God owned (0wn3d for those of you who are l337) me today. I will create a new entry later tonight detailing how He humbled me through His majesty and covered me with His grace so free.
Part 1 – This is a copy and paste of something I wrote in December 2004 when I was reflecting on my experience interacting with some homeless people who were staying at our church…possibly doing more for us than we were for them. “CliffsNotes®” version is at the end.
From: Loren Wong
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 2:25 AM
To: ‘Unikoi Yahoogroup’
Subject: RE: [unikoi] homeless ministry reflection
Hello hello to all you unikoi high schoolers in yahoo group land!
I’d like to share my $0.02 and some odd change about my experience with the homeless winter shelter so far at our church.
I was initially convicted by the Holy Spirit on Friday, December 3rd, of how comfortable I had become with respect to my interaction with the poor. I’m glad that Jerry took that evening to tell ya’ll how you can prepare yourselves to minister to our honored guests the following Friday. It had the last time I had a really good time with some homeless people was during my senior year at USC when I took some people in USC’s Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF) over to 4th Street and Los Angeles by The Midnight Mission on skid row. Believe or not, I consider the Union Rescue Mission to be the “nice part” of skid row. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I believe that if you don’t interact with these wonderful people on a regular basis, it is easy to become calloused. I’m pretty sure I did.
Fast forward to last Wednesday night. I went to church to try to help out along with a couple of guys from my fairway small group, one of them being your “Uncle Steve”. I was really looking forward to the evening. It was just what the Doctor, our Father, ordered! Some of the people I wanted to meet were folks Jerry had the honor of interacting with the first week of the shelter. Two of them were Armando/Mondo (sp?) from El Monte and “Kristy (sp?) with a ‘K’, no other way”. I also had the pleasure of meeting a few other people that night as well.
The most enjoyable conversation I had that night was with a man named Tony who had just started working for a Circuit City distribution center if I remember correctly (iirc). He arrived after dinner had been served and most of the guests had already set up their cots. He shared how he was so thankful about God’s provision in his life and gave praise to Him. He was so content to set up his cot, put on his walkman, and fall asleep.
I also met another man named Gary on Wednesday night. As Hanley shared on Friday night, Gary attended Wilson High School when he was your age. He too came in after dinner had been served as was just glad to have a place to spend the night. I’ll share a little bit more about him later.
As the night went on, the most prevalent thing on my mind was that there was *nothing* better I could be doing with my time that night. For me personally, whenever I get this feeling, my soul is satisfied. Out of all the other things I could probably be doing with my time, this easily was the most worthwhile and fulfilling. There was no place I would rather be when I’m in that “zone.” I hope and pray all of you may have similar experience in your service to Him.
As I arrived on Friday night, I was looking forward to seeing some of my new friends again. I didn’t see Armando/Mondo (I’m still not totally sure what his name is. Jerry, a lil help here?) or Tony while I was there. The first person I went to was Hernando from El Monte. He was a person I had met on Wednesday night and I remembered that he mentioned on multiple occasions how he could really use a watch. At the end of the night, I told him I might have one I could give him. I found a simple digital watch at home that was given to me 5 or 6 years ago that was still totally brand new with the transparent plastic protective sticker over the face. Because of its age, the battery was toast a long time ago. So I went to the Sears in Glendale on my lunch break and had the battery replaced and the time set on it. It was such a pleasure to give this to him and see how it totally made his evening-at least I thought it did since he seemed to be looking at it so many times. Before I left to return to the bungalow I went to say good-bye for the night and he asked me to set the alarm for him to 5:30 AM (why that time? I have no idea!). What I don’t want ya’ll to think is that what I did was extraordinary. Just look at the donations many of you/your families contributed to help our friends. A *huge* thanks to Auntie Denise for coordinating that effort (Please thank your mom for me and all of us, Christi and David)! I also know there were quite a few impromptu donations of backpacks and other useful items that some of ya’ll made for our guests as well. Don’t think for a moment they go unnoticed! Your friends are grateful for you and what you’ve given and your Father in heaven is pleased to see you care for His (His being all) people in this way.
While the clients ate dinner, I tried to spend some time talking to one of the workers in the yellow shirts named Danny. These people have really given of themselves to help their fellow man/woman. Some of them may have been in the same position as the clients staying at our church and vice-versa (the opposite). Dan, a big Caucasian fellow with brown hair and a mustache, was someone I met on Wednesday night who said he used to be one of the workers in the past.
After I was done talking to Danny, I set out to chat with Gary. He didn’t really remember me from the other night, but that wasn’t important. The important thing was that I had the privilege of talking to him again. I asked him how his work was going. IIRC, he told me that he actually wouldn’t start until Saturday which was fine. Somehow we got on the topic of what do I want to be in my life. I said, “I don’t really know.” He and his buddy Melvin started telling me I’ve gotta figure that out before I get old like them. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to be. It’s just that I know getting into those vocations (professional race car driver or fighter pilot) aren’t really attainable for me. Gary started sharing with me how he wanted to become a police officer (on a side note, don’t hate ya’ll…most cops are wonderful people!) but he didn’t pass the written exam the first time he took it so he needed to wait another six months or something like that. They (Gary and Melvin) also assumed I was the same age as the rest of you (a good thing?) until I mentioned I was 23. From there, they started talking about the music that was around back in their time and the “garbage” that’s out there now. Melvin’s example was Marilyn Manson’s music. Enough said there. Gary mentioned he tries to listen to Christian music now and when I asked him who he had listened to, he said Michael W. Smith. When he said that, I said, “You kind of look like him!” When I said that, he said the lady at the Borders he bought the CD at said the same thing iirc. He said he gets the ol’ “You look like (insert name here),” quite often.
A little bit later, as the dinner clean-up began, I met Leroy. He had been sitting across from Gary, but I never had the chance to talk to him. He shared about how tough it would be to get an apartment these days. Yet he mentioned how he had placed his trust in our God this whole entire time. It’s so encouraging how Leroy and many of the other guests have an unwaivering faith in our Lord despite their situations. How much more should we press on in our own personal relationships with Him! We probably haven’t seen or experienced even half of the things these people have in our short time here in this world. He said he’d appreciate it if I could pray for him to find a place.
The biggest realization/reminder I had that night was that it always seems so much easier to make new friends with these people than it is to make friends with new people who come from similar upbringings/backgrounds/environments as many of us have. I believe it has to do with the fact that these people have no real reason to put up any walls or communication barriers. These people have nothing to lose and no fronts to put on. They have no need to impress like we vainly try to impress others. I believe this is what makes talking to most of these people so enjoyable. They all have a story to tell and it’s our privilege to hear their stories. They may not necessarily be “feel good” stories, but they are stories of the lives they’ve lived up to that point in that describe a life that is amazing uncomfortable from our perspective.
My biggest encouragement for all of you is to regularly go out of your way, step out of your comfort zone, to minister to the homeless, helpless, and loveless with God’s love and grace on a *regular* basis. It’s an essential part of being Jesus’ hands and feet…being the salt of the earth…being the light of the world. The next time you have a chance to serve the poor, please remember not to hide behind your task or duty, but go out of your way to reach out to these people. After all, He went out of his way to reach out to us through the gift of His only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Well, I’m getting pretty (more like very) tired here. I will have to cut this “short” and wrap it up here. I’m sorry if I left anything else out they may be able to encourage you guys and gals. Please also forgive me for any typographical, grammatical, and spelling errors. It’s after 2 AM here and I have work at 8:30 AM. Don’t try this at home, kids!
***Cliff notes version***: before homeless ministry at our church i had become too comfy…homeless come to our church and I have an AWESOME time with them…there’s aren’t many (if any) better things you can do with your time than to serve the poor…the homeless don’t put up many (again, if any) walls when we try to befriend them, but why do we do so to our fellow peers…my enouragement: be Jesus’ hands to stretch forth in healing (and ministering to) others and His feet to carry the good news
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.
By His amazing grace,