Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My experience with two homeless people this week

Yesterday we had two young men come by the church who were homeless. They had come from the Samaritan Inn, a type of shelter which is nearby. One of them had been asked to leave permanently, and another could not come back until Wednesday.

I must confess that there is always a temptation to "deal with these situations" as quickly as possible. But, in part because the secretarial staff needs help in these situations, and because in my better moments, I remember that Christ cared for the poor, I spent some time talking with these gentlemen. I would discover, however, that there was something different about this situation.

I asked the two for copies of their licenses and various contact information. They gladed complied. Often for career people who do not want to improve their situation in life, just this simple request weeds many out. One of them had a job at the local Blockbuster warehouse and was actively working to keep it. Linda, one of our secretaries, talked about how we have hope in Christ, which opened up a spiritual conversation. Linda has such a good, caring heart. One of the men, Matthew, said that he had been thinking about being baptized--not exactly a normal thing that is said by people in these situations.

I sat down with Matthew and Patrick and asked them about their relationship wtih God. Matthew said that he felt that it was strong. This was true despite the fact that he had grown up in a home filled with mental instability and abuse. Patrick, on the other hand, admitted that he had just started believing in God, having lived a life far away from him for some time.

We prayed together, and then I asked Matthew if he would like to come back and talk about baptism and what it meant, since he had talked about it. He said that he would. We are supposed to meet on Friday at 1:00 PM. Please pray that he shows. If not, I have his name and can look him up at the Samaritan Inn. While I have been in these situations enough not to "bet the farm" on this, I do think that Matthew really is sincere about wanting to improve himself and get right with God. I pray he comes back.

A church needs to be discerning and not just give out money to people, which could just fund their destructive behavior. And targeting people to help, rather than just waiting for people to come by, is by and large a more effective use of funds. But we do need to help people as best we can--which includes providing food and clothing, as well as giving them career counseling, praying for them, and seeking to share the gospel.

Seeing those who are homeless helps remind me how blessed I am, and how blessed our church is. It is good that McKinney has people who need to be helped financially. This can have a transformative efect upon us as well as them.

Have you had any experience with the homeless? What did you do and how did you feel?


Anonymous said...

I tried posting a short article on
one of my blogs that makes an
attempt at showing everyone
why Good Friday is Good!!!

My poor attempt was to demonstrate
in a way - with few if any church
words - what Our Creator was/is
up to with all of us beings that
He created. I strived to be theologically
correct but to speak in the same terms
as the song many learned: Jesus
loves me this I know...

If you have a chance, go here:

Click Here

and perhaps leave a comment also:O)

Anonymous said...

James, What a great opportunity for you, your secretary and the homeless men to serve each other. They allowed you to share with them. You shared your time.

I had a great childhood and enjoyed supportive Christian parents. Had my experience been very different, I may not be where I am today.

God desires a relationship with all of us, despite our aversion to the way a person may dress,act or even smell.

Matt B

Anonymous said...

James- I meant to say in my last post that for those of us who had a stable environment with loving Christian parents, it is very easy to shake our head at homeless people. We are quick to look down at people who smoke/drink/etc. I am not condoning the behavior, but we need to step back and think about their past.

Sometimes in the church, we want to get the homeless guy cleaned up, make sure he knows how we do our traditions, and then maybe he'll be ready to worship with us in the main sanctuary and learn about salvation.

I hope to have the same success and even more as Eloise and I work together. She had some things come up, but we are on track for next week. Please pray for us.

Matt B

penguinsandladybugs said...

I am blessed to work with many, many of the unloved in this world. I am a social worker, working with children and families. I have worked with homeless families, which in some ways is more devastating to witness, than individuals (although I suppose being on your own and homeless would be quite lonely). At any rate, it is good to see you being honest about how you feel and then getting out of the way of our loving Father, doing His work. I think it is in situations JUST like this that we get a better picture of God's nature.

James said...


I too was blessed to be raised in a Christian home. Sometimes we are hard on people who are in these types of situations, but how would we do growing up in their homes?


James said...

Ms. Penguins,

One of the first steps in transformation is being honest with ourselves and with God. But this honesty is tough--which is why I often shy away from certain kinds of self-reflection.

Anonymous said...

James, I am anxious to hear if anything comes of this encounter. It was so encouraging to hear about your experience and I have prayed that God will touch Matthew's heart and that he will follow through with your meeting.
Kim S.