God has made us in His image…He has made us relational. God seeks a relationship with each one of us but leaves it up to us as to how, when, where, and for how long we will interact with Him. At different points in my life I have been at different points with God. There have been times when I have been desperately at his feet as well as times when I have been as far away from him as ever. The times that I have been the farthest away from him were the times that my life was the most dysfunctional and when I was making the worst choices for myself.
It is no different with our relationships with the people around us. When I was living way off base…. Making horrible choices….I was also very distant from my loved ones. I didn’t want anyone telling me what I was doing wrong and I also didn’t want them to know that I was so off base. Our North First Street friends are no different. Many of them have come to where they are because of a series of steps that have led them away from anyone who could help them. Many have left family because the family was so dysfunctional and others have left family because their choices were so dysfunctional.
I am always looking for measurable ways to indicate that people are making changes in their lives for the better out on North First ST. In my constant view “the cup is half full” mentality, I want to see that what we are doing is making a difference. I know that there are way too many variables involved to ever be able to say that the changes we see are due to a 2 hour a week ministry….but what I can report are the common trends in behavior that I observe. That is all they are….observations.
And what I have observed over the last 6 months is a trend of people who have approached us and said that they are making a change in their life by moving back to where they came from. For some, it meant moving back to their home state of California where family lives, others- moving to Spokane where relatives are…some have moved with a friend as far away as North Dakota for work (by the way…they guy has a 9 month work contract with John Deer, an apartment, and just bought a van—he is so happy!), others have moved to Belingham…again because family is there. The change may be to move from the river, to a hotel room. Or from a hotel room to an apartment….it may be from the river, to the mission recovery program or from the river…to the triumph recovery center.
I see the moves as a move forward for each one of them. In the beginning, each person ran from something and was living in a semi-isolated community…one filled with darkness and secrets just as I did when I was making horrible choices. The tents camouflaged out in the brush by the river, the bed made in the corner of a parking lot with a sleeping bag or a blanket, or the people crammed into a dark motel room are all places where they can continue to carry out their choices without a lot of relationship with people except with people who are making the same choices that you are making. I see the moves that many of our street friends are choosing as positive steps forward in their lives. I believe that we were able to help sustain them during their low time with food, clothes, and relationship until they were ready to start on the long path back home…the long path back to society.
I am so encouraged to hear when someone tells me that they are making a change… rarely is it backwards because the people we see are kind of as low as they can go..so if they are not ready to start moving forward…they just stay where they are at (because you can’t get much lower). And there are people in this situation also. They are the people who are still in much the same situation as they were a year or two earlier when we met them. They may have changes happening within them (Only God knows) but I think they will stay in their situations until they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. It is then that they will start seeking change… and I am so thankful that we are there each week to be able to encourage them at whatever stage they are at.
I am not at the same place that I was at 25 years ago, because I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired... it was then that I turned to God. Only God could move me from where I was to where I am now. Only God could change my heart and my mind… Only God could break through the darkness and show me the light… the hope…the incredible walk that I am able to have every day with God.
Keith has made a relationship with a guy who has helped him set up the tables on Sunday mornings. He told Keith today that this last week was the first week in 2 years that he has been able to work a 40 hour week. Praise the Lord!!! Keith was able to give him a bike today and he was so happy! We are made to be relational…and we seek relation with one another.
The family that I have spoken of who have 4 kids and earlier in the summer they got an apartment… many people donated things to go in their place since they did not have anything. Well today they asked if I had anything that they could store the ashes of their tiny baby who passed away :0( MY heart was so sad for her and
Yet at the same time, I was so happy that she would share something so private and personal with me. Keith and I lost a baby boy before we had Olivia. I trust God that He has it all under control… we wouldn’t have Olivia if Kordell was born. God has us in the center of his hands!! The mama also asked if we could pray. It was wonderful… the mama, her teenage daughter, and I held hands and prayed together to Our God and Father! Beautiful!! We are made to be relational J
A man shared with Keith today… he said, “Man, I really appreciate you guys so much! I know that you may not hear that very often, but I really appreciate you.” He shared how he knew we were coming because he saw the tables set up this morning and he said, “I know you will be here whether the tables are up or not.”…. yes people seek relationship.
Chuck is moving to Spokane at the end of the week… he said that he is going to go up and be with family…”but you have been my family here,” he said. It really isn’t just handing at food and clothes…. It is making relationship…like Christ did.
A guy was out there today who shared with Keith that he had 5 by passes 8 weeks ago. Keith had him sit down by the car and rest a bit. He was so thankful for so little. He seemed to open up and enjoy sharing a bit about his life with Keith. We all seek someone to share life with.
At the end of the afternoon, a young man (early 20’s) came over for some food. He has been coming for over a year now. I asked how his girl friend was doing…(who is really a guy who dresses up like a girl). His response broke my heart… not because his girlfriend is a guy…but because he said, “We aren’t together… I don’t know where she is… I probably killed her last time I beat her up.” My heart broke…. I pray that the person isn’t dead and that he/she is safe somewhere away from anyone that would hurt him/her. It doesn’t matter if it is a man, woman, or child… No ONE ever ever ever deserves to be beat…. Ever!!!!!
Some people in line today who were new… looked away as Keith made his way down the line shaking hands. They looked like they wanted to disappear… to melt into the crowd and not be seen… they are still running into the dark…. Away from something or someone….Other people in line looked shocked as Keith approached… like, “Why are you talking to me? Why are you being nice?” My prayer is that those who are running away from relationships…. Will find renewed hope in the basic need that we all have…. The need to be relational. And I pray that they will begin to feel the stirring in their very core that comes from the Creator of the Earth…a stirring that says, “I have always loved you and you are enough just the way you are! I will never leave you or forsake you!”
Thank You Jesus for Your unending love! I give You all of the praise and glory! In Jesus Holy Name… Amen! J