Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Not Easy To Step Into Their World

It's easy to throw money at a problem. It's easy to donate used jackets to a ministry that gives away clothes to the less fortunate. It's easy to put a spoonful of potatoes and gravy on a plate before you hand it to a homeless person. It's not easy to step into their world.

The cold weather hit quickly in Daytona Beach, FL. For over 10 years, when it dips to 40 degrees or colder the good folks from First United Methodist Church in Port Orange, FL open their doors to the homeless. Homeless men and women are brought to the church, fed a delicious, homemade dinner and given a warm, safe place to sleep for the night.

I've been blessed to play a role in this ministry for the past several years. I've learned this while working with the homeless and those that have been kicked to the curb. It's easy to do the easiest thing. What do I mean? Donating money to a worthy cause that helps the less fortunate and not getting your hands dirty is easy. Putting a plate of food in front of a dirty, homeless man is easy. Stepping into their world is not easy. It's hard.

You know you've stepped into the world of the homeless when you find yourself sitting down with them, talking, asking them questions, looking into their eyes and truly listening to them. The photo below is an example. In this photo you'll see youth pastor Tony Sorrell. Where is he? He is wearing a green hoodie, sitting at the table, looking into their eyes, listening and talking to the homeless. Tony stepped into their world.

The other night one of my homeless friends walked up to me as I was getting ready to leave the shelter. I was hungry and wanted to go home. This is typically the time that God has different plans for me. He stood in front of me, looked me in the eyes and said, "Mike, my best friend died a couple of weeks ago. He died right next to me while we were sleeping at our campsite. It's really messed me up. Could you give me a hug?" I gave my friend a hug while he cried and didn't let him go until he stopped crying. When he stopped crying he wiped away the tears and said, "thank you." For just a few moments, I pray that I stepped into his world.

It's not easy stepping into the world of the homeless. Many times it extremely inconvenient. The next day, a few hours later or minutes later I'm always glad that I didn't take the easy way out.

"You live among the least of these:
The weary and the weak.
And it would be a tragedy
For me to turn away.
All my needs You have supplied,
When I was dead You gave me life.
How could I not give it away so freely?

-- Leeland, Follow You


  1. Very true, Mike. It's easy to give money or food. What's not easy is to step into their world. I don't know about where you live, but in my little town outside of Houston, you see men and women panhanding under every major overpass. They do have a community and certain rules they obide by. Many of them agree to take shifts, so there are never more than 2 or 3 people at any giving intersection, so even though you many only see a few of them, there are many more you do not see. My pastor (Jeff)told me about an undiscloed location (an abandoned warehouse) where there are literally hundreds of people living. People are homeless for many reasons, and until you love a person enough to get past their immediate physical needs, you'll never be able to help them get off the streets for good. That kind of love is messy, often discouraging and sometimes downright heartbreaking.

  2. Mike you are an incredibly brave guy. I admire what you most for what you do because I don't have the faith in my own emotional fortitude to dive into such interactions with people and not completely breakdown.

    Love ya buddy.

  3. Too many people in my world aren't even willing to do the easy stuff, because we regard the homeless as people who could do better if they tried but they must just be lazy bums, else they would have a job and make something of themselves.

    And we don't want their mud and cigarette smoke in our precious church buildings.

    :( :( :(