It all started with a potty.
It was December 2015. Several things happened that I would soon realize were all part of God’s plan.
At the end of the year, I spent time in reflection and a devotional question resonated with me. “Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to help show the love of Christ?”
When I started to think about where I was uncomfortable, I was drawn to get involved with the homeless.
I am not familiar or surrounded by individuals with addiction
I do not know much about mental illness
Some may (just may) call me a little germ-a-phobic (But I don’t entirely feel like I qualify since I do believe eating week-old Cheezits off my van floor will boost your immunity.)
I am not comfortable being in the dark, in the city.
And to be completely honest – I’m very pragmatic. I do not usually side on the side of compassion; I’m more of a problem solver versus a hugger.
And quite frankly, everything about it made me feel uncomfortable.
So I started my journey getting involved with the homeless. I researched missions, organizations and individuals who were serving the homeless.
I came across a local woman named Christy. She was also new to this. But Christy was fearless. She was going under the bridges, in the alleys and into every corner helping the homeless, one by one. She wasn’t with an organization, she didn’t have a lot of money, but she had a huge heart. I would later learn her incredible survival story and her heart for the Lord.
Christy talked about “needs” for the homeless and one material problem caught my curiosity. There were middle-aged and older individuals climbing down snow-covered embankments to go to the bathroom. I was shocked and humbled and decided to take a huge leap of faith and buy a portable camping toilet off of Amazon.
When I went downtown to drop off the potty and meet the homeless, I was confident a group of dedicated individuals could change the world. My eyes were opened very quickly with my first close encounter with the homeless. I later found it articulated perfectly in the book “Under the Overpass” by Mike Yankoski.
“The world is not yours to change. None of us is big enough, influential enough, or powerful enough to end any one of the world’s major issues. The only person powerful enough to eradicate poverty … is Jesus.”
The first homeless woman
Uncomfortable. That was me. There was a woman with eyes and cheeks sunken in wearing no coat, shivering and throwing up in the sewer. She was coming off of a heroin high and unable to get a fix. I was pretty sure I was seeing her die right in front of my eyes. She lay right there on the street, hopeless. I tried to move her over to a cleaner spot; she was shaking, weary and confused. When I asked her how I could help her, she said, “I just want to die.”
And then I had to leave. I had to go pick up my boys from practice and relieve my mother-in-law from babysitting. I went back to my warm, safe, comfortable house. But I couldn’t sleep that night. Her face haunted me. Every night, I wanted to forget what I saw and just move onto somewhere else to invest my time and my mind. Some place where I thought I could help. I left confused. I didn’t know what to do and my heart was heavy with no clarity. I was hesitant to give and help – was I enabling people? Was I making the problem worse? Would my donations turn into crutch to not get off the streets? Would my money turn into drug money?
It was pretty clear God did not want me to look away. My days and nights were literally haunted by this young woman. What could I do?
The Loved Bible
I felt the safest thing to do was to donate a Bible. So along with my potty I wanted to send Christy with a Bible. But I was still worried, would it be used as firewood?
I thought if I invested time into the Bible by personalizing it, highlighting scriptures and writing notes, maybe someone would at least give it a chance and flip through it. I bought a small (4×6) Bible so it was easy to carry along in their plastic grocery bag filled with limited belongings. I started highlighting, adding flags, inserting bookmarks and post it notes with encouragement, hope, scripture and reminders of God’s promises. I would pray intently over the Bible. It was so loved.
And off it went.
When Christy returned she told me the receiver had tears in his eyes. To receive something so personal and special it was a gift of more than God’s Word. But it was a gift of His love. She said those around him wanted one too. And then I had a list of 3.
After 3, the list grew quickly to 5 and then 10 and then I couldn’t love on them fast enough. I didn’t want to mass produce them, so I said, “1 a week”. And it still wasn’t enough time.
I threw a cryptic Facebook post out to all my friends. I said – If you have a heart for the homeless and want to help me with something, let me know.
Once I pitched the Loved Bible idea, I had two volunteers. Not even very close friends – actually my son’s 4th grade teacher and a soccer mom. I got them Bibles and they worked away.
Through the process I thought I was working on the Bibles to transform the receiver and I left transformed. The quiet time I forced myself into allowed me to draw closer to Him, to sit in stillness, and recognize His voice. I felt the Holy Spirit stirring inside me and I felt my heart softening and growing in compassion. I felt His Grace, His Mercy, His Love. His Word spoke to me in such a new way. I was refreshed.
I thought – I must share this. And as I told my story of the Loved Bible more and more people have joined me. And I see God working in miraculous ways.
Fundamentally we just work on one Bible at a time for one person at a time. Praying and loving and trusting God to do the rest.
Just Bring Yourself
I struggled those first few times on what to bring when visiting the streets. Now when asked during our street ministry, the answer is abundantly clear, “Just bring yourself.” The greatest gift we can give the homeless is our time and heart and just to listen. In fact, this is the greatest gift we can give anyone. The most important thing is that we do not want them to see a person as someone who can meet their material needs. They need to see you as someone who can meet their emotional and spiritual needs. When I go downtown to spend time with my homeless friends I show them my Loved Bible. We flip through and God just seems to draw me to a verse or a page and fears of saying the wrong thing immediately leave me. And then at the end of our time, I ask them for a prayer request. And I write a prayer in the Bible. And give it to them.
As much as I/we want to help people, I believe we have to leave room for God to work. If being homeless ever becomes more comfortable than living in a home, we have not helped them. The key is to provide a hand up, but not a hand out. For us to show them the way to the reconciling work of Jesus and be reminded that all have sinned and while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. All of us.
The Loved Bible Project