I am just starting to settle in at home the last day of spring break after having embarked last Tuesday with a group of friends on a inner city mission trip to serve the needy and homeless in downtown Portland. The trip is called "Week of Passion" and is run by Bridgetown Ministries, the same organization I have been serving with on Friday nights underneath the Burnside Bridge for the last 14 weeks.
I am not going to do a day by day recap. It has already been done (I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to my Multnomah Seminary brother's new blog, dablogbert. Matt is also a recently added contributor to the Annotative Discussion blog). However, I would still like to share a few stories of how God taught and stretched me this last week.
After sleeping Tuesday night in a barred and gated church dead center in the middle of Portland with only our sleeping bags and the clothes on our backs we set out Wednesday morning carrying everything we owned (our clothes and our sleeping bag) and a dollar in our pockets. We divided up into small groups and set out eagerly to do...nothing. We had to keep ourselves busy roaming the streets with no clear meaning to our day. If we wanted lunch, we had to find a shelter. I soon become aware of the bulkiness of my sleeping bag, but we were resourceful and fashioned a shoulder sling out of a string we found so I could carry it on my back.
We admired our beautiful city Portland. We enjoyed the talent of street performers. We interpreted abstract art. We wandered through shops/museums/churches/libraries to warm up. We talked to anyone willing. And, we accomplished nothing, though the day was by no means wasted.
Somewhere in that day wandering aimlessly God taught me a thing or two about freedom. Freedom from schedules and to-do lists. Freedom from the need to please others in hopes of self promotion. Freedom from the worries of tomorrow. Freedom from all of these things which in turn allows you to live freely in the now. (Yet are these not all things spoken clearly of in Scripture? I am ashamed by my lack of faith but thankful for the lesson God used to help make them real in my life.)
I see now why homelessness is such a real option for many who are lost/running/searching. I can see now why when one collapses underneath the problems of life, when the struggle to piece your life back together is so overwhelming, that not only is being homeless a condition one is forced into but it can actually, in some twisted way, be appealing. Especially for those who wrestle with authority, who have been betrayed by darkness of this world one too many times, or have been overwhelmed with the worries of life.
A divine appointment had been arranged between myself and a man named Keith, who I had spoken with a week earlier at Nightstrike underneath the Burnside Bridge. Wednesday afternoon he bumped into my group scrounging for 25 cents. In the excitement of the moment I shouted "Keith! You remember me from last Friday?" His face lifted up and his eyes brightened as he stumbled to his words, "You remember my name?". A statement that he would repeat no less then 10 times in the 2 minute conversation that followed.
Keith is from Nashville, has been living at a shelter in Vancouver, but got stuck in Portland. The night we talked last Friday was his first night on the streets and I had been praying that God would give him strength and protection. A week after our first conversation, I spotted him again walking down the street when I was cleaning windows outside the Union Gospel Mission. I called out his name. He was confused, but instantly delighted. He gave me a hand shake, called me brother, and told me he looked forward to seeing me that night underneath the Burnside Bridge, which he did. I then found out he had spent the day turning in applications for work and is now staying at a shelter in Portland through the end of April. There is a good chance I will see him again next Friday. I pray earnestly for a continuation of this divine appointment as well as God's hand of protection around Keith.
Mark 6:8 "Don't think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. " (The Message)
I am a tool in the hands of the Lord.