Friday, May 30, 2008

Wal Mart

So there was this homeless man at wal mart the other day asking for food, and I soo wanted to give him a sandwich! I didn't have anything with me, and you can't give them money. I hate when that happens. When I want so badly to help, but can't! I at least made eye contact with him and gave him a smile. Sometimes...thats all they want is for you to make eye contact with them. Most of the time on the streets when people pass by they try and avoid the homeless by not making eye contact. you can't avoid them or pretend like their not there because they are! Anyways...i was frustrated because I couldn't help. All i could do was pray that God used someone that night to give him dinner and a nice smile!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Under the Overpass

I recently read a book called Under the Overpass, and I think everyone should read it. The book Under the Overpass is about as realistic as you can get from reading a book. Mike Yankoski is a man that faced many challenges that the majority of America will never face. The whole point of the book is not to make everyone feel guilty about not helping the poor and homeless, or to let everyone think that their calling should include living with the homeless. Mike points out the fact that he and his friend Sam, followed God’s leading in their lives, and they want the same for us. They want us to be willing to follow God even if it is difficult and makes us step outside of our comfort zones. We need to all first be in a right relationship with our heavenly father, and that can lead to us being able to see everyone as they are, living as we were meant to live, and loves people as we were meant to love. We will not be able to fully help anyone if we don’t see them through God’s eyes. If you truly want to be Christ to others, then love does require action. You can’t just give someone money avoiding speaking to them or really finding out what it is they need. It’s all about the relationships. You don’t need to develop a lifelong relationship with every homeless person, but just a simple hello or smile could make their day.

This book was very helpful in every aspect. Especially after coming back from Seattle, I was able to put the things the book said into action. I was able to observe the things and situations mentioned in the book. Mike made lots of great points, and it really made me think and question everything the church does especially when it comes to being open and helping those in need. I reflected a lot on my home church wondering if it was like some of the unwelcoming and disturbing church’s Mike talked about. I think we all learned through experience as well from the book that it is better to give a homeless person food instead of money. In the bible when it talks about if someone is hungry give them food, if they are thirsty give them a drink, it’s not a complicated lesson to learn. It’s very straight forward, and basically a command. If they are hungry, give them food. It’s that simple. It is also probably one of the easiest ways we can serve “the least of these” because they are usually right there in front of us, and we don’t have to go looking for them. If the Church isn’t going to show Christ’s love to the world, then who is? One thing that really challenged me was the fact that lots of times we tell people that we will pray that their needs may be supplied than to supply them. For us it is so much easier just to spout off, “we will pray for you or your needs”, and we ignore or run away from the responsibility of doing it ourselves. You could look at it in another way; it is a privilege to supply someone with whatever it is they need, and to be Christ to them. We are a Church that has become more passive instead of active when it comes to love and caring for others. One part of the book that really hit me was where Mike mentions the church that had the sign out front that said, “No Trespassing, Church Business Only.” He mentioned that the church had chains and a padlock on the doors. It really is very unattractive when a church seems totally separated from the world. I do believe that the world is the Church’s business, and that the Church does not need to shut them out. It is a really depressing observation, when you notice that the liquor, wine, cigarette, and pornography stores are the only things open twenty four hours a day. No wonder people tend to go there more often, because its doors are always open unlike the church.

One thought provoking question came to me when Mike mentioned his definition of a Christian. He had met a man who admitted to being addicted to drugs, but he openly and sincerely acknowledged Christ as his Lord and Savior and asking how he could serve them. Is our definition of a Christian general enough to include prostitutes, addicts, and other such people? I’m still struggling with this concept. Do we kick prostitutes who are self sacrificing, loving, and giving out of the church? Do we pursue and accept those people who are clean, gossiping, self absorbed, church goers? This is a very pressing matter within the church. It does make you really think about who we are reaching and ministering too. I feel as if I have made that transformation from timidity and caution to comfort and confidence when it comes to helping the poor and homeless.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I recently went on a trip to Seattle in which we visited many different organizations and ministries within the city. We learned about how the church functions in an urban area. Here are my thoughts:

John Wesley once said, “ Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” This quote has become my quote in many ways. It express’s exactly how my heart feels after coming back from Seattle. The dictionary definition of the word Church is a building for public Christian worship, but the biblical definition is the body of believers. In this class I experienced the body of Christ in the city, and not just a building for worship. I saw the church everywhere, and it made it even more meaningful because we are all apart of the same church. The streets of Seattle are filled with culture, diversity, desire, and need. If you stand in the middle of the street, you look to one side of the street and you see the forgotten, the ignored, poverty, and the homeless. On the other side of the street you see the prestige, power, and money. We were able to experience and step onto both sides of the street.

I was able to get a glimpse of what Seattle was like even before I left the airport. While we were sitting around waiting for our vehicles, I was able to observe people with many different cultures. It was fascinating to watch how they all interacted with one another. I feel like I have literally touched every corner of Seattle. I came in this city with the expectations of seeing the worst of the worst and being able to help everyone we come into contact with. I was told by some people who had previously lived in the Washington area that there were lots of Starbuck’s and a space needle. Other than that I was just planning on taking it day by day not really knowing what to expect. Being able to just drive around the city when we first got there was great because we were able to see the streets in action and get a feel of what we are getting ourselves into. As we drove from the airport into the city, I heard someone say, “Hark, look it’s the Space Needle!” As I gazed with amazement upon this architectural wonder, I thought to myself, I wonder what it would take to make this the eighth wonder of the world. We saw tons of people who have built there own little shelters behind trees or under bridges, and people carrying around everything they own either in backpacks or shopping carts. As soon as I saw this, it all became very real to me, and questions just started popping up in my mind. For example, how did they become homeless? Do they have a family? Do they have any income? I wanted all of these questions to be answered right then and there, but I knew that by the end of the trip I would have a better understanding of it all. We were also able to take a long walk out in the cold and rain to get a glimpse of what the homeless have to go through every night trying to find somewhere to sleep. City Hall is one place that we walked by and was told that they let homeless people sleep in the lobby. I wondered why I didn’t see anyone sleeping in there now, and they said it wasn’t cold enough outside. I thought that was ridiculous, but I guessed at least their doing something for these people. I was miserable just walking around in the cold rain, and I just started to think what if I had to do this every day! We had just gotten to Seattle, but there were already so many things to ponder. Operation Night Watch is a great ministry. They feed the homeless dinner, and then they give them each a number and try to find them all a place to sleep in different shelters throughout Seattle. I was unable to participate in volunteering. I was upset about that because everyone would come back talking about what they did and saw while being there. After thinking about it, I decided that it was ok that I didn’t get to go because if it wasn’t me then someone else wouldn’t have gotten to go. I was happy that everyone else got a chance to experience it, and I believe those that volunteered at Operation Night Watch were meant to go.

I love grocery shopping in Seattle! We needed to buy some food for breakfast so Joe drove us around, and we ended up parking in some random parking lot in front of a nail and hair place. I thought to myself, I wonder what Joe is up to now, but to my surprise we followed Joe into an elevator. Where did this elevator come from? I have no idea. I trust Joe, so I got in the elevator with him. The doors shut; we started to go down. The doors began to open, and I had no idea what to expect. I started to perspire. I was waiting for something to happen as soon as those doors opened, but to my surprise the doors opened up to a grocery store! I couldn’t believe it. It’s like a secret underground grocery store. That was a very exciting adventure and a great way to begin my experience in Seattle. After we loaded the vans with our groceries, we headed to the chapel of St. Ignatius. It was the most simple and beautiful sanctuary I had ever seen. Its walls and structure were filled with symbolic meaning. Steve Heilmer’s artwork was on display there, and it was even more meaningful to see it in person. It boggled my mind to think that someone from Greenville had artwork on display in Seattle. After viewing it though, I could understand why someone would want this in their church.

World Relief was a heart-stirring organization. I always hear about refugees coming into the country, and I have always been curious about where they go once they get here. I have never really thought about everything they have to go through once they get into this country. Being at World Relief and hearing about everything they have to do for these people blew my mind. These families basically get off of the airplane in the Seattle airport and are picked up by someone from World Relief. These Refugees usually don’t speak English, and they come into this country not knowing anything about it and not having anything. I am just flabbergasted by all the details of living in America. It never crosses my mind because I have lived here all my life. They have to learn everything from English to crossing the street. It has to be extremely terrifying and full of uncertainty. It touched my heart to hear how the employees of World Relief talked about their job, and how they truly cared for these Refugees. The World Relief employees are the only trustworthy friends the Refugees have when coming to this country. We are called to be Christ to everyone even foreigners. World Relief because they work for the government can’t openly talk about Christ to them, but they don’t need to because the Refugees will know Christ by the love they are shown through World Relief. I began to tear up while we were listening to Abraham, a refugee from Afghanistan, talk about how he came to America and how World Relief helped him. It was very moving. I could see myself fitting right in with this organization. Later that night, we time traveled back to the 1950’s and ate at a place called Johnny Rockets. We all had a good time there because they had music playing and everyone began to dance around. Joe joined in our extravaganza too. Yes, the service was bad and the food wasn’t that great, but over all I had a swingin time because of the people I was with. Yes, for all of you who are wondering by now I do have positivity as a strength.

People who live in the city have the ability to become extremely creative with their ministries and how they minister to people. The city is full of so many different kinds of people and it’s hard to find one ministry that reaches all of them. We came upon a fitness center. It is a very affordable fitness center in a part of town where the less privileged people live. It was one need that people had. They couldn’t find affordable health and fitness centers. I thought this was a fabulous and creative way to minister to people of all cultures and backgrounds. They had a women’s night where they would cover all the windows so that women of the Muslim faith could come and work out without worrying about a man seeing them. Isn’t that cool? Women of all faiths are able to come together, and their not talking about Jesus or trying to convert each other. They are building relationships, and just being a friend is so much more meaningful. Every place we visited it kept giving me more and more ideas of what I might be able to do once I finish college. I believe urban ministry is where I am called to work. Urban ministry is always full of excitement. You never know what to expect. Some ministries are a success and some aren’t. Some ministries have large numbers and some don’t. In urban ministry you have to live totally by faith, and you can’t let your own ambitions get in the way of the spirit’s leading. No ministry can do it all on its own. You have to learn to work together and lean heavily on God’s shoulder. That is why networking is so important. Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest, and that common interest is to provide for and protect all of humanity.

“Attention students of Ballard High School, there will be a marvelous, super human group from Greenville College coming to visit the ELL classes today, and we welcome them with open arms. We are unworthy of their presence here at this school, but we take it as a great and mighty honor.” Wouldn’t that have been a great introduction given for us to the students in Ballard High School? I thought it was funny, so I had to add it. I am very thankful to my heavenly father for getting us safely to Ballard High School. Our loving and trusted professor dropped us off in the middle of Seattle, and told us to find our own way to Ballard High School. I felt abandoned and scared all at the same time! Thankfully the streets of Seattle are filled with polite and kind people. Everyone we asked was very willing and happy to answer our questions and help us get to where we’re going. We eventually made it to the school, excitingly enough as the first group. It was kind of a race between three groups. This was a very nice looking High School. We sat in on two ELL classes. I loved being able to talk with some of the students about where they came from and why they came to America. The students ranged from being in the United States for as long as three years to as short as three months. The students I encountered were from Vietnam, China, and Japan. They spoke English pretty well, but were still learning. I found the challenge of communicating with these kids very exciting. The class as a whole was filled with students from all over the world! It was so cool to see so many ethnicities together in one room. You had your Asians and Africans mixed with your Latinos. I kept singing the song; Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world, red, brown, yellow, black, and white, Jesus loves the little children of the world, in my head. One realization I had was exactly how dangerous it is for a girl refugee student to get to school especially after the school got rid of their yellow school buses. Just thinking of how those girls who don’t speak English very well had to wake up while it’s still dark out and wait at the bus stop for city transportation. It has to be extremely scary and dangerous because some of these students live as much as forty five minutes away. I have always had the luxury of my parents driving me to school. I loved hearing about what New Horizons is doing for the homeless youth in Seattle, and the prostitutes. Those are two people groups that you don’t usually hear much about when it comes to ministry. I was very happy to hear how New Horizons incorporated prayer into their work everyday. I am a huge believer in the power of prayer, and it is essential to ministering effectively. After being in Seattle for several days and seeing all the homeless people walking around asking for food, we began to buy a few extra sandwiches from subway to hand out to homeless people. I only encountered one man who wasn’t thankful for what we gave him, but for the most part everyone else was very grateful. After reading the book Under the Overpass, I have learned how to treat people who are homeless. For example, giving them food instead of money, and giving them a nice smile and hello instead of ignoring them.

Northwest Harvest is a food bank, and one of my favorite places. I loved being able to pass out food for these people and engaging in conversations with them. This one little Asian man made me an origami swan for helping him and that was another touching moment. If you haven’t noticed, I am a very emotional person so I tend to have lots of “touching moments”. Every ministry we visited has emphasized the fact that building relationships is key. My favorite part of ministry is building relationships! I fit in real well with their philosophy. St. Marks was one of the most restful parts of the trip. We sat in that church while a group of men sang songs, chanted, and repeated verses. It was a thirty minute service, but beautiful. Their voices echoed throughout the building. It brought the verse, “be still and know that I am God” to mind. It was a Sunday night, the last night before everyone’s busy weeks started, and it was a great way to end your weekend. It was a great time for reflection, and a time to just be still before the Lord. I can understand why this service would be so popular. There were people of all ages, ethnicities, and faiths present. I benefited greatly from it.

I began to think of my home town, and I realized that I don’t ever remember seeing any homeless people around. There are about 70,000 people in my town, and I thought it was kind of strange that I don’t remember seeing many homeless people around. I know that our church serves meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the homeless. I have recently learned that our town has a great amount of homeless people including homeless youth. I had no idea! Apparently there is a teacher at the high school that helps homeless youth. After gaining this knowledge of the homeless and poor, and hearing about the homeless in my town, I want to go back home and speak in my church. I want to make my church aware of the problem at hand, and have them realize that there are things they can be doing to help. I want to share my passion and desire to help with my home church. We will just wait and see what God has in store. One thing that really moved me was, after we returned from Seattle I went to my friend Erin’s room to tell her all about it. I walk in the room and they are watching the movie Freedom Writers. I walked in on the scene where a boy is telling the class about how his family just got evicted and are now homeless. I began to cry, for real. After that I was definitely convinced that I am supposed to work with urban ministry. I want to correct people’s misconceptions about the homeless. I want the world to see the homeless for who they really are. I have always had a desire to go over seas and work, but I am beginning to figure out that we have a big problem right here in our own country that needs fixing. Why go somewhere far away, when there are things I can be doing here right now? My grandparents are one inspiration too because they have been known for taking in homeless people all their lives. I admire them for that, and I can now understand why they would do that. So many people these days are too worried about themselves, to even consider taking in someone who looks dirty and they don’t know. This goes along with looking to the inside of a person instead of focusing on the outside appearance. Some of these people have amazing stories, and who knows you could be missing out on a great blessing that God had in store for you. There is so much I could say, and it’s hard for me to put it all into words. I just know that God has used this class, Church in the City, to do an amazing work on my heart. I am hoping that I can be a good influence in showing people how they can help their neighbors in need.

I not only came away from this experience with a better understanding of how ministry in the city works, but I was also greatly blessed by the people in my class. It is amazing how one person who shares your passions can make you feel like you two working together can change the world. I have lots of friends who support me in my major and career path, but it’s totally different when someone shares the same exact passion and vision as you do. It’s great to have a support group, someone you can lean on, and who understands. I want to end with a prayer. It is one that I pray often, and it fits in well with what I hope to retain from this experience.

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, Let me sow love. Where there is offense, Pardon. Where there is doubt, Faith. Where there is discord, Unity. Where there is error, Truth. Where there is despair, Hope. Where there is sadness, Joy. Where there is darkness, Light.
O Divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love. For: It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.