Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Jul-18-2019

Any Port In A Storm- Part 13 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

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My final night of living on the streets of New York City during my spiritual pilgrimage was spent desperately trying to sleep on the floor of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (see left). Like most nights that week, it seemed to go on forever and yet I could never get enough sleep. It was very difficult and like all the people struggling with homelessness surrounding me, I was willing to take any port in a storm…

Grunge And Glory
That day I been panhandling in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. After I was done there I made my way to a quiet, hidden place just blocks away. It was a public, indoor seating area with bathrooms that most people don’t know exists in New York City. It was an oasis for someone like me who badly needed a warm place to rest after a long day on my feet. It was a clean, safe spot for a grungy guy like me to recharge.

Throughout my week on the streets I was diligently seeking God through prayer, listening and reading. I only brought a few items with me that week and one was a new book by Jack Deere titled, Even In Our Darkness. I had this book sitting in my home for a while, but hadn’t read it. I felt that God wanted me to bring it.

As I read the book that day, I strongly felt the presence of God. It was sort of an out-of-body experience. It’s hard to describe how it feels when you experience the Holy Spirit in such a powerful and tangible way. Although my body was achey and depleted from life on the streets, at this moment my body and emotions were overwhelmed with his pleasure and love. It felt like waves of pleasure rolling over me. By the way, although this has happened to me before, it doesn’t happen to me very often. I wish! It was an answer to my prayers for this week-long experience, because my ultimate goal for this pilgrimage was not to understand what the poor are going through (although that did happen), but to come closer than ever to Jesus. I believed that if I drew close to the poor, that I would invariably end up drawing closer to God himself. That is exactly what happened.

Jack Deere’s book was such a perfect companion to me that week. The book was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. In it, he described the story of his success as a leading scholar, popular speaker and author while also suffering through losing his son to suicide and his wife to alcoholism. It was a powerful tale of healing in the midst of tragedy. I had seen Jack Deere speak before and there was something disarming and warming about his genuineness and authenticity that drew me in like I was having an intimate coffee with a best friend. God was using this book to draw me into his heart. (Buy the book!)

Along with the book I was reading a lot of scripture every day from a Gideon Bible I had been given at the New York City Rescue Mission. That day, a few scriptures really stood out to me and were actually prophetic in my life:

“If you seek Him, He will be found by you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2

As I was seeking the Lord that week I was truly encountering his wisdom, vision, grace, mercy and power. I went on to read 2 Chronicles 16:9:

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”

This felt like a promise to me that God was going to provide everything needed to fulfill his vision for New York City Relief–not only finances to keep gas in The Relief Buses, put food into hungry people’s stomachs and give a working wage for our hard working staff, but the spiritual and emotional strength needed to overcome whatever obstacles might come our way. I felt God specifically tell me to partner with more churches to accomplish our mission. That is exactly what I ended up doing over the next year and experienced a lot of favor from churches ready to link arms and partner with us to bring love and grace to those experiencing homelessness. With the help of church partners we even produced a video highlighting the power of partnering with New York City Relief to transform the church and our friends on the streets.

IMG112Transient In Transit
In considering where I was going to spend my last night in New York City, I decided to use my new friend Jacques’ advice and sleep inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal where many people find shelter every night (see left). He taught me how to buy a cheap bus ticket so that the police wouldn’t at worst arrest me or at best kick me out of the bus station into the cold. It can get down into the 30’s at night in March. I decided to give Jacques a call to see if he would be at Port Authority himself that night. I had been alone for days, so it would be nice to see a friendly face. There was also more safety in having someone to watch my back in the middle of the night when bad things can happen. Fortunately, I got ahold of Jacques and we made plans to meet later.

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The Port Authority Bus Terminal (see left) is the largest in the United States and the busiest in the world by volume of traffic, serving about 8,000 buses and 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year. How was I going to get a wink of sleep in such a busy public place and why would so many people experiencing homelessness choose to stay there at night?

Unfortunately, according to the NY Daily News (and many of my friends who have stayed in public city shelters) this is why,

“Rats, bedbugs and violence plague the city’s dysfunctional and overcrowded shelter system, built to house people temporarily but now straining under the weight of an expanding crisis. Nearly every homeless person the Daily News interviewed detailed stories of fighting, filth and widespread thievery at shelters. Some had even worse horror stories. Jermaine Williams, 39, a Brooklyn native who’s been homeless for a decade, said he was once awakened by a man masturbating in his face at the homeless shelter on Bedford Ave.

“Outside Penn Station Monday night, Charmain, 41, swore she would never return to a shelter. “I’m not going. They’re going to have to lock me up. The streets are a lot safer. I almost got raped (in a shelter)”, said the woman, who’s been homeless for a year.”

I arrived at Port Authority to find Jacques charging his phone at a charging station while his wife slept on the floor. He told me that his wife was bipolar and self-medicated with tobacco mixed with marijuana. If she didn’t smoke regularly she would flip out. He said even their doctor told him to just let her smoke. Jacques’ wife was stable enough most of the time to paint homes with him and they work regularly when it’s warmer out. She kept her face completely covered with fabric and I asked him if it was because they were religious. He said she just doesn’t want people looking at her. They have been together for 15 years, and married for 5.

Unlike most of the homeless I saw living in the transit stations, Jacques doesn’t drink. Jacques also told me he doesn’t panhandle because it would make his wife too sad. One time they fell asleep at Grand Central and woke up to lots of food and money that people had put down around them. He used the money to buy weed for his wife to keep her calm. Once, some guy even handed him a bottle of expensive whiskey. He doesn’t want to fall into the trap of using alcohol as a coping mechanism, so he gave it away to a homeless guy who was in turn ecstatic.

Not having a drinking problem helps Jacques gain favor with the police. As we were talking, the police came through waking everyone up. Before they could get to his wife, he headed them off to let them know that he was her husband. He woke her up, and as soon as the police left five minutes later, she laid back down and went to sleep.

A little ways down the terminal, I watched the police try to rouse a man. He would not wake up, so they physically picked him up by the arms and carried/dragged him out of the station. I wouldn’t sat that they were too rough–just doing their job. Left behind was a grey wool blanket, which I quickly snatched to use as a mat to sleep on. It was pure instinct, because I was imagining laying my head on the bare, hard floor all night.

Jacques couldn’t go downstairs yet to the Greyhound waiting area until his wife got up and went for a smoke. I was exhausted, so I headed downstairs alone. I put my mat down on the floor in the waiting area and began to read. A man asleep on the floor near me had his boots off and his feet smelled up the entire waiting area. I don’t mean that it smelled a little. It was like toxic fumes that would make your eyes water.

A bus passenger asked the man if he could put his boots back on, but he said they had gotten wet, so he had to let them dry out some. She, along with another passenger, relocated to some seats a little farther away to escape the feet fumes. Thankfully the man did eventually put his boots back on which helped tremendously. Honestly, I could have put with it, but it made everyone else nauseous.

I laid down on my mat, took off my own boots (no shame!), wrapped myself in my blanket and tried to fall asleep. I understood why the other man took off his boots and sympathized. My feet were hot, swollen and my boots were very uncomfortable to wear when trying to sleep. With all of the people around me, both homeless and travelers, it took a while. Even though it was late, there were a lot of people in the Greyhound waiting area. Regularly, loud announcements blasted over the PA system informing people of travel information. I finally fell asleep around 12:30am. At 1:30am the cleaning crew and police woke everyone up so that they could sweep and mop the floor. I stood along with everyone else watching them clean and waiting for our opportunity to get back into the passenger waiting area and catch more sleep.

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I did finally pass out, but at 5:15am I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. After that I could not fall asleep again, so I headed upstairs and bought a coffee at Dunkin’ donuts with a gift card that someone on the street had given me while I was panhandling. Boy, was I thankful for that coffee.

As difficult as it was to sleep in Port Authority that night, I reflected that it was actually better than some of the other places I had stayed at which were run by the city of New York like The Main Chance drop-in center. No wonder some people opted to sleep on the hard cement floor here in this busy hub. All of the people who had laid on the floor next to me that night were refugees from who knows what kind of crisis and disaster in their lives. Joining their ranks was eye opening and reminded me once again of how Jesus joined our ranks and chose to align himself with us, despite our many flaws.

Many countries around the world struggle with abject poverty and homelessness. It is more difficult to understand how such a wealthy country like America can fail to help our most vulnerable citizens. I see this as an enormous opportunity for the American Church (big C!) to take our place as those who would come not in judgment, but in compassion to help lift up the broken and the burdened of our society.

I hope that I can be a friend to the downtrodden, the way that Jacques was to me. I hope that I can be Jesus to others the way that Jacques was to me. So often, God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. It took sleeping in Port Authority to see that even clearer. You and I can be a port in the storm, whom others can run to in time of crisis. Like Jesus, we can speak peace and command that storm to be still. “Port Authority” has taken on a whole new meaning to me. We have been authorized and commissioned by Jesus to be a place of refuge for those in trouble.

Stay tuned for part 14 of my STREET PILGRIMAGE series titled, The Final Stretch.


Posted under Uncategorized
Jun-28-2019

Freaked Out On 5th Avenue-Part 12 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

5919It was day 6 of my spiritual pilgrimage living on the streets of New York City. It turned out to be the most shocking day of my journey in which I met God in the most disarming way through messengers who he sent to me in the strangest of places…

On a whim, I had decided to walk 20 plus blocks to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue to panhandle. It felt kind of symbolic to go beg and pray at the new White House–kind of like when I begged on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange earlier that week. It wasn’t a political move of any kind on my part. By the time I got there my feet were killing me. Some guy was selling silly anti-Trump buttons on the sidewalk. Lots of tourists were taking photos in front of the iconic tower. As I begged, I prayed for the people dropping change in my cup, for the city leaders to have wisdom and innovation to help those experiencing homelessness and for the president and national leaders to know how to help the poor. While I prayed I made a total of $5.39.

It was while I was praying that they most amazing thing happened to me. Three college-aged girls came up to me and asked my name. They sat down on the sidewalk right there on 5th Avenue and talked to me for the next 20 minutes. Their names were Bailey, Andrea and Tiffany. The girls asked if I was hungry and gave me some granola bars. These were some of the only people from mainstream society to give me the time of day all week. I was pretty flabbergasted that they were being so nice. They asked me questions about myself and how I was doing.

One of the young women who initiated the encounter, Bailey Kriebel, later wrote on Facebook about the experience:

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“Over Spring break, I chose to go on a service trip to the Bronx, New York with other students from Messiah College (see left). By the end of the week, my heart was full and I could not contain my excitement for Jesus or for the things He is going to do in my life. I would like to talk about a conversation that I had with a homeless man that really stood out to me.

“We were walking around Manhattan that day and we were encouraged to pray for anybody that we felt called to pray for. My eyes focused on a homeless man sitting across from Trump Tower. As I walked over to him, two other girls from my group followed. Let me remind you that it was freezing. For me, I can go back inside my warm, cozy house when I cannot bear the cold anymore. But for him, he couldn’t. He had no place to go.

“I walked over to him and I asked him his name. He looked surprised, as if his name was meaningless. He told me that his name was Juan. I asked him how he was, and he told me that his feet were sore because he had just walked 20 blocks. I asked him why he was walking that far, and he said he was on a pilgrimage. All he had was a backpack and a blanket. The girls and I offered him granola bars. We actually sat on the sidewalk with him for a while and talked.

“Instead of talking about his life and experiences as a homeless man like the other homeless people I have encountered, he talked about how badly the homeless are treated and how unfair it is because they are people too. He explained that homelessness could happen to anyone, because New York contains many areas that are in complete poverty.

Bailey

“After talking some more, he revealed that we were the only people to actually sit down and talk with him. Only two people asked his name before us. I was amazed. I prayed over him and thanked God for such an amazing individual. I prayed that he would stay safe, healthy, and warm.

“Before we left, he told us to friend him on Facebook. When we looked up his profile, we realized he was not homeless. He was the president of New York City Relief, which is an outreach program we helped with earlier in the week. If you do not know what New York City Relief does, they give food, hygiene kits and socks to people in need and they also offer direction to rehab and detox facilities. We worked there earlier in the week and when I mentioned New York City Relief to Juan, he acted like he had no idea what it was. However, Juan chose to be homeless for a week to find Jesus. We happened to reach out to him and move him even closer to God. He even gave a sermon about it. Around the 40 minute mark, he mentions us and our encounter in this video.

“I would have never even considered walking up to a homeless person before this trip because of the stereotypes I had of them. After this entire trip, I want to. I want to offer them granola bars and prayer. A $2 granola bar may not seem like anything to us, but it could mean everything to someone less fortunate.

“I am going to end with a verse from Isaiah 57. God says: “I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.”

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I was pretty blown away by the whole experience of meeting these young ladies. I had been mostly alone, isolated and ignored by the public as they walked past me every day. The only people to sit down and talk to me all week, feed me and pray with me were kids we hosted and trained on a New York City Relief outreach for one day that week. They had served on our mobile outreach called The Relief Bus at Chelsea Park in Midtown Manhattan and now they were an unstoppable force for Jesus doing things that most grown men were afraid to try. Watching their life transformation before my eyes felt like an out-of-body experience. I was freaked out, but in a good way.

One of the other young women, Tiffany Burrows actually wrote a college paper on the experience in which she explained:

Tiffany Burrows

“New York City Relief is unique in that they do not simply provide handouts; rather, they seek to commune with the homeless, hear their stories, and to demonstrate that they matter. Often, this inspires the people they serve to seek the opportunities that New York City Relief offers to better themselves. Four of the core values of New York City Relief are Compassion, Oneness, Revolution, and Excellence. Working with members in this organization truly revealed what it meant to be the hands and feet of Christ.

“Personally, it inspired me during my outreach on The Relief Bus to see the homeless in a positive light and to see them in general. In the past, when I saw a homeless person, I would not acknowledge them out of fear. I did not want to give them money to support any bad habits they had and I did not know what to say to them.

“However, what I gathered from this experience was that they want the three essential human needs we all want: to be seen, heard, and valued. Towards the end of the week, I was walking through the streets of Manhattan. I saw what appeared to be a homeless man sitting and begging across from Trump Tower.

They want the three essential human needs we all want: to be seen, heard, and valued.

 

“I decided to take a chance and live out some of the values I learned from on The Relief Bus outreach. I welcomed two other girls from the trip to join me and talk with the homeless man. We sat down next to him and asked him what his name was. He was surprised to be acknowledged and told us that his name was Juan. Juan asked us why we were taking to him and we simply responded that we wanted to get to know him. Our genuineness released some of his hesitancy and he opened up. He shared that he had been on a pilgrimage and had walked several miles before resting. He was cold, tired, and hungry. We offered him granola bars we had carried with us for our travels. We later asked to pray for him and he was receptive. Juan was filled with gratitude and hope. He told us that he had a Facebook account and encouraged us to friend him.

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“Later, the next week we did and discovered that the man we sat with was Juan Galloway, the president of New York City Relief! He messaged the two girls and myself to inform us that he spent the week being homeless to understand the lives of the people he serves.

“Throughout that week, he broke barriers, stereotypes, and was humbled beyond belief. Hardly anyone outside of other homeless people had spoken to him during that journey. He shared how much it meant to him for someone to authentically demonstrate that he mattered. He said that the example we set is the kind of culture he seeks to instill in his team that works at New York City Relief. After dialoguing with Juan more over Facebook and doing further research on the organization, I saw how effective they are. It was extremely unique for the president of the organization to take the risk and be homeless for a week. It showed his humility and compassion for humanity. It also showed that even as the president of New York City Relief, no matter how “high up” you grow in your organization, you are no more important that the people you work among and serve.

“Further, despite enduring many hardships during that week, he chose to focus on the small acts of kindness he experienced from the homeless community. For instance, one night, Juan slept on the E train in Manhattan. After still being tired and exhausted, he encountered another homeless man that offered him his last Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Repeatedly, he saw the homeless community truly living in communion and giving their last resources to support one another. These are not the stories told about the homeless in our society. Therefore, Juan and New York City Relief make it part of their mission to share these stories with others.

“One quote from Juan’s dad, Richard Galloway, who had started this organization in 1989 stands out to me. He said, “The homeless are not a problem to be solved. They are a portal to the heart of God.”

“Personally, I cannot see a better organization out there that is seeking to remain humble and authentic in their work. They realize that their mission is not a one-way process, but rather a reciprocal one. Because of these experiences, I am now willing to risk comfort to get to know the marginalized. It will be my goal to risk leaving my comfort zone to see people for all that they truly are.”

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These three young women experienced the truth and the truth set them free. They experienced the truth of the commonality and humanity of the poor. Even more importantly, they experienced the truth of the love of Christ that looks past the symptoms of sin and bondage to see and value the hearts of his beloved.

This is what it takes to experience the transformational power of God–leaving what we know to walk by faith into the unknown. Living on the streets taught me that lesson well. I met Jesus through people struggling with homelessness, but also through three college girls who would not be held back by fear of “the other.”

This encounter was a sign from God to me–we were transforming volunteer’s lives who were then going out to transform other lives in the name of Jesus. They had a passion and energy you don’t often see. They were glowing with Christ and were spreading a compassion revolution. These mighty women of God had experienced personal revival and were on a mission.

They were a living example of the scripture which had inspired my father and mother, Richard and Dixie Galloway to start New York City Relief thirty years earlier:

“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

In Acts 21:8,9 it mentions the four daughters of Philip who were prophetesses. God had sent me three such women who were walking in the spirit and following his guidance. They were messengers and mouthpieces sent to confirm my mission, affirm my call and encourage me to persevere. God had my attention and I was listening.

Out of the literally millions of people walking the streets of New York City and the thousands of people begging, these girls found me, a needle in the haystack. This was no coincidence. The odds that they would choose to minister to me were beyond astronomical. This was an experience that I would never forget. It was a sign to me that our team at New York City Relief was on the right track and that we should keep going, full-steam ahead. When I heard God’s voice through his young servants, the Holy Spirit breathed on me.

Is he breathing on you as you read this? Do you sense him beckoning you to follow in his footsteps and become the blazing light that you were created to be? Do you hear the echoes of scripture when Jesus beckoned, “Come and follow me” and “Feed my sheep?” Be careful of what you wish for, because God might freak you out too. Worse things can happen. 🙂

Stay tuned to read more about my spiritual pilgrimage in Part 13 titled, Any Port In A Storm.


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Jun-10-2019

Getting INSIDE The Box Is The New Getting “Outside The Box”

I awoke at 1:30am in a parking lot. The pouring rain was starting to drench my sleeping bag as I lay inside of a cardboard box. I had to find a new place to sleep and fast! This was going to be a long night. Read on to find out how I got myself into this uncomfortable predicament…

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Have you ever read one of the most bewildering stories in the Bible about a man who amazed Jesus? It’s one of those head scratching scenarios where the “bad guy” became the hero. No one could have seen this coming.

Take a look at this story through a paraphrase I wrote many years ago in a book titled, The Street Bible:

Jesus went to Capernaum and an officer in the Roman army came by. The officer said, “Chief, one of my favorite employees is in critical condition. He can’t move and he’s in a lot of pain.”

Jesus said, “Come on, I’ll go heal him right now.”

The officer retorted, “Chief, I’m not worthy for you to come to my place. Besides, you could just heal him long distance from where you stand. When I tell my soldiers to jump, they ask, ‘HOW HIGH, SIR!?’ My men respond instantly and know better than to mess with the boss. It’s the same way with you and anyone’s sickness. That sickness just doesn’t stand a chance. You the man.”

Now it was Jesus’ turn to have his mind blown. He said to everybody standing around, “This is the only person I’ve met who really believes there are no limits to My power and abilities! A lot of religious folks who should be believers like this guy just aren’t. When they die, they’ll try to get a spot with their crowd, but will be surprised by getting the boot instead.”

He told the officer, “You asked for it, you got it.” Sure enough, his employee was healed right when Jesus said that.–Matthew 8:5-13 (The Street Bible)

In this narrative, a man who should have been an enemy, an oppressor and religiously repugnant (unclean according to Jewish law) turned out to be the role model who Jesus affirms as having more faith than anyone in Israel. Say what?! This was the modern-day equivalent of pointing out the astounding spiritual walk of a member of ISIS. It was highly offensive and broke every political, religious and cultural rule there was at the time.

This was the modern-day equivalent of pointing out the astounding spiritual walk of a member of ISIS.

centurion (1)The man in question was a Roman centurion in charge of 100 men. He received high praise indeed for someone who was a foreigner hated by the Israelites and a member of the brutal occupying force dominating Jesus’ people. It’s easy to distance ourselves from the story and miss the outrageous audacity of the centurion and of Jesus in this situation. We would be wrong to imagine that Jesus is just speaking in hyperbole and maybe overstating his assessment of the Roman. On the contrary, I believe that Jesus is still pointing us to this anti-hero today so that we might follow in his footsteps.

What would cause Jesus to make such an outlandishly grandiose assessment of the centurion’s spiritual strength? I think it’s not just how he believed Jesus could heal, but the heart motivating him to ask Jesus to heal in the first place.

Courageously Crossing Boundaries
This Roman’s actions crossed every cultural, socioeconomic and racial boundary that existed at that time in order to connect with Jesus and save his servant’s life. He did this at risk of his reputation and status. Roman rule was all about retaining control through a power structure of dominant authority over their subjects.

As a Roman soldier, he had the power to simply force a Jew to do what he wanted. For example, there was a common practice of “impressment” which allowed a Roman soldier to force a Jewish native to carry his equipment for one Roman mile, about 1,611 yards. This was no small task considering a Roman soldier’s backpack could weigh upwards of 100 pounds.

This was most probably what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 5:41 when he said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus taught that even if you were unjustly forced to serve a Roman, go above and beyond to serve that person the best you can. That’s what love does. Paradoxically, the Roman went above and beyond for an underling who was powerless and vulnerable. Again, that’s what love does.

By lauding the man, Jesus was welcoming those listening to follow the Roman into a new reality where, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3: 28)

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Soggy Boxes
Recently, I participated in an unconventional event with Liquid Church in Parsippany, NJ. My two sons and I joined 575 other people in sleeping outside in cardboard boxes in the church parking lot. It was an effort to join in solidarity with those who have no place to call home. Each participant was handed a cardboard box and some duct tape to construct their temporary shelter. Many wrote scriptures on their ramshackle structures like, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, you shall open wide your hand to you brother, to the needy, and to the poor in your land…” Deuteronomy 15:11. Another person wrote, “Break our hearts with what breaks yours.”

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In the middle of the night, the rain poured down on the cardboard city and drenched all of us. We retreated to the church lobby where we sprawled out on the hard, concrete floors. It was difficult, smelly and beautiful as we experienced a little bit of the hardship of others while raising funds and awareness for our brothers and sisters on the streets. It was a tough, but meaningful experience for many of the participants.

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One woman commented, “After this, I won’t be looking at people challenged with homelessness in the same way. Though I had sympathy for them before, I now have empathy too. I will make an effort to look them in their eyes and let them know I see them and I will try to do what I can to help them.” Another participant noted, “”Such a great event. It’s changed my perspective on who is homeless. I thought they had a choice. Now it doesn’t matter why they are homeless – it only matters how I help. No judgement!”

It took getting into a literal box for the participants to get “out of the box” of how they viewed people living on the streets.

 

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I love my job as president of New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to people struggling with homelessness. I get to encourage people to come and treat others like gold, who many times get treated like garbage. Volunteers are stunned to meet Jesus through people who have been stigmatized and stereotyped as dangerous and to be avoided. On the contrary, when volunteers make friends with people living on the streets, the faulty social constructs crumble revealing a God who embraces everyone equally. It can be shocking to folks on both sides as common ground and genuine affection is discovered. Love melts judgment away as hearts intertwine.

Are there any cultural, socioeconomic or racial boundaries that you need to cross in order to encounter the power of God? If you want to be a part of making miracles happen like the centurion did, this might be your ticket. Are you ready to step deep into the lives of others who are different than you in almost every way? This is the way of great men and women of faith. Love compels them to get in the box with people in crisis.

Ultimate Authority
Why was Jesus so greatly impressed by the centurion’s request for help? One clue is found in James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

The centurion rightly ascertained Jesus’ authority, because his heart’s desire was not to advance or profit himself in any way. The Roman walked in the Spirit as he embodied the greatest commandment, to love his neighbor as himself. This was a man of war trained in the ways of an empire that ruled with an iron fist, but the conqueror had been conquered by God’s love. This unbelievable love that he enjoyed gave him the unwavering confidence that Jesus could heal anyone, anytime.

Two thousand years ago, this centurion understood and embodied a truth that many of us struggle with today in the 21st century:

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”” Romans 15:1-2 (The Message)

The Kingdom of God was being manifested in this sacred moment. Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to point out this outsider as being one of the holiest men in the country. It’s hard to emphasize just how outrageous and scandalous this would have sounded to the listeners.

Through this true story, Jesus welcomes us to embrace one of our main purposes on the earth: to serve God by serving others, especially the weak. Like the centurion, will we lay down our wealth, power and position for the sake of the broken?

It’s time to get in the box like Jesus did when he left heaven and came to earth to be with people in trouble like us. It’s uncomfortable and maybe soggy, but this is where transformation happens. Ironically, this is how we can get “out of the box” of our self-absorption and small thinking to become the people God designed us to be. Bring on the cardboard and duct tape!

To watch a video of the message titled, Making Space At The Table that I preached at Liquid Church the morning after the big sleep out click here.


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May-11-2019

One Of The Best Days Of My Life-Part 11 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

On my sixth day of living on the streets of New York City, I didn’t expect it to be one of the best days of my life. It certainly didn’t start out that way…

I woke up that morning in the New York City Rescue Mission emergency shelter and my talkative bunk mate below me wasn’t so talkative. He was sick as a dog and looked feverish. Throughout the night many men throughout the 100-person bunk room were coughing. As you can imagine, the health of those struggling with homelessness is very poor and when it gets cold outside things get even worse. The man I was about to meet at breakfast was an absolute physical disaster.

His name was Jim and he had just spent his first night at the shelter. He was thin, gaunt, scruffy and a little hard to understand. Jim had just arrived from Boston on a bus the night before and his physical condition broke my heart. He looked fragile, like he wasn’t going to make it long on the streets. Jim asked if he could partner up with me for the morning to learn the ropes in NYC. I said, “Sure” and found it interesting that even though I was a “new guy” on the streets, I would now serve as a consultant to someone even newer than me.

Jim had on hospital scrub pants that were filthy and a hospital wristband. I asked him about it and he told me that he had diabetes. He had gotten so sick that he had someone call an ambulance for him, then stayed overnight at a hospital.

On our way out of the mission, Jim dug through his bag and pulled out some old food of which he ate big mouthfuls. He wanted to store his bag at the mission, but they don’t do that. He said it was too heavy to lug around so he would stash it outside somewhere. I was afraid it would get stolen, so I told him I would carry it.

My plan was to take Jim to a New York City Relief outreach located at Chelsea Park on 28th & 9th to get him some help. On our way out the door, the front desk guys at this mission smelled him and thought he hadn’t showered which is against the rules. Jim said he did shower. I told him it must be his clothes which looked filthy. I noticed that he had a bottle of booze in his bag which was against the rules.

Even though it wasn’t clothing distribution day, the staff kindly got him a fresh pair of pants and shirt. One of the staff explained that Jim had defecated on himself last night and it had gotten on his pants. The staff asked me to explain to him that he couldn’t let that happen for the sake of everyone else’s health and that they keep the facility very clean.

Jim and JuanAfter waiting forever for Jim to change clothes they shooed us out. We only made it a few steps down the sidewalk before he started begging people for cigarettes. I told Jim that we needed to leave to get to Penn Station to panhandle, but he said he would meet me later. He was determined to find someone to give him a cigarette. I gave his bag back and told Jim that the mission staff warned that if he had another incident like last night he would have to leave to get proper medical care. He brushed me off and I left. Jim has become degraded to the point that he literally lives moment to moment. He was a shell of a person. I thought I could help him by partnering up for the day, but it didn’t last long. I was quite sad to part ways with him. Ironically, I met him again later that year at the same outreach location that I had wanted to take him to. (See photo above left)

I made my way to Penn Station where I begged outside for an hour. By the end of the hour, I was freezing and had to go inside to warm up. I had collected $7.50 and four hand warmers. Once inside the station, I dug through some trash cans to find a clean New York Post to read. I ate an apple leftover from last night’s dinner and journaled about my night’s experience.

At lunchtime, I headed over to the Holy Apostle soup kitchen which is the largest soup kitchen in the city. As I sat around the table I asked the people around me about the white bus across the street. I was, of course, talking about New York City Relief’s outreach vehicle known as The Relief Bus. The men shared with me that the soup was excellent and most were going over to get some after lunch. The man sitting next to me said that they give gifts out of the back of the bus. I asked what the gifts were and he said socks and hygiene items.

I saw my friend June at another table and went over to chat. (Read June’s story in Part 2, Night Train) She said that she had been looking for me all week and was wondering how I was doing. There was a nice elderly man next to her who started talking my ear off. It was obvious that he was very hungry for conversation. I chatted with him and June about my experiences sleeping in the various shelters that week. I admitted that my toughest night had been trying to sleep on the same subway car as June. The man’s need to talk reminded me of something Outreach Leader Lauren Lee had said:

“New York City Relief is combatting relationship starvation for folks facing homelessness. Men, women, and children living in the streets, shelters, and even subways are deprived of meaningful relationships and it affects every part of their lives. A lot of our friends on the streets have a hard time experiencing hope. We provide meaningful conversations, develop deep relationships, and strive to bring relief to our neighbors struggling in homelessness.”

As we parted ways, I watched June drag her broken suitcase down the street and was deeply troubled by her labored efforts. I knew that I had to do something to help this sweet friend of mine.

As I walked down the street I found myself in the fashion district where all the stores on the block sold fancy purses. I wondered if some of the stores might have rolling suitcases. I did find such a store where a nice Asian woman showed me some bags. I talked her down on the price from $50 to $45 and we struck a deal on a very nice pink hard-shell rolling suitcase. The bag looked feminine and just the kind that June might like. I was off to Penn Station to find her.

I gave her the new suitcase and she was utterly shocked and hugged me.

I found June in her normal spot at the New Jersey Transit waiting area. I gave her the new suitcase and she was utterly shocked and hugged me. I explained to her that I had purchased it with the panhandling money I had collected that week. I told June that she was a good friend to me that it wasn’t right for her to have to drag around a broken suitcase. She said that people had stolen her bags many times over the years, but that they weren’t going to get this one. June was so thankful that it pierced my soul in a way that was unexpected. It reminds me of another story that Lauren Lee had shared about a friend of hers named Warren (See photo of Warren and Lauren below):

Warren

“Warren has one of the most soft and genuine souls. For over a year now he has kept a gratitude journal and every week he would walk over to Chelsea Park to tell me everything he was grateful for that week and every week what he shared would be different. Warren has taught me that no matter how little we might have, there is always something to be grateful for.

“Warren sees the beauty in the person just not the beautiful of the person. So grateful to be learning from such a wise brother of mine.”

What Lauren shared reminds me of the verse in James 2:5,

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

I know that I have a lot to learn from people who are rich in faith like Warren.

 

June suitcase

The next day I saw June sitting in Penn Station and because her vision is so poor, she didn’t see me. June touched her new suitcase over and over–stroking it and moving the handle up and down. (See photo at left) It was obviously a priceless treasure to her, which brought me to tears. Who knows when she had last owned something new? It was a reminder that she is loved and she is special-worth nice new things.

It’s hard to describe how grateful I am that God led me to help June. It was a moving experience that I will never forget. When you experience the love and compassion of God, it changes you forever. I felt the heart of Jesus for June, but also for myself. He came after me when I was broken and alone. He came to love me and bless me with everything I could never earn or deserve. He gave me everything my heart had ever craved for and his love restored my weary soul. Although I was having a rough week living on the streets of New York City, that day turned out to be one of the best days of my life.

Stay tuned for my next article, Flabbergasted On Fifth Avenue-Part 12 of STREET PILGRIMAGE.


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May-8-2019

Episode 8 of 36 QUESTIONS

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Killers on the Appalachian Trail, teaching mime in a Muslim school in Uganda and piles of dirty dishes. What do all these things have in common? Find out on Episode 8 of 36 QUESTIONS. Listen on iTunes, Spotify or this link.

#juangalloway #tracygalloway #marriedinministry #housingworks #provokedthebook #freewalkingtours #irisministries #heidibaker


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Apr-19-2019

PROVOKED BOOK NOW ON SALE ON AMAZON!

 

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How to Love People Relentlessly
and Do Beautiful Works That Make
You and Others Come Alive

This book has been a long time in the making, and my prayer is that the stories and lessons that God used to change my heart and my life will mess up your life, IN A GOOD WAY!

For the last 17 years I’ve been working with the most amazing people, from all walks of life, who have taught me how to love like Jesus.

Wherever you are at in life, Jesus invites you to love unconditionally and experience the transformative power of laying down your life for others so that both the giver and receiver are changed together.

Click HERE to buy your copy of PROVOKED on Amazon!

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DaveJ

 


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Mar-20-2019

Episode 3 of PROVOKED, The Podcast

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We have a new episode available of PROVOKED, The Podcast.

For those of you who aren’t sure what a podcast is, it’s kind of an audio talk show online. You can listen to it while you’re on the treadmill, commuting in your car or folding clothes.

In this podcast episode we discuss chapter 3 of my new book PROVOKED, How To Love People Relentlessly And Do Beautiful Works That Make You And Others Come Alive. This chapter is titled Logjam Of Love.

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PROVOKED is now available for Pre-Order at newyorkcityrelief.org/provoked

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Mar-9-2019

PROVOKED, The Podcast

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Who are these crazy looking guys? The guy pictured at far left is me, Juan Galloway and the guy pictured at far right, is Alec Gobel. We work together at New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to those struggling with homeless that connects people to resources that lead to life transformation. But 30 years ago we were in Bible college together and even played in a Christian punk rock band together called Sanctified Noise (see photo). We have started a new podcast called PROVOKED, The Podcast.

For those of you who aren’t sure what a podcast is, it’s kind of an audio talk show online. You can listen to it while you’re on the treadmill, commuting in your car or folding clothes.

In this podcast episode we discuss chapter 1 of my new book PROVOKED, How To Love People Relentlessly And Do Beautiful Works That Make You And Others Come Alive. This chapter is titled Provoked To Love.

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PROVOKED is now available for Pre-Order at newyorkcityrelief.org/provoked

Slide1


Posted under Uncategorized
Mar-1-2019

New Book: PROVOKED. Now available for pre-order!

I am excited to share this news via video about my new book now available: PROVOKED, How To Love People Relentlessly And Do Beautiful Works That Make You And Others Come Alive. Watch now!

PROVOKED FRONT COVER

 

Click HERE to PRE-ORDER your copy now!


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Feb-15-2019

Brotherhood Of The Broken-Part 10 of STREET PILGRIMAGE

Penn StationI woke up that morning in the shelter operated at The New York City Rescue Mission. It was amazing having a pillow under my head and a mattress under my body. Boy, did it beat a plastic chair at the drop-in center! I got up and put on a brand new pair of socks I was given at The Bowery Mission. They didn’t match, but I didn’t care. They felt great! The old ones were so sweat soaked and gross! For the first two days I didn’t have a toothbrush, but now I had a whole hygiene kit (see photo below) thanks to the mission. Being able to brush my teeth and wash my body felt great after being so grungy for days.

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It was my fifth day of living on the streets of New York City. I paused to consider why I was spending time away from my family, my friends and the comfort of home. I did this to understand what my homeless friends are going through, but mostly I did it to meet God. I felt that this spiritual pilgrimage was what he was calling me to do. Maybe he wanted me to experience just a taste of what Jesus did when he put aside the privilege of His position and made Himself nothing.

Phillipians 2:5-8 says,

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!”

Jesus left the joy and comfort of heaven and the presence of the father to come to earth in order to connect directly with his lost sheep so that they could relate to him. Jesus shared our pain and sufferings. The shepherd got close to the sheep in order to love and heal them.

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I left the mission and headed further downtown to the New York Stock Exchange (photo at left). I was curious what it would be like to panhandle on Wall Street, one of the financial power centers of the planet. I made $11.65 and one bag of nuts, dates and figs. I guess the Wall Street crowd are very health conscious.

To most of the people walking by I was invisible. I simply didn’t exist. When I did exist, sometimes it was for someone’s amusement or mockery. Without asking me, one man stopped and took a photo of me with a big fancy camera. I was an animal at the zoo. Something to be observed instead of engaged. An oddity without feelings. One man who walked by me scoffed at my sign to his friend and said, “Imagine if you were homeless” as he read it in a very sarcastic tone. I was usually sitting on the ground and looking down. I would look down on purpose because when I looked up I could tell it made people uncomfortable. I saw a lot of shoes walking by from my vantage point.

Basic Human Need
After a while, I got too cold and stiff to beg anymore so I went to find a bathroom. This can be tough for people living on the streets. Many places will only allow paying customers to use the bathroom. I remember seeing this happen once when I was eating at a restaurant several years earlier. While I was enjoying my meal, a man struggling with homelessness was getting publicly rebuked in front of me by wait staff. Why didn’t I step in and buy the man something to eat so that he could enjoy the bathroom too? To my shame I only thought of this later when it was too late.

Several months after my street pilgrimage, Starbucks was in the media for denying two black men the right to use their bathroom. The manager actually had them arrested for trespassing! After the bad press, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz changed the policy. He said, “We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100% of the time and give people the key, because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to the bathroom because you are less than. We want you to be more than.”

On many of my visits to New York City in the past,  I would notice that certain areas, including the subway system smelled like a toilet. In no other city had I encountered this smell so regularly. Now I understand why this is so and how simple it would be to solve. I am amazed that New Yorkers find it acceptable to not have enough public restrooms, resulting in many areas smelling like urine or worse. It’s like London during the middle ages when they would throw their refuse into the street. It was normal, but unsanitary and unhealthy. It appears that we are still living in the dark ages when it comes to sanitation and the basic human dignity of providing a place to go to the bathroom. Of course, public restrooms would solve this problem. Currently, there are not enough for the size of the homeless population and most public restrooms are locked up at night.

My entire week of living on the streets I would pray that restaurant employees would have mercy and give me the combination to the lock on the bathroom door. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. It’s no wonder that some people living on the streets urinate and even defecate outside. Of course, if they are caught by police doing this, they can be ticketed or arrested. Most of the time the unhoused cannot pay the fines for these minor offenses and then receive arrest warrants sending them back to jail. All this for the crime of needing to go to the bathroom and being too poor to pay for a ticket.

In many European countries I have visited, they had modern portable restrooms that blended in with the environment and were entirely self-cleaning after every use. I am unsure why this has not become commonplace in a city that attracts so many of the tourists from around the world.

That day, I hit the jackpot by finding a nice Starbucks in the financial district where I could use the bathroom. I noticed other homeless men and women using power outlets to charge their phones and using the free WIFI. Some people might be shocked to know that the homeless have cell phones. There are multiple government programs that provide smartphones for the purpose of aiding people as they look for employment. They don’t’ get many minutes, but it is a big help and I have known people to find jobs using those free phones. Most of the people in the Starbucks had bought something to eat or drink to earn the right to enjoy the bathrooms, and sit in comfy booths with soft cushions.

Only A Glimpse
I fully understand that living out on the streets for a week could never cause me to fully understand what people struggling with homelessness are going through. My experience was grueling. It was brief however, and could in no way compare with what people were enduring for years or even decades. I knew that a loving family was waiting for me in a warm home when I returned, yet my pilgrimage did give me a glimpse into the pain, suffering and rejection that people deal with. I was privileged to get close enough to understand a little of how they ended up on the streets, and it softened me to their plight. It makes me think of a quote by the Jesuit Priest Gregory Boyle in his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion:

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”

Earlier that week, I was eating lunch at The Bowery Mission and overheard one of the guests detailing a traumatic event in his life. When he was a young man in the military, he had a picture of his wife and daughter displayed in his bunk area. This black soldier had a white lieutenant who made sexual and racist comments to him about his pictures. He lost it and began choking the lieutenant who called for backup. The man was beaten unconscious. He woke up in an infirmary with a broken leg, broken arm and broken jaw. Upon waking, he wept in his bed at the injustice he had suffered. From the infirmary, the man wrote letters to the military to plead his case, but he was shipped out quickly before he could obtain justice.

I heard this former soldier’s story and wondered if this event had contributed to his current state of homelessness. It sounded like suffering an abuse of power, a vicious assault, and a racist offense had scarred him for life. Here he was, still talking about it years later in a soup kitchen. He shared his pain with others to lighten the burden he carried and explain the narrative of his life.

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That night I ate dinner at the New York City Rescue Mission. I met a likeable man at my table named JJ. He was a super friendly and I really enjoyed talking to him. From the description of his life and troubles I could tell that he struggled with addiction, but he had an upbeat attitude. JJ had a nice blues brothers tattoo that I complimented and claimed he had a Jack Nicholson tattoo on his leg that he gave himself in prison. JJ was such a fun guy and we shared a few laughs together. Sadly, he said that his wife had been at the mission too, but had disappeared. He said that if she doesn’t show up in the next couple of days, he was splitting. I couldn’t imagine experiencing that kind of chaotic life, but was honored that he would share so openly with me. He treated me like a friend and it felt good. These things happen when you spend time around a table together.

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Dinner that night was delicious-pasta and meat with a red velvet cupcake for dessert. On my way out, I was passing the Executive Chef, Pedro Rodriguez (see photo at left from the Rachel Ray show) and told him that dinner was delicious. He recognized me and began laughing and hugging me. He was about to tell me I looked just like someone he knew when he realized that I really was the person he knew. I told Pedro what I was up to and he promised to keep it under his hat. Pedro didn’t just cook, he loved every person who came to eat in that dining hall-about 600 people a day. At one time, Pedro had been addicted to drugs and eating at soup kitchens to survive himself. Because of what God had miraculously done in his own life ten years ago, he is now an ambassador of hope to others. He was even invited to share his story on the Rachael Ray show where she remarked, “You’re serving dignity. You’re not just serving them food.” Watch this incredible segment here.

After dinner, I made my way up to the chapel room. I was going to stay one more night in the mission and had to sit with the other men until we were allowed to go upstairs to our bunks. While I was waiting with all of the other men and women, there was an altercation.

A guy asked the man behind him if he was trying to be aggressive because he had kicked his chair more than 3 times. The guy apologized, but it wasn’t quickly resolved. The serial kicker lost it and loudly said, “F*@# you b*@#!”, and the other guy jumped up to face off. Staff came over and the man yelled, “You can’t put this on me!” I jumped up and told the fellow getting his chair kicked to take my chair to try to separate them. He agreed and I took his chair.

A staff member from the mission called me over and asked if I had scanned in with my shelter ID. I said yes, but evidently, it hadn’t worked the first time. I scanned it again and it this time it worked. He said thanks for stepping in with the squabblers and said I could go up to the bunks. I was glad I didn’t lose my bed!

I’m pretty sure the chair kicker was the man who slept in the pew next to me at the Bowery several nights earlier. These guys were like little boys who never grew up. Still scrapping in the schoolyard at 50 years old. I have to say I really liked a lot of these guys at the mission. There was a good atmosphere there and even though there were little scraps now and then, everyone seemed to get along for the most part. I felt a kinship and brotherhood with them. I have heard it said that you shouldn’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. I had walked many miles that week, and had the blisters on my feet to prove it. I felt no need to judge because by getting close to their way of life I could better understand the burden they had to bear.

How many people experiencing homelessness were abused as children instead of being nurtured, or grew up in an impoverished, toxic, dysfunctional family? Being robbed of their emotional building blocks, they wander the streets crippled and unable to know how to relate to others, cope with challenges or use problem-solving skills. So many deal with the pain by anesthetizing themselves with drugs and alcohol. Those suffering from addiction find each other on the streets and cling to each other to survive. So often sharing toxic habits making their situation even worse.

We are all broken in some way, but those of us who know Jesus should be the first to give grace, long-suffering, patience, sacrifice and love-knowing we didn’t earn or deserve any good thing. God blessed us so that we can bless others. We must look through the eyes of Jesus in order to see through all the symptoms to see the roots of the disease. It takes looking beyond bad behavior to understand the pain. Most people feel bad for abused children and want to help these innocent victims. What about these same children who have grown up into stunted adults? Many fell through the cracks of the system and are still suffering from the trauma of their childhood.

Let us remind ourselves that Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy. We forget how sick we were and how sick we are. We can make ourselves look good with accomplishments in order to mask the brokenness and dysfunction we still struggle with–our sin. A person struggling with homelessness is confronted constantly with their harsh reality, causing them to seek any temporary relief despite the cost.

When believers step in with relief that is healthy-food, clothes, emotional support, prayer- it opens a window to the soul. Our tangible love is a ticket to journey with others into the roots of their pain so that the healer can reach the infection that is poisoning their whole body. Our prescription is grace and favor-that they are loved and treasured despite what anyone else said and did to communicate the opposite. We really are our brother’s keeper.

Coming up next time, One Of The Best Days Of My Life, Part 11 of STREET PILGRIMAGE.


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