10/19/15

... he turned 12 ...

You see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him.



"Let's check out the church at the homeless shelter" he said, like it was no big deal. And to him it wasn't, yet it was. You see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him.

To me, it was an even bigger deal, but not for the same reasons. Me? I'd grown up in your typical, mid-western, middle-class family. Dad worked, mom stayed home for our elementary school years, we kids went to public school, and my family attended church - every.time.the.doors.were.open. I had my view of how life was inside my own little safe world, inside my own little safe walls, inside my little "box" of safe Christianity. But the world wasn't as safe as I believed, he was helping me to see. You see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him.

I'd helped out at the Milwaukee Mission on a youth missions trip and we had even visited Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. I did my part in helping the "underprivileged", or so I thought. Besides, I lived in the U.P. and there wasn't a homeless problem here. I didn't know anyone who was or had ever been homeless {I didn't think} and then I met "him" and I married "him" and three years into our marriage he wanted to get involved in the homeless shelter, because he knew what it was like, he had been there. You see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him.

Suddenly, it started to become real to me. The homeless, those less fortunate than me; raised in my safe environment; suddenly had a face, and that face was the face of the man I loved. You see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him and it was becoming real to me.

So, we went to church, the church at the homeless shelter. And I was scared. I was scared because I knew that in my heart, I thought I was better than those who sat down to worship God with me that day. I was scared because I knew that though I "talked the talk", I didn't do very well with "walking the walk". I was scared because all those people, those people at the mission, they looked just like me. They talked like me. Many had wives, husbands, children, just like me. The children, they were loved fiercely by their parents, just as I love my children, and those children, suddenly, those children had a face. They had the face of the man I loved, as a 12 year old, unsure of what his future held, you see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this was real to him.

I wish I could say that my heart was changed after that first visit, but in addition to being raised a sheltered Yooper {for which I'm thankful!}, I'm also a stubborn Scandinavian, and I was still digging in my heels. I believed in what the Mission was doing, I even applauded it and supported it, but I did not see the need to become personally involved, I didn't know why I had to be there, I wanted to be back where it was safe, and familiar, and everyone else was just.like.me. 

But, you see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, and this was real to him so we returned the next Sunday, and the next and the next. We helped distribute food to the community, thousands of pounds of food - all gone in an hour and 1/2. We served the community alongside residents of the homeless shelter. People coming for food didn't know who was a resident of the shelter and who wasn't, and you know what?  It didn't matter. We were all just "God's kids" lending a helping hand to others in need. And, when it comes down to it, isn't it true that we are all in need?  Some of us may have financial/housing needs, like those who come to the shelter.  Others may have physical needs and still others may have needs that are more invisible, but still exist. We may struggle with our emotions, our marriages, family relationships, addictions, or mental health. We may battle insecurity or fear.

As we became more involved, we realized through our attendance at City Council and Planning Commission meetings that there is some opposition to the shelter.  There is fear of the shelter, and of the men, women and children who live there.  There is concern about drugs, and alcohol, felons and sexual predators. I do not want to disregard any of those concerns, but after having been at the shelter, I do have to ask, have those with fears/concerns ever attended a Sunday morning worship service at the Abundant Life Church? Have those with fears/concerns visited the shelter? Have those with fears/concerns volunteered and hour or two or ten, and gotten to know Pastor Dave, the staff and the residents? Have those with fears/concerns stopped to think that drugs, and alcohol, felons and sexual predators will still exist even if they put a stop to the shelter?  Have those with fears/concerns ever really thought about their own struggles, have they ever realized that at the end of the day, when you really look at it, we aren't really so different after all, are we? Some of us may have financial/housing needs, like those who come to the shelter.  Others may have physical needs and still others may have needs that are more invisible, but still exist. We may struggle with our emotions, our marriages, family relationships, addictions, or mental health. We may battle insecurity or fear. None of us has it "all together" and at some point, we all need a little help in this thing called life. He helped me to see that despite all our differences, we still have similarities for, you see, he turned 12 in a homeless shelter, this is real to him and it should be real to all of us!

{me, a chatterbox?}

if you have followed my blog at all you know that my heart has always been to share God's grace in the midst of human tragedy ... or wh...