Stories From The Streets

This is the way of love. Every Wednesday on outreach there is some heartache or struggle of one kind or another. It isn’t difficult or doesn’t take much to ease the pain people are experiencing. This picture reveals  one giving back to the needs of another. He was once where our friend in need is, sick, tired and alone. God is good, so good!

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Lots of thoughts on this Wednesday morning. I look around and I see people all around me, all kinds of people, many of them hurting in one way or another. I ask Jesus, what does this one need, how can I help this one? I hear Him saying, they have many physical needs, but the biggest need is love. Feeling loved, seen, known. Known by the Father. It seems so simple, really. So I lay aside me and how I think things should look or be, and I embrace whoever He puts in front of me. If that looks like coffee when the doorbell rings, ok. If it looks like a hug when they are overwhelmed, ok. If it is crying out to Jesus for sound minds and clear thinking, that’s ok too. I only know this world needs so much love. Love can do things words cannot. There are things only love can heal. Places only love can go. So I say, ok Jesus I can do this! But only with You! Help me to love and love well!

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There has been suffering and joy, heartache and pain. Living unsheltered on the streets, under bridges, behind the tree line, in burned out houses, in tents, on the sidewalk , places oftentimes not fit for anyone does something to the spirit of a person. You would think that they would be hardened, unreachable, unapproachable. That is simply not the case. These people, our friends, are resilient, resourceful, charismatic, lovable souls who have found themselves, for one reason or another, in their present predicament. Some are chronically homeless, some new to the streets, some with mental illness, some with addiction, most of them with major trauma inflicted upon them at some point in their lives. All of them, though just want to be loved, seen and known.

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It’s the awe and wonder of Jesus that moves me and leads me into wanting more. Over the past week I have seen and experienced hard things on the streets. People in crisis, people out of their minds, all kinds of heartache and hopelessness. But I also saw Jesus moving in people and places, and have been moved with compassion and a deep knowing He is there, He is here, He is everywhere. In all the hard places, in all the deep hurting. He is alive and aware!

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In the midst of sweltering heat, I found joy everywhere I went! The friends we have on the streets are most generally grateful, quick with a humorous story and always, always concerned about others. In the early morning, before outreach I was able to visit the hospital where one of our dear friends is recovering from cardiac arrest. We had been looking for him and his tears upon seeing me said it all! I too was crying and my heart was overcome with relief to see him and hear his voice! It was also so good to give the news to our other friends that he was indeed alive and will be cared for!! Joy was everywhere! We traveled on down to the bridge where we found another friend who had been in jail for a couple of weeks! She was sober and looked great and is hopeful about maintaining sobriety. More joy! And then there was the news that a friend will sign the paperwork today for housing! We will get to be a part of setting up his place, do a little decorating, and get to see him thrive in a place called home! What joy is this? The joy of the Lord! He comes and He leads and He provides and He ministers to those He dearly loves! Everywhere, everyone, always! I couldn’t ask for a better day!

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My first experience with Homeless Outreach was one of the most moving and emotional days of my life. Seeing people running towards us, arms open wide and faces full of joy made me realize how much these gestures make a difference. It clear that the sandwiches, water bottles, and hugs we gave out meant more to our friends than we could ever know. What a blessing it is to be able to witness the love of Jesus not only in the volunteers, but also in the people they help.

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There is nothing more moving than seeing hope in the eyes of our friends. Anytime we take to the streets, we are met by all different types of brokenness, poverty, pain, and trauma, yet every person we come in contact with shares the same thing. Hope. There is hope for protection, healing, and most of all better lives. Our comfort comes in knowing that through God it is possible!

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Yesterday was outreach day with my team at No Boundaries International. I struggle with words right now to convey the feelings that overpowered me at the end of the day. We visited a friend whose clothes are dirty and his glasses are broken as one lens popped out. We came across drug deals and those involved asking for prayer for addiction. One friend asked for shoes since someone took his; he is barefoot and recovering from surgery in May to amputate two toes from frostbite. Friends circled together like family, some lost in mental chaos, others in obvious pain from one affliction or another. Two of them have been suffering greatly—one with trauma from a tormented past, the other from trauma inflicted on her from another human recently, and repeatedly.

So I looked, beyond what my eyes were seeing in the natural to find Jesus. I found him in the tears of my teammate, I found Him in the tenacity of one, in the embrace of another, in the strength and spirit most of them carry, and in the testimony of a volunteer.

I found Him in the eyes of my friend that I hadn’t seen in awhile. Encountering him felt like a family reunion. He wanted and needed prayer for better days. It was difficult to express what I wanted him to know.

There are needs everywhere. Physical needs, obviously, but also they need to be seen and touched and known—to know they are loved by the Father—deeply loved and not forgotten.

I know prayer works. I see it, I see Him touching dark hearts, I see Him moving in people when we pray. So I guess I want you to pray for our beautiful, charismatic, fun-loving friends! I choose to find Him and what He is doing instead of focusing on what I see.

I am reminded of the saying,

“Don’t let what you see make you forget what I said.“ ~ God

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We come across so many different faces while on outreach. There are faces filled with desperation, faces covered in fear. Some faces have been weathered by years of hard living and trauma. The truth is, each of these faces were hand-crafted by God, as were the personalities and souls attached to them.

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