice to us…but seemed to bicker amongst each other. Silly I did not pick up on this of course. Oh I had no problem seeing that they were inebriated, but I didn’t pick up on the feuds between the people who reside there on a regular basis and the ones that had stumbled over. I am an equal people giver…. I will give anyone anything that I have if there is a need…. I am glad that Keith came over and helped keep the peace. Loll! I was in the trailer crouched up on the stack of tables, trying to dig through boxes. I just wanted to help meet the needs….meanwhile…Keith was noting the rise in agitation because some people received things that other people wanted. “We need to get out of here Camille… no really …. We need to get out of here.” Okie Dokie….I know that tone…. It means, “I don’t mean to be mean… but you need to crawl out of that little space and get in the truck pronto before a feud breaks out between the A team and the B team”. Next time I plan on making up some premade bags of clothes in the correct sizes as well as bagged up food so that our stay is maybe a little shorter. Oh… it was harmless, but I know what he meant. When we first started handing out the hotdogs… a little older lady came running back to the trailer…”They stole my hotdogs! The lady in that camper stole my hotdogs!!” She sounded like a little girl…and I thought she might cry- it obviously hurt her feelings. After a little talking and a guided arm around her shoulders- we pointed her in the direction of “more hot dogs.” I should have taken note right there. We don’t really see that down by the mission, but then again… these people are farther from the mission and so they don’t have access to the bathrooms, meals, and water. Let’s just say it is like dry camping versus camping with a full hook up. They were needier and more desperate… but also they seemed more impacted by their addictions across the board.
There were two young men- 21 years old…. The same age as my son who I had just said “goodbye” to earlier this morning as he left to go back to Kansas where he goes to college. I contrasted that memory with the picture of the two boys standing in front of me. One young man had not eaten in 2 days and the other was trying to take care of his mother and father who were living in the motor home parked next to the grassy area. He had come up from Arizona to try and help his parents get their lives together, but along the way… he got messed up. The boy brought his mother her food, collected the clothes she needed in her size, and asked for size 10 shoes because she only had a pair of flip flops. He helped me hand out clothes and wanted so much to keep the peace amongst the people there. He tried to make sure that everyone got food and that everyone got a pair of pants or a shirt if needed. The boy shared that he did not have his GED and that he was special needs when he was in school. “My dad says that I am slow, but I don’t think I am that slow. I want to get a job. I want to try and have a good life.” He continued, “But ma’am, I have to be honest with you. I have a past. I have charges against me for robbery and drugs…. And I have a problem… with using.” You know how angry you get when you think of someone beating up a special ed. Kid in a wheel chair? Well I felt a surge of anger….that someone (namely his parents) led this kid who has special needs- down the path that led to the “Crazy Crisis Highway!” The boy… who is more like a young teen… is carrying the responsibility of taking care of his mother and father who look younger than me. This boy should be taken care of….not operating as the primary care taker. I want this young man to find the exit to this crazy highway…. I hope that softens and opens to the Jesus that comes to visit him on Sundays.
Dear Jesus- Thank you so much for giving me the peace in knowing that You are in control of everything and that Your heart is for all people to receive You… and for all people to live in the freedom on Your highway…Your incredible amazing peaceful, adventurous, fulfilling highway of life and love! In Jesus name Amen!