I work with the homeless at the Open Door Mission in Omaha. I’ve been there for a year and a half or so, and it’s been quite an experience. Here are some things from different guys that stuck in my heart from this week:
“‘I’m 20’ … ‘I ran away from home, been living on the street for the last 2 years (in homeless shelters full of violence, drugs, alcohol, etc)’
[Thinking to myself: such hardened eyes, untrusting, calculating. Why would you do that? What was it about your family that could push you to live in this environment? The pain is so visible. Lord help him.]”
“‘Yes I’m a sex offender.’ ‘Where can I go if I can’t stay here?’ ‘I’ve heard about that place, and I’m trying to stay clean. I might as well go back where I came from than go there…’ ‘Where do people expect us to go? (angry, frustrated, hopeless)’ ‘I’m experiencing one of the hardest times in my life…'”
[Such pain and despair. Does anyone deserve this? God, how can I show you to this person?]
“‘Please don’t make me sleep in the bunk room’ ‘I’ve been in prison all of my life, I only got out 10 days ago’ ‘I’m terrified of the dark’ ‘Thank you for the shoes and the clothing, this is the most that I’ve owned in a long time. I used to have a more, 25 years ago… family, house, etc.’ ‘Please be careful about waking me up. I get violent sometimes. I’m scared that I’ll go off again… I don’t want to go back to prison. I don’t want to hurt anyone.’ “
[So scared, terrified, broken. He needs to meet the Lord so badly! There’s hope!]
“I’m a bad man. I need to get into the recovery program. I’m tired of being someone who can’t look his own daughter in her eyes. I used to be someone that I could be proud of.”
Glimpses of four men’s brokenness and pain. Four men. Specks of sand in a sea of brokenness and pain. Four among hundreds which I pass by every single day, thousands as the years go by. What about those in other cities and states? What about those in other countries? Is everyone as broken as we are, or worse?
Lord… There is so much pain. Years and years of wounds opened, closed, scarred, opened again, scarred again… so much damage. I think to myself, “are there words to say which would help, or which would even be heard?” Somewhere inside, I laugh at the foolishness of the thought. They have no use for platitudes. Words are empty without action. They’ve heard religion before, and right now they just want a meal and a place to rest.
I think to myself, “Lord, you can heal the pain. Would you? Why not reach down and just remove it?”
I sometimes find myself wanting to hole up somewhere and escape. Escape is easy, and so much simpler. So much simpler not to care, not to make it my problem. I have enough problems without worrying about the needs of others. Right?
It seems that I continue to come back to Chr.st, time and time and time again. He cared so much. Spent time with those who no one else cared about. He did life with them. He didn’t visit on weekends, while sleeping safely at home in his mansion. They were his friends, his family. He rebuked those who hypocritically considered themselves ‘as better than.’
And as I ponder, I realize distaste and discomfort begin to rise within me. The thought of caring… going the extra mile. Truly caring… makes me uncomfortable.
Caring takes effort. It means learning about what is going on in the lives of others at a deeper level, and being a friend. Loving enough to say what has to be said, and loving enough to stick through the thick and the thin. It means discomfort, and humility, and honesty.
I’m not really good at that.
Yet, as I hear the stories and build relationships and learn, and try to speak life and truth into the lives, I recognize my heart slowly shifting. Something stirs within me. A passionate caring. Anger at the enemy, who would rob, kill, and destroy. As I leave my comfort zone I begin to understand WHY to care.
It’s important to know why you’re doing something. If you don’t, when push comes to shove, you won’t have any reason to push through the difficult times, and you’ll fold.
We are going to Africa. We’re doing it because God has been so good to us that we want to tell the world of his goodness, for His glory.. We’re doing it because we care about the brokenness of those who are living without Him, who have no opportunity to hear about Him, and who have so much pain in their lives. We’re doing it because He has called us to it, and it is an honor to serve such a good God.
Do you care? Will you partner with us? Help us go.