Some people watched the documentary film Supersize Me and became convinced that McDonald’s and other fast food companies were a tool of the devil, being used to destroy our bodies and maybe were even hell on earth. Who knows, they might be right. Whether you think it is Heaven or Hell, however, I have to inform you that McDonald’s is the new Holy of Holies- a place where the presence of God fills up the room, healing happens and God’s love is demonstrated to the broken. At least it happened to New York City Relief Senior Outreach Leader Brett Hartford and a man named Shawn during an outreach one Thursday night in New York City…
“Can I have your leftovers, anything you’re going to throw away?”
Again he clarifies. He is sunken down as far as the hard plastic chair will allow. He wants my leftovers… from McDonald’s. (I don’t even want my firsts… and all I got was fries)
On Thursday nights we lead an outreach called, Don’t Walk By. This outreach is a little different than our normal outreaches with The Relief Buses. On this outreach we walk the streets of midtown Manhattan in small groups, searching for people in need. When we find them, we usually offer much needed items like socks, hygiene kits and some friendly conversation.
Don’t Walk By is a collaborative effort in partnership with The Rescue Alliance. Because of this partnership with NYC Rescue Mission, The Bowery Mission, Hope For New York and StreetLife Ministries, we can get someone off the streets and into a warm bed that night and offer possibilities to enter a long term program to transform their lives forever.
Of everything we do, Don’t Walk By has be my favorite outreach, because it takes away all the extra stuff – bus, soup, volunteer rotations, etc. We are left with the pure and raw relationships. Not that the other stuff is bad, because it’s not, it’s beautiful in it’s own setting, but it’s just a refreshing break in the week to have this one outreach out of twelve be completely different. For someone like me, a relationship and conversation driven person, it’s amazing.
It’s amazing to see what happens when you make yourself available to whatever happens. No expectations, no agenda, just a “hello” and the available time to see where that “hello” leads.
Tonight I went down 6th Avenue towards a weekly meet up spot at a McDonald’s to connect with some of our long-time friends from the streets. It was in that community that there just happened to be a guy sitting a few feet away, a guy all alone who had been praying for community–a guy named Shawn. (left)
We were connecting with our friends that night. We had purchased dinner for everyone and ourselves as well – community not charity. We were listening, sharing, caring, serving, learning, and just be-ing. Just friends catching up and growing together.
All the while, there is this man a few table away, reading a magazine. I saw him, but decided to watch for a few minutes. He approached me and asked,
“Can I have your leftovers, anything you’re going to throw away?”
Will we welcome the outcast into community by breaking Big Macs together? Is this the missing piece of our faith journey that God is wooing us to dive into?
This really took me by surprise.
What must it take to ask someone that? What does it feel like to be at a point where you hungry enough to eat people’s leftovers from McDonald’s? I’ve never in my life been in that situation.
I’m a foodie. I don’t eat fast food. My family manages our budget in a way that we only eat out a couple of times a month, but they are at good restaurants. But now, at this moment, I am sitting at the epitome of “fast food”, being asked for my contaminated, used, cold, leftovers.
“You don’t have to eat my leftovers. What can I get you?”
“Yes, anything you are willing to get I will eat.”
This reminds me of a story from the Bible where a man of zero perceived value finds worth in Jesus’ willingness to love and act:
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean! (healed)” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
In both cases, men with nothing to lose and everything to gain, placed themselves in the place of humility. Jesus asked, “Are you willing?”.
In both cases, the response was, “I am willing”.
My job is to be the physical representation of Jesus on the streets of New York City and New Jersey. What would it look like if Jesus was walking around today? How would He respond to what he saw? Would he be too busy to stop?
Do I get it right? Sometimes, yep. Others, nope, not even close. But, I am willing to try.
This isn’t just a Brett thing. This is an everybody thing. We all get opportunities every day to “be Jesus”, to love well. Be it someone asking for food, holding a sign in humility, or something completely different. It could be a co-worker who you know is struggling financially. Maybe you should buy them lunch. It could be extending extra patience to the waitress who is doing an awful job, a car who cut you off (I could grow in this area!), or a family member who is continually pushing you to the edge of your patience.
Are you willing?
Give it a try, you never know what type of healing you can bring to the person who is the recipient of your willingness.
Much love all,
Brett (left, with volunteers)
Brett is living in such a way as to be the answer to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done, in McDonalds as it is in heaven.” Matt 6:10
There are lepers all around us–people that society wants nothing to do with. Will we touch them with our lives and be vessels of healing? Will we welcome the outcast into community by breaking Big Macs together? Is this the missing piece of our faith journey that God is wooing us to dive into?
Consider making a date to do just this. Come volunteer on a Thursday night on the Don’t Walk By outreach. Email volunteer@newyorkcityrelief to book your date. See you at McDonald’s!
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Many girls grow up dreaming of the perfect fairytale wedding. When that dream becomes a reality they spend tens of thousands of dollars procuring the perfect location on a beach by Caribbean waters, in a grand cathedral or maybe a castle garden. Every detail is coordinated to shape the perfect memorable event.
My friend Johanna‘s wedding looked a little different. Located in Harlem at E 124th & Park, Johanna was literally married on the street underneath the above ground subway tracks. It’s an exotic location alright. Many people are bussed in to this spot from the shelters they sleep in at Wards Island. The largest methadone clinic in the city is just across the street. I remember cleaning up a big pile of human poop up off the sidewalk there one day with my friend Rodger Parker.
Johanna was our Director of New York City Outreach and had invested years of her life into the people of Harlem. She is a tall, blond Finnish woman with blue eyes. Johanna first came to NYCR 15 years ago as an intern. Eventually she became a full-time urban missionary to the poor. In our 27 year history, Johanna was our first female Outreach Leader. She has the kind of personality that makes people feel special, wanted and cared for.
Many times on her days off, Johanna would take the train back into Harlem to celebrate birthdays, baby showers and special events with her friends there. It was this kind of woman that a man named Pauli Puirava fell in love with when she was on missionary furlough in their homeland of Finland. Johanna’s work visa had not been renewed, so she returned on a visitors visa to America to continue serving for a few more months. It was a sad time for her and our team, knowing that she had to leave us soon.
It was during this same time that Pauli proposed to her over Skype. He came to stay with our team and serve on The Relief Bus for a month leading up to the wedding (see picture to left). Many friends from the streets got to meet Pauli and give him a once over before they gave their approval.
The energy on the street that day was electric. It was a wedding I will never forget. The crowd in attendance was a motley crue of people challenged with homelessness, addiction and developmental disabilities. They cheered as Johanna walked down “the aisle” (the sidewalk) on the arm of my father, and New York City Relief founder, Richard Galloway.
My friend and VP, General Manager Bill Hoffman and I had the honor of officiating at this wedding. When I asked on the microphone, “Who gives this woman in marriage?”, many friends from the streets spontaneously yelled out, “WE DO!” The love in the crowd was palatable and there was quite a few tears and smiles when Pauli kissed his bride.
Why were so many people filled with joy that day? They told me that Johanna was a special woman who helped many of them. It reminds me of the scripture that says,
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:15-16
Johanna had loved her friends well and they loved her back in return.
We served 500 pieces of wedding cake that day and danced under the subway tracks. There were many hugs and happy faces. It was a little slice of Heaven for those who didn’t get to attend many wedding receptions.
This amazing day reminds me of the parable when the master invited people from the highways and byways, the poor, blind and lame to come to his feast. (Luke 14:16-24) He wanted his house to be full. Johanna wanted her wedding to be full of the people she loved too.
The next week after the wedding, I was out on outreach at the same location in Harlem with The Relief Bus. I met one of the wedding guests named Patricia (left). Patricia pointed down the street to where she used to sleep on the sidewalk for over 20 years. During that time, she was filthy, addicted to crack and weighed only 85 pounds. That all changed when Patricia had a life changing encounter with Johanna at The Relief Bus.
Johanna spoke into her life and gave her hope. Patricia was connected to emergency shelter, than got her own apartment. Today, Patricia has been free from addiction for four years and is a new woman. She weighs 145 pounds and is even getting some new teeth put in. Patricia is full of joy because she is free. She will tell you that it is a miracle that she is alive. Please take a look at her video testimony so that you can see and hear it for yourself.
The Bible describes a pretty special wedding. The groom comes back for his bride who is clothed in white. She is beautiful and has prepared herself to be united with her love.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”” Revelation 19:7-9
Seeing Johanna as a stunning bride reminded me of how we will look to Jesus when he comes back for us- beautiful, because of his grace. Patricia and I were both privileged to be guests at this unconventional destination wedding, and like all the others guests, we beamed with joy. The light of God shined in Harlem that day as we partook in the richness of his love together. It was a one Wild Harlem Wedding Party. I will never forget it.
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Recently during outreach with The Relief Bus, I met a young woman challenged with homelessness. Rosie (not her real name) is only 25-years-old. Rosie has suffered greatly on the streets, even been raped. She suffers from PTSD and is sometimes delusional. Rosie believes that the Social Security Administration uses mind control on her, causing her to walk around naked, not realizing that she isn’t wearing any clothes. Such a damaged soul. I have been praying for her and asking for God’s healing in her life. Meeting people like Rosie is the hardest part of being an urban missionary. My heart breaks for her. I feel God’s love for her.
Not grasping reality seems like one of the worst things that can happen to you. In the book of Revelation, God strongly addresses our own delusions. Sometimes we think we have it all together, but he sees the cognitive dissonance in our lives: believing one thing and doing another. Because he loves us he doesn’t sugarcoat this message:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelation 3:15-19 NIV
Ever eaten or drank something that you thought was something else, causing you to get it out of your mouth as fast as you could? One April Fools Day, during our commute to do outreach on The Relief Bus, Senior Outreach Leader Brett Hartford played a prank on Metro Relief Outreach Leader Paul Ballasteros. Brett shot a video of Paul drinking what he thought was coffee, but in fact was a disgusting concoction of coffee, olive juice and orange juice. His reaction is classic. You can watch it here. It’s a funny scenario when it’s a joke amongst friends, but it’s not so funny when I am the person that makes God want to puke.
Which one of these scenarios best describes you:
- On fire for God, continually pressing into the Holy Spirit for more power to love and serve those around you.
- So cold and spiritually dead that you don’t bother to even pretend that you care for the things of God. Not sure God even exists. Either way, you are over it.
- A seasoned believer who knows all the right principles, but doesn’t feel passion for Jesus or others. You find more self-satisfaction in things and accomplishments nowadays. Indifferent to the needs of others.
Are we doing the right things, or do we just know the right things to do?
It is not by our philosophy or principles that we are being assessed in this passage from the Bible, but by our deeds. Are we doing the right things, or do we just know the right things to do? The world will know we are Christians by our love, not our knowledge of doctrine.
If you feel spiritually dry, stagnant and indifferent to the needs of others, obviously it is time to get hot again. So how do we get hot again? Rather than just more prayer and Bible study, let me suggest you stoke the fire of your heart through serving others. It is the deeds of laying our lives down for others that break us free from our own self-serving nature.
I see this continually when people come to volunteer on The Relief Bus. They leave the safe place of the world they know and understand, to enter the risky world of engagement with the lost and broken. They start out nervous and unsure of how to even talk to someone challenged with homelessness or addiction. By the end of the day, they have listened to people’s stories, been moved with compassion, spoken words of encouragement, offered dignity and given loving prayers. So many have found themselves moved closer to Jesus through the poor. These precious friends on the streets pull them back to the core of the gospel, which is the core of life: LOVE.
One volunteer, Angiliea Stark (left) put it this way,
“It was a little scary for me, to be honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve become accustomed, like most New Yorkers, to ignore the homeless community. I met some really incredible people and felt my openness to connect with people on a human level did more than filling an empty soup cup. For me and hopefully for them. Looking forward to volunteering again- it’s such an inspiring community!”
This is how we buy gold that is refined in the fire. This is how we store up treasures that moth and rust can’t destroy. This is how we keep the things we own from owning us. God’s treasures are people, especially hurting people. When we love “the least of these”, we are loving Jesus himself.
Although we haven’t been able to solve all of Rosie’s problems, she keeps coming back to The Relief Bus to see us. She knows that this is a place where no matter how bizarre she acts, people will love her unconditionally. She is our sister.
With all of my self-delusions, I keep coming back to Jesus, knowing that he sees my nakedness and will clothe me with mercy. Rosie and I aren’t so different. Maybe we can rub salve on each other’s eyes and be healed of our blindness together.
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Plato once wrote that, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Power is defined as: the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. In other words, having power is having control.
You might feel powerless sometimes, but the fact is that as Americans we have more wealth than most people on earth. Most of us have some amount of influence, education, physical strength and knowledge. Many of us even have some level of authority. God requires us to be a good steward of whatever power we have.
The problem is that most of us get caught up in whatever power that we gain, and it goes straight to our heads. We practically break our arms trying to pat ourselves on the back for achieving it. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
He also said, “Authority that does not exist for Liberty is not authority but force.” When power isn’t used for the benefit of others, it is just manipulation. When power is used to bless others, however, it looks just like love.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”—Jimi Hendrix
The Bible addresses our feelings of powerlessness, also known as fear:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
This one verse encapsulates what God gives us and what God expects us to do with it. He gives us power to do what? To love. Even when we feel powerless and afraid that we can’t make a difference in this world, we are still called to steward ourselves (self-discipline) in order to use our power to love. Playing the part of a victim is not an option.
We cannot claim to be powerless. In fact, we will be judged by how we use our blessings. God holds us to high standards when it comes to stewardship. Jesus was clear:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48
Or as Spider-Man puts it, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Jesus was all-powerful, yet instead of using his power to rule with an iron fist, he held children, washed feet, embraced the rejected and laid down his life for others. He continually laid down his physical, material and supernatural power in order to love. The ultimate use of power is to love and love itself is the most powerful force on earth.
I have seen this at New York City Relief, when a friend of mine who is a successful financial investor asked if he could come wash people’s feet at The Relief Bus outreach. This isn’t something we do every day, but we loved the idea, so special preparations were made. We set up a canopy, with two foot washing stations underneath it and seats for people to sit down.
As people passed by, they were asking what we were doing and once we responded that we were doing foot washing they commented: “Oh, just like Jesus?”
The volunteers were able to wash and massage the feet of 31 people during one outreach. Afterwards, people had a choice between getting powder or lotion on the feet and of course a fresh new pair of socks.
One friend from the streets said that he could barely walk before, but that after the foot washing he felt like jumping. When someone who is challenged with homelessness and has to live on their feet says they feel like jumping, that means something.
Every person who had their feet washed also wanted prayer. It was an intimate experience that really opened people up. All this because a power broker requested an opportunity to come and lower himself so that others could be lifted up.
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:13-30, talents are measures of money. Money is a form of power. For a moment, let’s replace the talents with God’s love in this fun and very loose paraphrase:
“Here’s another good illustration:
The Lord of Love got all of his young apprentices together to invest deeply in their souls. To one guy named Yaz, he gave fifty acts of love, to a lady named Johanna, he gave twenty acts of love and to a fellow named Juan, he gave one act of love. This was based on each one’s ability to receive his love. To each person, the Love Lord gave what he and she didn’t deserve. It was pure grace out of how he felt about them.
Then the Lord left town. Yaz, who had been loved fifty times couldn’t contain himself. He went ballistic in a good way. Out of a grateful heart, he went out and did generous acts of kindness for a hundred people. It wasn’t just charity. He performed each act from a sincere heart. It blew their minds. He did it because he really cared. Those folks were never the same.
Johanna, who had been loved twenty times went out and helped forty people. She befriended the broken and gladly gave sacrificially of her time. Johanna just couldn’t contain herself. People thought she was the next Mother Teresa.
The guy named Juan, who only encountered the Lord’s love once, didn’t bother to do anything. He just holed up like a hermit with his video game system and ate Doritos. Juan knew that he should love others, but he didn’t want to risk getting hurt. He did receive the top online score on Halo, however.”
“The Love Lord was gone for quite awhile. When he got back, he brought in all the apprentices to see how they had done. Yaz said, ‘Boss, I loved a hundred different people and it was the best thing ever!’”
“The boss high-fived him and said, ‘Way to go Yaz! This has drawn us closer together than we have ever been. Now you can love even more people. When people encounter you, healing and freedom are going to be released.’”
“Johanna came in to report next. She said, ‘LL, I demonstrated compassion and mercy to forty people. I never had so much fun!’”
“The Lord said, ‘You passed the test with flying colors. I know now that you can handle even more, so I’m expanding your sphere of influence. My love will be the most tangible thing in your life.’”
“Then the deadbeat named Juan came by. He said, ‘Boss, I knew that you had high standards and didn’t want to hear excuses. I was afraid I might blow it and disappoint you so I decided to just love myself well by having more “me time”. I did however, listen to a sermon podcast which was quite edifying.’”
“The boss was ticked. He said, ‘You lazy good for nothing bum! You didn’t bother to lift a finger. At the very least you could have helped your dad mow the lawn or do the dishes for your mom to bless them. But nooo, that was too much to expect of you.’”
“I am taking back the Starbucks gift cards I gave you to treat your neighbors to coffee. I’m giving them to Yaz. He knows how to pay it forward.
He threw the gamer back into his parent’s basement where he would languish alone forever, never having a girlfriend. Even lonely strangers on Facebook wouldn’t invite him to be their “friend.”
I believe that Plato was right when he said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” God will judge us according to how we will or how we won’t use whatever power he gives us to love others. It is according to our love that we will be measured.
We were powerless to change ourselves until the love of Jesus set us free. Now he fills us with the ability to follow in his footsteps to empower the powerless. Love compels us and propels us. Love is the mission, the means and the reward. Love is the ultimate measure and love looks like Jesus. Power up.
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Many people challenged with homelessness live on the streets with their pets. They love these animals so much that they will often feed their pets before themselves. Some cities actually provide not only housing for their homeless citizens, but a cat or dog to keep them company in their new dwelling. They understand that good pets are therapeutic and healthy.
I want to talk about another kind of pet that isn’t so healthy: pet peeves. A pet peeve is an action that a particular person finds especially annoying. Everyone has pet peeves and many of them are quite common:
1. Leaving the toilet lid up
2. WRITING IN ALL CAPS
4. Chewing with your mouth open
5. Perpetual lateness
6. Someone eating off of your plate
7. Dawdling in the airport security line
8. Not picking up your dog’s poop
9. Letting your baby cry or your phone ring in the middle of a church service
10. Not wiping down equipment at the gym
Pet peeves are a lot of little petty irritations that can multiply over time into a lifestyle of perpetual disgruntlement or even petulance. They are the clutter of the mind and the mud on the lenses through which we view the world around us. Some see beauty all around us, while others see nothing but idiots getting in our way.
The “pet” in pet peeve is descriptive of how we coddle and nurture our offenses. They are cute little things that we feed until they become big vicious monsters. Are we willing to clean house and get rid of our pet peeves before they bite us?
Pet peeves can cause perfectly normal people go from worshipping along to a song in their car one minute, to cursing and giving the finger to someone who cuts them off the next. It is an area of our life that we give completely over to the flesh.
I have been in the car when my father, Richard Galloway, is driving and someone cuts him off. It can be a scary thing that brings a visceral reaction in me like, “Whoah! That guy almost killed us!” My father, however, is never shaken. Most of us would be justifiably angry, but instead of losing his cool, he immediately forgives them in the moment. It is a mark of great character, especially when you consider what it is like to drive in New Jersey. It teaches me and amazes me to this day.
Pet peeves are not commonly well thought through. They are gut reactions that happen in the moment. Those reactions are usually of immediate disgust. One of my mentors as a teenager was my youth pastor, Spencer Nordyke. He described our hearts as barrels. When the challenges of life tip us over, whatever is inside the barrel spills out. If it is full of poop, we yell “Oh bleep!”. If we are full of honey, then that is what spills out. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45. In other words, pet peeves are an indicator of what is hidden in our heart.
Let’s call pet peeves what they really are-areas of offense. An offense is an annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles. In other words, “How dare you sir!” Pet peeves are our hot buttons.
When we take offense, we don’t think of all the similar offensive acts that we ourselves have committed (or are committing). We place all of the blame for our anger upon the offender and take no responsibility for our reaction. In fact, our reaction could be much worse than the actual act of offense.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:21-22
The word “Raca”, is derived from a root meaning “to spit.” Ever been so mad at someone that it made you want to spit? It’s easy for us to excuse our contempt for others, because it’s mostly happening out of public sight in our minds, but Jesus calls it mental murder.
When offense is given, no one has to take it.
There is a line in the song, “Baptize My Heart” by Misty Edwards that says, “I don’t want to be offended when it’s all coming down.” I love this song because it reminds me that petty offenses are a waste of my time and energy. They suck away at my soul and I just don’t have time for that nonsense.
The interesting thing about offense is that when offense is given, no one has to take it. When friends offer to give me their real pets, I kindly turn them down because I explain that I have four children and can’t manage any more wild animals. 😉
When a pet peeve tries to set up camp in my mind, I can reject it. I can put that pet down instead of letting it take up residence. I can be free to pardon others and hold nothing against them. This is the very gift that Jesus gives to me-mercy.
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. Micah 6:18
Mercy is the lifestyle that I want to nurture, develop and feed. Mercy isn’t based upon others performance, but upon the forgiveness I myself have received. It is light and not burdensome, because it lets go of the right to punish and judge. Mercy embraces the opportunity to love-not as a chore, but rather a delight. Mercy fills your barrel up with honey. How sweet it is.
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I am a 45-year-old man who does not like exercise, but I do it anyway. It’s supposed to make you feel better, but many times it just makes me sore and tired. Sometimes I tell people, “This healthy lifestyle is killing me!” The only way I endure it is do something I enjoy while walking on a treadmill. This helps me to forget that I am sweating and walking in place like a hamster on a wheel. Usually that means watching video podcasts of my favorite preachers: Erwin Rafael McManus, Tim Lucas and Greg Boyd.
I once read a sign in a gym that said, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” I love that. It inspires me when I feel really sore from working out. It gives my pain meaning. It makes me think of the pain we feel when embracing other people’s brokenness. Some can’t handle it and turn away. Some dive into that pain and grow in compassion and love (spiritual strength.) Maybe embracing other’s pain is the feeling of apathy or indifference (spiritual weakness) leaving our bodies.
I have a special needs child. She is the greatest…and sometimes her behavior drives me crazy. Her emotions are up and down like a roller coaster. When things are good, she is delightful, sweet and silly. When she is on tilt, she isn’t fun to be around because she is frustrated at herself or the world around her. Sometimes this anger gets unleashed towards me. My natural inclination is to push away from pain. My other inclination is to press in close because of love.
My daughter is a gift to me in many ways and one of my greatest sources of joy. The gift I didn’t anticipate is the gift of brokenness. I can’t control her and it reminds me of all the other things I can’t control in myself and the world around me. God is allowing me to grow more intimate with Jesus through entering the pain of my daughter’s brokenness and experiencing my own brokenness. Richard Rohr describes it this way:
“Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing: we must go down before we even know what up is. In terms of the ego, most religions teach in some way that all must “die before they die.” Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to both destabilize and reveal our arrogance, our separateness, and our lack of compassion. I define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.” Suffering is the most effective way whereby humans learn to trust, allow, and give up control to Another Source. I wish there were a different answer, but Jesus reveals on the cross both the path and the price of full transformation into the divine.”
My full time job at New York City Relief is helping people challenged with homelessness. You would think that would be enough pain to grapple with. The streets are teeming with an ocean of brokenness in the form of men, women and children with no safe place to turn.
Maybe embracing other’s pain is the feeling of apathy or indifference (spiritual weakness) leaving our bodies.
Through them, he invites me deeper into a life of meaning:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:” 1 John 3:16-18
The Amplified Bible version replaces “but has no pity on them” with “shows no heart of compassion.”
Jesus is drawing me to himself by giving me the opportunity to lay down my life. Loving people through their difficult behavior is testing the depth of my love and the substance of my faith. If I want to “belong to the truth and set my heart at rest in his presence”, I have to show a heart of compassion.
God speaks even more specifically to my situation:
“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:7
God knows that it is easier for me to show compassion to someone on the street then to my own family. He gives me no wiggle room. I must dive wholeheartedly into my daughter’s heart at the expense of my time, energy, peace, comfort etc. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for me?
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus asks everyone on judgement day if they took care of the broken: the hungry, the sick, the naked, the stranger and the prisoner.
Maybe Jesus isn’t trying to get us to go to the broken so much for their sakes as for ours. We need to meet him face to face in order to escape the false concept of Jesus in our minds- the god we have created in our own image.
You see, I am attracted to a god of power that will help me be powerful. I am perplexed by a humble God who chose to become poor, weak and broken. I am hesitant to walk in these kinds of footsteps, but it was his humility that brought my healing. Now he calls me to share my poverty in spirit, my weakness and my brokenness with others to bring them to a place of healing as well.
As I decide to bear the pain of my daughter and the many others suffering around me in life, I can know that this pain is not in vain. It is actually the feeling of apathy and indifference (spiritual weakness) leaving my body. No pain, no gain.
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I am sharing a blog by my wife Tracy about our recent mission trip to The Philippines. Thank you to everyone who gave to make this amazing trip a reality. Read on! -Juan
Just got home a few hours ago… from the other side of the earth. That scripture in Acts 1:8 to preach the gospel in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth has now taken on a whole new meaning for me. Check. Done that. I have done lots of missions before, but never this far away. I left the iron protective gate in Dagupan, Philippines Youth With A Mission Base on Sunday morning Feb. 14th, Valentine’s day, 8am. After taking a group photo with our new missionary friends and our “New York Team” – we set off home. Just got home, 11:30pm almost Tuesday the 16th… to my snow covered kitchen porch with an Amazon box from my always perfect gift at the perfect time sister. The ice crusted box that must have been sitting in the snow for days was filled with “Bath Bombs” to relax after returning home from our long journey.
Door to door, this “to the ends of the earth” return trip was approximately 40 hours of travel by van, a short sleep in a hotel in dark and crowded Manila, taxi, plane to Hong Kong, China, plane to USA with 10 hours of mostly turbulence over the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean to a Shuttle driven by my always cheerful father-in-law and to home. A place of comfort and familiar smells. It is good to be under my soft fuzzy blanket in bed, finally. Yet I am tormented.
Tormented by the girls faces. H___l, P____a, R______e, R______a, and the others, the girls who live in the slums where raw sewage runs past their shanty homes and into the river. The place where dark hovels are the only homes they have ever known. Trying to be cool, whiting out their faces to look more pale, grasping for acceptance and a future that I pray is not in the arms of a tormenter one day. Will they follow JESUS into HIS AWESOME PLAN for their lives or repeat the generational demonic stronghold that trips up even the most hopeful of children… We taught them a drama about keeping safe in the arms of a loving God, away from drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and human trafficking, do they realize that the drama was for them?
There is a light in these slums though, the light in the eyes of the smiling children, filling the tiny maze alleys, grabbing my hands and hanging on my arms with enormous smiles like I was a long lost mama who finally came home to visit them.
No white people. None to be seen except a glance of an older white woman in the mall who looked as surprised to see us as she her on day two during a passing glance. All 10 days we were the only non Asian people I saw in Dagupan, Philippines. People don’t usually travel this deep in. 7 hour drive from the city into the Northern Philippines. We were far away, very far away from home. To the ends of the earth. Thanks Missionary Gina for taking good care of us.
We stayed at the “Youth With A Mission Beach Base” 1 block from the “red light” prostitution district that was dangerous at night. This beach was not what you would imagine. Beautiful, but a prison just down the street with shanty’s on the beach. A prison built to hold 250 but currently holds 850 men in mostly open air minus the thick cement walls, all wearing yellow t-shirts. We ministered there with testimonies and music in what could be called a courtyard but was more like an abandoned factory with 1/2 a tin roof, and tarps rigged up to keep the hot sun off the necks of the prisoners. It was an uncomfortable feeling at first being locked in with hundreds of criminals sitting right in front of me.
After they started to praise and worship, my soul was put at ease. They enjoyed my husband’s band with our 2 sons and great friends playing alongside. The prisoners sang the na na naaas with gusto. Seemingly truly touched by the messages from our team. Genuinely thankful that we would visit them. Prison. That was on my bucket list. I could not believe that after being a Christian for 29 years I had never visited Jesus in Prison as He had asked me to do. I was so thankful to finally get this opportunity. Scared a bit at first, but truly thankful. Thanks Missionary Coy & friends for taking us there.
You see, our light does shine brightest in the darkness. But if we do not go where it is dark, we may never notice any light in us at all. Thanks Missionaries GiGi, Queenie, Analiza, Aldelfa, Dreb, Fronie, Coy, Joel, Novie, Gina & Manny and all wonderful missionaries for shining your light daily.
So back to the girls. I used to lay awake at night for years thinking of what it must be like to be human trafficked, to have to prostitute oneself to survive, to be forced to do internet porn to satisfy the nasty desires of sinful men and women and in return get paid a pittance while the evil men and women fill their pockets with cash to exploit me. Now I have names, faces, of girls my sons age, pre-teens and teenagers, women, men, even young children to this horrific practice. I was able to spend time with them. Minister to them. Speak to them one on one and try to help them to find a way out. Their faces are flashing in my mind as I attempt to adjust, to sleep after this 12 hour time change adjustment.
What will I do now? In the coming weeks I will be recovering, praying, seeking God as to what could I possibly do from 1/2 way around the world – it really is 1/2 way around the world. There are many things that are possible, but what is Jesus calling ME to do? I will seek His face and take action. As usual.
Above is me preaching with missionary GiGi translating.
Thanks for listening, now Go. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. What are YOU waiting for?
Serving Jesus to the ends of the earth and here with you,
Pastor Tracy Galloway
A Shout Out to our AMAZING sons Corban and Connor with whom we are so proud of for sharing their stories so eloquently, loving on the people, and experiencing a new culture with gusto and a great attitude. You rock. Literally! Thanks to my adoring husband for “making me go” it was fun; far away, but fun!
Where are you going to go? Pray about it.
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I live a peculiar life in which I engage regularly with the very wealthy and the poorest of the poor in New York City. I get to visit opulent corporate boardrooms with stunning views of Manhattan and I get to sit on the concrete with people who sleep on cardboard at night- sometimes all in the same day. Today was one of those days…
I had just come from an investment firm that is one of the world’s largest asset managers. I was meeting with a team of young corporate professionals who organize to do volunteer work. We talked about how their company could help the homeless through partnering with New York City Relief. This small team was fascinated by stories of what people are going through on the streets and to learn how they could make a difference.
I walked out of the door of this luxury skyscraper and headed to Penn Station on this brisk winter day. On the way I met two homeless men. The first man I met was named Mike. He held a cardboard sign that read, “HOMELESS. ALONE. DRUG-FREE. Looking-work. NEED HELP!!!”
I crouched down to talk to Mike. His head hung low and his whole body seemed to be weighed down with the worries of the world. I asked him his name and then asked him if he was hungry. He said that he was okay. Mike is about 35-years-old and suffers from mental illness. His speech was quiet and broken- hard to discern. I asked him if I could pray for him and he immediately said yes.
After praying, I asked Mike if I could buy his sign. His head came up quickly and he looked me in the eye for the first time as he said, “Yeah!” I asked how much and he replied, “Five dollars?” I thought it was a fair price and handed over the cash. I invited him to come visit The Relief Bus the next morning, but communication was pretty difficult and I’m not sure if he understood.
I got the idea for buying Mike’s sign from a video I had seen about an artist and Southern Methodist University advertising professor named Willie Baronet who had traveled across America buying the cardboard signs used by homeless people to ask for money. He’s bought hundreds of them, and he uses them in art exhibits and performances about homelessness and the concept of home.
In New York City, I see people challenged with homelessness holding cardboard signs all the time. The messages are stark and heartbreaking. These signs remind me of the stories of lepers in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Because they were contagious, these lepers were required to publicly warn people that they were coming by yelling out, “Unclean!”. Not only were they a potential spreader of a flesh-rotting disease, they carried the stigma of contaminating other’s spiritual condition. The Old Testament law prevented God-fearing Jews from going near lepers for fear of tainting their spiritual purity. Lepers were the epitome of the term social pariah.
A few blocks after I talked to Mike, I saw another man sitting on the sidewalk with a sign. This one read, “HAPPY NEW YEAR. DOWN & OUT. LOST EVERYTHING I LOVED BUT MY FAITH IN GOD AND THROUGH FAITH ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. THANK YOU. GOD BLESS. ANYTHING YOU CAN SPARE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”
I crouched down again and asked James his name. He was friendly and talkative. I told him about The Relief Bus and he was very interested in paying a visit to receive help. I asked James if he would sell me his sign. He also responded positively and gave me a higher price- $20. With a smile I said, “Twenty dollars huh? That’s quite a bit.” James replied that he came to that price because that would give him enough to get a bed that night, instead of sleeping on the street. He was very articulate and descriptive about the place he would stay. All of a sudden, that sign looked like a great deal. We also prayed together and even took a selfie (above). That’s what friends do together.
“Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
After agreeing to buy the sign, James shared something amazing. Every morning, a woman would come and write something on the back of his sign to encourage him. On this sign she wrote, “James, you are beautiful just as you are. You are seen. You are worthy. You are so very Loved. We see you and we hold you with the warmth of Loving Grace.”
It felt better buying the signs from these men, rather than just giving some cash. It felt like there was more dignity in exchanging money for the items rather than giving a handout. I now have these signs hanging in my office to remind me of Mike and James, so that I don’t forget to pray for them and the many other people experiencing homeless who God loves just as much as he loves me.
Meeting with the rich and poor in the same day is a bit of a shock to the system and very thought provoking. I find that both the rich and the poor are demonized. The rich are stereotyped as uncaring and arrogant while the poor are stereotyped as lazy and irresponsible. Although sometimes true, I find that neither stereotype fits the majority of the people that I know.
I find that both types of people are very much like myself – needy of love, intimate friendship and God’s grace. Both the rich and poor have challenges and sometimes face crushing pressure. One of my favorite parts of working at New York City Relief is bringing the rich and poor together to see this scripture come to life:
The rich and the poor shake hands as equals— God made them both!
Proverbs 22:2 (The Message)
Jesus broke the Old Testament Jewish law by touching lepers. He showed us how to risk it all in the name of love. Jesus showed us that people take priority over rules and social mores. He established a new law of love that superseded the old law:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Let me give you a little challenge and some solid investment advice for 2016. Instead of ignoring or even judging the beggar you see sitting on the sidewalk, why not purchase yourself a cardboard sign? You just might find a new friend to help carry your load.
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