Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Archive for the ‘homeless/needy persons’ Category

Naive and generous

Posted by Chris on July 25, 2008

If I had to choose between being naive and generous, or discerning and stingy, I would take the former every time.

As much as I don’t want to be an enabler, it is preferable to paternalism in our personal relationships and patterns of generosity.

There are so many things we can give. The cry of the discerning and stingy, who “has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him” (1 Jn 3:17), is often a cover for an unwillingness to think outside the box or take the time needed to meet needs in a way besides giving spare change. The verse continues: “How can the love of God be in him?” The equivalent of deciding whether or not to give spare change to a drunk would have been God deciding whether or not to send good weather to sinful people in agrarian Israel. Jesus said that God “sends rain on the evil and the good”; in the same way, we should sow into those who are deserving and undeserving, those who will use the money wisely and those who will be wasteful.

Thankfully, God acts outside the realm not only of the deist imagination, or the sphere of the meteorologist, but in a way that penetrates into our deeper needs. He came to earth, sacrificing a good ol’ time in Heaven. Think about that when as we discern that “being somewhere” precludes us from being generous. When His people failed to meet the accepted standards of right and wrong, He came and offered the reward of the righteous to anyone who would accept, without them first having to reform their lives and “prove how serious they are.” Think about that when we listen to hear certain words to confirm someone’s intentions to really improve their life. And He did this in the context of seeing us fail again and again, accepting our charity and His promise of blessing, only to turn our backs and again run to a curse and death. Think about that when you get tired of seeing the same faces on the same corners.

The cry of the naive and generous is not a complaint. It is genuine tears, shed in empathy for those in need, or in a desire to themselves grow in compassion that they can love others unconditionally.

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Sunday inspiration 7/20/08

Posted by Chris on July 20, 2008

I watch this at least once a week…

“I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel, but I’ll tell you what I feel about it: Hatred.  It is being exported from this country to Africa and Asia, selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor… People that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called ‘Gospel’…”

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What I learned from being robbed

Posted by Chris on May 16, 2008

A little over a month ago a man stole a significant amount of cash from my wallet. The details aren’t important, except to say that, I was not robbed violently but it was very personal. I was in the room, but not looking, by a stranger for whom I was trying to do a favor.

There are different kinds of lessons to be learned: about being careful; appropriate reactions; whether or not to call the police; the truly fleeting nature of worldly possessions; etc… However for me it was really a reminder of a particular day in India and an entirely different lesson altogether.

There’s really only been one time in my life that someone tried to steal from me directly. One Saturday in Kolkata I came into the city in order to attend a gathering for Christians throughout the city. I was running a bit behind and planned to get some food so I bought 3 chicken egg rolls (not like a Chinese-American egg roll– much bigger). Two for me, one for a needy person I might encounter but did not want to spend the time to take them somewhere to buy them food. As I walked, I saw people who I’m sure would’ve liked the roll but because I was in somewhat of a hurry I was really just waiting for the inevitable person to approach me. (the rightness of this thought I am not defending– just re-telling the story).

At one point, I saw a destitute family of mother and children. Moments later, someone tried to grab something from me. I was surprised and in my reaction I jerked away my hand, whatever was in there, and turned around in a bit of shock/dismay. I saw a little boy from that family running away, with only a piece of paper from the covering of my egg roll. It was so frustrating, as I said to myself over and over, “All you had to do was ask! This was for you!”. I considered going back and giving it to him but I didn’t really think that I should reinforce the means by which he got my attention.

That event brought my mind to this particular day– the lesson learned came later. I go to the worship service. Right before it, I gave away the roll and had a guy come up to me with a baby and ask about something but I was right by the entrance and said that I needed to go there. More may have been said, I can’t remember. But, when I left later and was speaking with a man who worked at a call center, I noticed the same old man sitting on the sidewalk, looking at us. As I said goodbye, he came up to me again. Was he waiting for me?

He communicated to me that he wanted milk for the baby and toddler that were with him, so I followed him. This is about 8 o’clock at night, and I was never out in the city much at night. I was definitely not scared (I was never scared there– I was too big!), but, perhaps a bit more tense, which I feeling I usually had. The old man carried the baby and directed the toddler to grab my hand. There I was, walking down AJC Bose Rd, walking with my 3 year old friend wearing his rag around his waist, next to an old man with a baby. The preciousness of my 3 year old friend… I cannot describe. As innocent and guileless and undeserving as a human can be to be living in these circumstances. At a major intersection, we had to cross the road. Instinctively, I picked him up and he felt natural in my arms and even seemed to cling to me.

Across the street, we arrived at a small shop where there were about 5 men standing around. The old man asked for two cans of milk and the owner told me it costs 650 rupees, or something close to that. I was shocked! That is about $16, which probably wouldn’t be outrageous in America (these were pretty big cans of powdered milk I guess, which might be $1 for a small can?) but is a LOT of money there. That’s easily 80 meals. Not that I thought it all like this. At the time, I mainly thought “That is way more than I thought it would be”, “That is way more than I want to spend”, and “I really don’t want to get out that much money in front of these people.” I did have the money- I usually carried 2 Rs 500 notes with me at all times for emergencies. The first and third thoughts may have had some validity, but: “want to spend?” I told the man I could only spend $200. Another man there tried to explain– he seemed annoyed by the whole thing, that the guy would expect me to spend so much. The old man said okay and smiled and was very gracious. I gave him cash. He walked with me a bit further and pointed out a store and said he would buy some Mithai. I walked off alone to the metro, alone.

Mithai are sweets. Very sweet sweets. No nutritional value sweets. Milk is, like, integral to a child’s diet. What have I done? How could I screw this up? Wasn’t this the opportunity I was praying for? Wasn’t this what I lost sleep over the first time I went into the city and met a destitute woman who wanted milk for her kids, hadn’t I been brainstorming about how to do this in my state of ignorance?

I’m not saying there was one thing I should have done, either buying both cans of milk, buying two, running back to him after I walked away. But I did not love him like Jesus. I did not make Christ my treasure because to some extent I valued a combination of my safety, pride, and money above pouring myself out in love for others. I screwed up. I can’t get that moment back.

So what’s the lesson learned? Paul said in Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” The gospel of God’s grace at that moment says, “Chris- what a privilege that you have this money to share– that’s grace! What a privelege that you have been called to walk in the wonderful light of Jesus, that you would have a heart that wants to help others!” I would also consider that one of the specific tasks the Lord has given me is to help the poor. I don’t want to waste those opportunities.

I cannot ignore problems that are right in front of me. If I don’t help, you can bet that I’m not ignoring it. I’m thinking about it and choosing to do nothing. While I’m glad I am not calloused and desensitized, my inaction speaks louder at times. Getting robbed reminded me of a moment of inaction. Getting robbed was what I needed to resolve to do more to help, to act. I really don’t understand how so many people, and specifically, Christians, can walk around ignoring things. My challenge to myself first, and to others next, is to act at least in response to the needs that are in our face. Being proactive is even better. But, the next time someone asks you for something, ask them what they need. Then, meet that need. Do whatever it takes within your power. Pray for them. Wait with them for the police. Don’t just let them use your cell phone, buy them a phone card. Buy them a meal and eat with them.

In that past month I’ve had opportunities. The Lord has been gracious to me, taking me from a temptation to be hard-hearted when I tried to help a man who would steal from me, which was the first needy person I had helped in some time, to softening my heart and placing me in the right places at the right times. The timing of some of these have been amazing, where a decision to go or not go to a store, or a matter of leaving a few seconds earlier would have led our paths never to cross. I’ve done better. Even when I don’t know what to do or I don’t feel like doing, I try to remember the man, the baby, and my 3 year old friend. May God bless them.

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man, i just did this an hour ago…

Posted by Chris on June 7, 2007

I read this a while back and just found it again on my computer:

It was a cold winter’s day that Sunday. The parking lot to the church was filling up quickly. I noticed as I got out of my car that fellow church members were whispering among themselves as they walked to the church. As I got closer I saw a man leaned up against the wall outside the church. He was almost laying down as if he was asleep. He had on a long trench coat that was almost in shreds and a hat topped his head, pulled down so you could not see his face.

He wore shoes that looked 30 years old, too small for his feet with holes all over them as well as his toes sticking out of one shoe. I assumed this man was homeless, and asleep, so I walked on by through the doors of the church. We all gathered for fellowship for a few minutes, and someone mentioned the man laying outside. People snickered and gossiped but no one bothered to ask him to come in, including me.

A few moments later church began. We all waited for the Preacher to take his place and give us the Word, when the doors to the church opened. In came the homeless man walking down the aisle with his head down. People gasped and whispered and made faces. He made his way down the aisle and up onto the pulpit and took off his coat and hat. My heart sank. There stood our preacher…he was the “homeless man”. No one said a word. The preacher took his Bible and laid it on the stand and said, “Folks, I don’t think I have to tell you what I am preaching about today.”

~~Author Unknown

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Homeless People Outreach

Posted by Chris on October 23, 2006

the following is a list of suggestions that have been helpful for me, or that I would like to do, for dealing with/serving/communicating with/helping needy people on the streets, and for being a better person/servant/have better motives/feel less crappy. it is what it is, okay? is there a delicate way to put it? it may sound un-PC but it is what it is.

also, read what I wrote here

without further ado…

• Collect Bibles and always have one with you to give away. You could get the Bibles new in bulk, ask for donations from some kind of group/organization that has ordered many of them, or buy them from thrift stores. For example, I helped with a camp this summer and we gave Bibles to all the campers. There were several boxes left over. I asked, and was allowed, to take one box of 10 Bibles as long as I planned to distribute them. God then placed in my path someone a few days later with whom to share that gift, when I had not encountered a person on the street in need the entire month I had been in Arkansas.

• Write down verses you like and the page numbers inside the cover of the Bible. Or pre-write notes of encouragement and love to people in the cover or somewhere else of a Bible.

• Collect other books to give away. This is not something I have done, but I think it would be good. They could be Christian living books or secular novels. People do have a right to read things besides the Bible—I certainly do. And then maybe you could even give someone a choice, or offer them something in addition to a Bible, so that it’s not like all you think is important is whether or not they “confess with their mouth” and read the New Testament.

• Any time you eat out where you get a big meal, don’t feel so pressured to eat it all if you are satisfied and there’s some food left. Get a to-go box. Then give it away! If you are somewhere where you won’t necessarily see someone on the walk back to your car/dorm/apartment, be intentional about looking for someone. And use some wisdom with the food- some people might gladly accept ¼ of your burger that is bitten around, but, that may be insulting. Do not be haughty because you are doing anyone a favor and believe that someone would be foolish to turn down your food. You have germs; you are a sinner; you should be grateful for the opportunity to serve, following in the footsteps of Jesus.

• Give away ink pens—this could be done in combination with books/Bibles. You can buy a pack of 10 for 2 bucks and give something useful to 5 people that they may not have wanted to spend money on otherwise.

• I heard a pastor who faced some of the same problems I expressed in part 1 during a vacation to San Francisco. He and his wife were weary of not being able to help all the people they encountered. What they decided to do was buy groceries and make sandwiches to distribute. Again, an resourceful and “cost-effective” way to serve. (Don’t think of it as “cheap”—that has a bad connotation—it’s okay to do things in a cost-effective way, no one has an unlimited source of cash). In addition, it shows care on your part to spend time to make sandwiches. And I bet that you will feel more love for people as you give out something that was made by your own hands—it will be more personal.

• When I was in Philadelphia, the grocery store I went to had a gourmet food section. They sold these really good foccacia bread sandwiches for $4.99. However, you could buy day old sandwiches for $2.00. They tasted great, I thought of giving them away after eating them myself. Sometimes, I’d buy 3 sandwiches in the morning, 2 to give away and 1 to eat for myself. I would go to the convenience store on the corner to buy a drink when someone would ask me for food. It was costing too much to take people inside and get them a sandwich made, so instead I had something already prepared that I could give them.

• Stay with people while they eat. It is a good time to talk and listen. Food allows all of us to let down our guard. Ask them where they are from, about their family. Listen willingly to their “story” if they give it to you without immediate disbelief. Suspend your judgments and take people at their word at least to the extent that it allows you to empathize and encourage. Also, offer to either pray for them about these things and any goals/hopes they have, or even better, pray with them right there. Pray for their immediate needs and for their souls; for the love of Christ and others to be ever-present in their lives.

• Prepare packs of useful things to give away. Toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and soap. I’ve heard of churches/youth groups doing this to send overseas or take to a homeless shelter. But I just thought yesterday how those groups never go to where the people in need live. They always rely on a middleman to remove that awkward interaction. They also choose to give to a “reliable” charity, assuming people on the street to either be drunks or people who aren’t actually homeless. Don’t have that attitude. Seasonally, you could have gloves in winter or an umbrella if it rained often in summer.

• Know what help is available. Likely, the people you meet already know. If they tell you they just got in town and need 20 bucks for a bus to wherever, maybe that’s true and maybe not. Either way, it can’t hurt to be able to direct them to a shelter, salvation army, etc…

• Give out bus tokens. Maybe they need to get back to their house on the other side of town, maybe not. But everyone deserves taking a ride and not walking sometimes. Hope that the person uses the token to get somewhere where they may have better resources, know that it can bless them no matter what.

• Buy gift cards to give out. Then, you know what your money is going for. Also, it is easy to keep up with. You could get gift cards for a coffee shop in the winter or a pharmacy. obviously, you could go the grocery store route, but then you are opening up the possibilities of what someone might purchase. and then restaurants would be another good one.

• Finally, a principle that to me sounds great but convicts me to the core: Consider nothing in this world to precious to give away. We are instructed to love nothing in this world (1 John 2:15). If you can’t take it with you to heaven, why struggle to hold on to it on earth?

I will add to this list as I learn more and mature as a person (which always mean editing and apologizing for past immaturity!). Please give suggestions as well.

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The Homeless People! They’re Everywhere! (Panic, Pretend I don’t see them, or Lie?)

Posted by Chris on October 22, 2006

If I’m not unlike most people, chances are the title may have crossed through your minds at some point in your lives. Needy people do seem to be everywhere. Big cities streets are literally filled with them, and you probably have at least one of them no matter where you live (the rural area I grew up had the infamous “Foot”). Then, after we make that observation, we scan our mind for what to do. Panic, pretending, and lying are three things i’ve done. Three things I probably did most of the time when I first encountered these situations. Thankfully, I no longer live in those chains…

    Outreach to needy people on the streets

(Chicago)

It kills me to walk pass “homeless” people and do nothing. Whether they are homeless, or just in need, living in a shelter or on the street, or even someone with a house who chooses to panhandle, it makes no difference. I always assume it’s someone in need of food or money. Second, i often consider that they may be in need of drug rehab or a job. But most of all, I try to see someone in need of love, a friend, a Savior. Not having food for them is not what “kills” me. I wish I always had food but I know I cannot. What bothers me is not knowing how to love them exactly the way in which they need.

Would Jesus walk past, in the 21st Century American context, any needy person and do nothing? This is not like a third world country, or even Jerusalem circa 30 AD, where there literally might not have been enough time in the day for someone (Jesus) to attend to each and every person. Jesus was able to attend to the crowds by multiplying loaves and bread among them, and more importantly by speaking to them words of truth, inviting them to eat of the “bread of life.” But I do not think he had a conversation with or healed every person in his path.

But, walking 6 blocks in an American city (Chicago for me today), you might see “only” five needy persons. Too many, but not an overwhelming number. For example, if I desired, I could buy dinner for all of them—just not for the rest of their lives. What would Jesus do? I don’t know.

What I have been unable to do, and don’t understand how to do, is give to each needy person that which I want the most for them. Is a smile better than ignoring someone? Maybe. Would a needy person resent a smile that comes with nothing else? As James writes:
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

What about at least saying, “hey, how are you?” I think this is better, especially with a warm handshake, or arm on the shoulder and eye contact. Does this sound paternalistic? Condescending?

What I enjoy the most is when I have something materially to offer the person AND the time to sit and talk with them, ask them questions, listen to them, and offer to pray for them. Should I do this for every person? Cannot. Should I at least do this once, even if only briefly, during every venture out into an area where I will encounter people of need? I don’t, but maybe I should. Sometimes I want to but do not because I am with people and we are “on our way” somewhere, and I don’t want to put them in the awkward position of “should we stay or should we go?”. Should they be staying, or should I be advising them later that they need to do more? Should I consider first the needs of those with whom I am in active relationships?

I have no answers for all these questions. What I do have is a list of suggestions of things I do, have done, or have heard personally of others doing that I think are good things to do whenever and as often as we can. You can find that filed under Homeless People Outreach

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Titus don’t care ’bout yo past!

Posted by Chris on August 31, 2006

one day at work, the following thought popped in my head:

“I want to see homeless men become elders in the church”

and why not? here is what Paul writes to Titus in the epistle,

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Titus 1:6-9

be; are; is. what do these underlined words have in common? present tense. an elder must meet a certain standard that measures his current life. Paul did not instruct Titus to look for men “born into the tribe of Levi; who obtained an education from the priests; who were never beggars.” One sentence in that passage refers to the past– “the trustworthy message as it has been taught”– but the requirement is that they hold firmly to it in the now, not to have always held the correct doctrine or theology.

many of the stereotypes of homeless men, “bums” you might say, would exclude them from currently serving as an elder. for example, drunkenness or lack of self-control. Furthermore, in the New Testament Paul shuns those who are idle and do not work for their food. Jobless, homeless men, even if sober and well-read, do not qualify as elders. They are not upholding a home, do not have the capacity to be hospitable, and are not blameless in a measure of their work ethic. however, what about ex-homeless men?

without a doubt, there are ex-alcoholics as elders. there are probably many elders that once lacked discipline, or self-control, or who struck out in violence (replace with ‘homeless’ with convicts/parolees and i think the same argument should be made). so we should not exclude them. maybe you agree. but I want to see homeless men become elders, not just allowed in a hypothetical situation.

how can i say that? if the gospel of Jesus Christ has any hope to offer, surely its promises would be most sweet for a homeless and destitute person. the person who runs to Christ, abandons their old life, and overcomes destitution bears a powerful testimony. Jesus said, “the one who has been forgiven much, loves much.” i would expect this person to love their Savior very much. I would expect elders to be drawn from a pool of people that love their Savior very much. for Our, The Church’s benefit, raise us up elders who can “encourage others” as Paul says by their firsthand knowledge of the glory of God! I want to see homeless men become elders!

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