Friday, April 22, 2011

Remember the Poor & Broken

Thursday to Thursday, no night at Broken Hearts is ever quite the same. While some nights still feel dull and useless, experience continues to teach me to come expecting God to use us - even if just for one person. 

Last night was no different. As usual I arrived to the normal BH crew and our friends who come every week - nothing out of the ordinary. A man named "Tex" who we'd met several weeks ago - full of life and in a generally sound state of mind  - was, for the second week in a row, nearly passed out on the sidewalk waiting for us. Recently he has been incoherently drunk and depressed. He told us he'd just been in the hospital, his benefits had been taken away, he had no place to go or food, his body was full of pain, and wanted to end his life. 

As in most situations here, the only good option was prayer. So while part of the team broke off to invite people to bible study and find out about some skirmish going on down the street involving fighting and police, two of us stayed to pray. As I so enjoy about prayer is that, the more we prayed, the more seemed to be revealed and in need of prayer. Evil spirits, physical pain, emotional pain...he cried out to God even as we did, touching his limp body lying on the dirty cement where tears proceeded to pool.  He exposed the pain, the fear keeping him from getting help, complete lack of identity, and confessed lies, bringing much to light. 

After we'd stopped and began to transition to bible study (about 30 minutes late from the long prayer) came the harsh contrast of how the homeless and tragically-broken are treated. Two security guards came by to tell him to get off the sidewalk or at least sit up against the wall, putting on rubber gloves and preparing to remove any alcohol bottles that he might have on him and possibly move him.They finally left  him alone when we said he was with us and that we'd watch out for him. But that would not have been the case had we not been there...

(Again, to contrast, he'd recently been to church after I'd invited him, where within a few minutes he thanked me profusely and said he'd found a home and that people were so kind and welcoming. What a difference between the world and  the Holy Spirit!....)
Around that time, a security guard from the club down the street came by to chat for a bit on his break, and told us how a few weeks ago he'd been stabbed seven times after leaving work one night. He said that experience had completely changed him and now he is a believer and sharing his story with co-workers who are shocked that he's alive. Stabbed seven times, and full of joy and laughter.

Reflecting on the night, I thought about how I'd been having a "down" day and not ready to pour out for anybody else. Yet through intense prayer, then hearing this other man's story, and seeing a bible study form from what once again looked like an empty night on the street...I found restoration. The passion found in serving and remembering the poor and taking the gospel to the broken-hearted gave me life and joy at the same time. 

A few weekend ago at church, we were talking about remembering the poor. A woman who works to fight human trafficking and I talked about it later, and how she almost wanted to stand up in church and ask people if they have any idea what they're missing out on by not serving the poor. How we're missing a part of the heart of God and knowing him deeper by forgetting those who might be a bit harder to love or take more sacrifice to serve. Our pastor talked about this, we're missing something in the gospel and in our relationship with God if we don't remember the poor. 

No, it does not make sense that pouring out should fill us up. But it does. Let Him use you, wherever you are. Jesus promises us, it is in LOSING your life that you will FIND He also gives it to others through you. Don't miss out....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Retiring" from the street life

One of the most important - and least-known - ways that Broken Hearts meets the physical needs of those we meet on Thursday and Friday nights, is through what we call the Street Retirement Fund. This past year, it was given to two individuals - one male, one female - to help them get off the street.

The fund is set up as a scholarship of sorts, provided to people we've been in relationship, that we trust, and who are actively working towards getting off the street and becoming productive, emotionally, and spiritually- whole members of society. Essentially, they are required to fill out a proposal with a brief explanation of who why they need the money for housing, and what their goals are as they get off the street. We will pay up to 3 months of their housing while they work on getting clean, and/or getting a job, finding stable living, completing a program, etc. 

Recently a friend of ours (we'll call him 'J') has been working on getting himself into permanent housing and finding a job. He is transitioning from a recovery program to SRO housing, staying in a shelter on Skid Row in the meantime. He had to have a deposit to get into the new place, but has no money. 

I talked to our board this weekend, and we decided if he filled out the Street Retirement proposal, we'd pay for his first 3 months of his living expenses. He would have been able to pay it on his own, except that his General Relief money has to get transferred from his old program back to him, and it would take longer than the time frame he needed to get into new housing. 

This morning he called me bright and early. "Are you up?" he said when I answered. "Uh...not really," I responded, incredibly groggy. I'd answered the random phone number, only because I knew it was probably him expecting money and help getting checked in. I hadn't gotten enough sleep all weekend and didn't expect such an early phone call. But he needed me down there, so I reconfigured my plans for the day and downed as much coffee as I could on my way to Skid Row. The whole process (not being able to check in as early as expected, picking up his stuff being stored in my Basileia office, getting a money order, eating breakfast at some sketchy joint on 7th street) all took WAY longer than expected. 

But as we talked about the Street Retirement Fund during errands, he told me that his General Relief only pays for about 9 months, and then they cut him off for 3 months before it kicks in again. His was about to get cut off and wouldn't have a source of income for the next 3 months. By us offering to pay for exactly 3 months (unexpectedly, because he thought I was going to lend him money for 1 month), it would cover his lapse in government assistance while he got settled and looked for a job!

When I'd thought to have BH help him, I had no idea about that. In fact, in order to stay in his housing he needed to have proof of income. By promising 3 months of provision for him, he could let them know he is covered until GR kicks in again. So cool to see God's hand in this whole process! Especially after Thursday night, when he'd been telling us that his faith had been lacking because he didn't really see God's power or provision much in his life.

What is also encouraging to me is that the Street Retirement Fund doesn't just give money, but helps set goals and check in regularly with our "clients" to make sure they're moving towards their goals and providing for themselves. So as we help 'J' out, he'll also be held accountable for looking for a job, applying for school, and paying for his own rent. Meaning with some assistance, he should be self-sufficient in  a few months...and hopefully with much greater faith in God. Ideally, that would be followed by him being out on the streets with us encouraging others with his story like our other STF recipients have been doing. 

Little sleep and a morning on skid row = totally worth it.

If you'd like to help support more men and women in getting off of the streets, you can donate here: