Some nights on out-reach are better than others. The last few week have not been the greatest. With the stress of the pandemic, protests, and police brutality, the homeless population is on edge. Last Thursday, Alex was drunk and belligerent, wildly swinging a samurai sword, and dishing out hugs designed to intimidate. The week before last, an intoxicated bully in the park tried to punch one of the Deacons. At the community dinner a man tried to pull my clerical collar off and fight me because I’m not a real Roman Catholic priest. Our team is always learning the balance between welcoming the stranger and being safe. Without fail, something beautiful always happens before or after one of these episodes of street violence. God is in the chaos and the street will minister to you if you let it. The hope of God always shows up when we persevere. “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:4-5 NIV).”
Last night was the Holy Ghost victory lap! We first talked with Doug who is trying to get into treatment. All of the human services programs in the city are hard to access during a pandemic. He has been reading the book of John and wanted to know why Jesus asked, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42 NLT).” Jesus being fully human and fully divine is both confusing and comforting.
We meet Larry who had been protecting the Verizon store from looters during the protests. Larry has a big heart and feels responsible for his community. “I need to show the younger generation of homeless kids how to behave. Everybody needs help.” Larry tears up while talking about a police officer that gave him a leather jacket in Montana. We pray together and he says he will be praying for us while he prepares for his quarter mile foot race. “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1b NLT).”
Jeremy wants us to pray for him. We met him last week and talked about getting him a bus ticket back home to Connecticut. Phone calls are made, and the family reunion process begins. We bless several crucifixes and place them over the heads of our homeless friends living along the waterfront. We pray for Sheila who loves God and is filled with street survivor shame. Woman on the street are extremely vulnerable. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).” We talk about scripture with two gentlemen living in tents by the ferry terminal. Matthew is reading Ezekiel and Romans. He says he reads with an open mind and thanks his creator every day. His friend reminds us to pray for understanding and wisdom before we study the Bible. We talk about reading the Bible for transformation and not information. “To be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans12:2).” Matthew’s favorite verse is Nahum 1:3. “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” Matthew knows that God is real and in the midst of suffering, violence, and chaos. God is in the chaos and the street will minister to you if you let it!