Homeless on Purpose – Day 2

It is 6 a.m. at the start of day 2, and I had a rough night! Sound really carries in the woods, and it sounded like everything was right on top of me. I got out of the tent and gathered all my wet clothes and put them in my wet backpack. I had decided to go to the laundromat and dry all my stuff including my bag. I headed that way. As I was coming out of the woods, a police officer was sitting in his car right where I came out, and I thought “Oh no, I am busted,” but he didn’t even look at me.

I kept walking and stopped by a local hotel. I went in and asked if I could get a cup of coffee and the man at the desk said yes and pointed me to the coffee. This had to be the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time. I then walked to the convenience store close by, and I decided to ask if I could use the restroom. (For those that know me, I have a thing about public restrooms, but I have a bigger thing about going out in the woods!) They said I could use their facilities, so I did and I also washed up while I was in there. It was now 6:45 and the laundromat didn’t open until 7 a.m., so I sat out front and waited for them to open. I took $2 and put everything I had in the dryer and dried it. At the same time, I charged my phone up and looked at the newspaper. It was slow and not many people were there, so it was nice. Once everything was dry, I decided to go in their bathroom and put on my dry clothes and then dry the ones I had on. After I finally finished drying everything, I decided to start walking, and once again, it started to rain. I ran to an overhang of a local business so I could keep everything dry. It didn’t rain long, so I got back to walking. I decided to figure out which church God wanted me to go to, so I started to pray. I walked and I was thinking, man I am hungry. Then some friends and their son came by and handed me two doughnuts and I was thankful! Answered prayer! I hope they’d do this even if it wasn’t me.

I continued to walk and I felt the Lord lead me to a particular church. So, I headed that way, walking past other churches and watching families going into church together. I started to miss my family and wondered what it is like for those that are out there each day who don’t have anyone to see these people with their families. I continued to walk and got to the church at 9:55. The service started at 10. God had confirmed this was the church where He wanted me. I went to the front door and the greeters were very friendly and pointed me to the door leading in to the worship room. I went in and it was dark, which was good. I sat on the back row and put my bag under my seat. The worship band was good, but I could not concentrate.  I kept thinking how hungry I was, did I stink, what if that cop goes in and tears up my tent, where am I going to get more food, man I have to walk all the way back and a host of other thoughts.

To say it was hard to worship was an understatement. I actually left 30 minutes into the service. I began to walk again. I walked past other churches and saw people filing in. I really just wanted to be going to church with my family. I then stopped to rest a while. From walking with soggy socks and wet feet the day before, the bottoms of my feet were now one solid blister. I decided I would stop at another church and see if they offered any kind of food assistance. At the first church, I was met by a man at the door who asked me what I needed. I asked if they offered any kind of food assistance and he said, “No, we don’t do that,” and that was it. I walked away feeling kind of like an idiot. I came up on another church around 12:30 that had some cars in the parking lot and a sign out front that said “All Welcome,” so I thought maybe I could get some food here. I saw a man walking out and I said, “excuse me sir” and he kept walking, and then I said again, “excuse me sir” and he looked toward me. I asked him, “Does your church offer food assistance to those in need?” He said, “I don’t know. I haven’t been going here long. Go ask someone inside.” So I walked toward the door, and a couple came out carrying a large plate of food. They would not look at me.

“Excuse me, does your church offer any kind of food assistance?”

“We don’t know. There are some people inside.”

So I go inside, and there were two gentlemen inside the door.

“Can we help you?”

“I sure hope so. Do you offer any kind of food assistance?”

“No, we haven’t got that going yet, but maybe soon.”

I saw a bunch of people in the other room and a large table full of food. I guess they were having some kind dinner for their members. I just said“OK” and walked away. This was probably the most humiliating, sad thing I had experienced in this journey so far. I was really mad to say the least, and I could see why the homeless I had met were so turned off by the church. I am not saying all churches are this way, but there should not be one like this. I walked some more. I now know what Isaiah 58:7 means when it talks about the “poor wanderer.” I was just wandering with no real purpose or plan. I was at a loss. Honestly, I was getting a little frustrated by now.

I walked to a gas station, and they let me use their bathroom. I drank water from the bathroom sink for what seemed like forever. I went outside and sat down on the sidewalk, not really knowing what to do next. Well, I started walking and I came up on another church with a car in the lot. I thought to myself “Why bother?! They won’t give you anything. Why try?” I guess that is how those who are homeless feel, too.

I decided to go ahead and walk up there. When I did, I could tell the two ladies in the car did not want to roll down their window. A man came out from inside the church and the ladies rolled down the window. I asked them the same question I had asked the previous two churches and really expected the same answer, but to my surprise they said “Yes!” Praise God!

They got the key to the food pantry and we went inside. They were very nice. They started to fill a bag for me with the typical canned vegetables that most churches give away: green beans, corn, and cranberry sauce. I told them I had no way to cook or open a can. They loaded my bag with pop tarts, canned beef stew (with a pop top), cereal and even gave me some soap and razors (I guess I looked pretty bad). They then offered to pray with me and to give me a ride to the Waterfront Rescue Mission. I told them thank you, but the food was enough. They were really nice and it made me very happy to see people actually doing what the church is supposed to do.

When I got outside the door, I put all the food in my backpack so it was easier to carry and went on my way. God impressed on me that I should go back to this church and let them know what I was doing and donate toward their food ministry. I started walking back to my tent, thinking the whole time about making sure my tent was OK. It was around 3 p.m. I got back to the tent around 4 and everything was good. That was a relief.

It was starting to get cool, and I knew I was in for a long night. I broke open the beef stew and ate it. Yes, I ate it cold, and it was good! I started to put on layers of clothes. I stayed outside the tent for an hour or so, and the whole time I couldn’t relax. I kept thinking someone was going to come walking up on me. At about 5, I got inside my tent and inside my sleeping bag so I wouldn’t get too cold. Then, it hit me that I was going to be in there for the next 13 hours with nothing to do. I started to read my Bible.

At this point, I felt God telling me this would be my last night as a homeless person, but I wanted to make sure it was Him and not me. As I read, He led me to Isaiah 58:7 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.” I knew I was to pack up my stuff in the morning and He would lead me to someone in need of my tent, sleeping bag and the food I had. It was getting dark and cold outside, so I laid down.  I remember thinking, “12 hours, 11 hours, 10 hours…” until daylight. I couldn’t get comfortable, and I kept hearing all kinds of noises, thinking the worst of course. I prayed what seemed to be all night, but I did get a few hours of sleep and then it was morning. Thank you, God, for the daylight!

My Thoughts on Day 2:

Day 2 helped me begin to understand the daily struggles of those in need. I felt the frustration of humbling yourself to ask for help and not receiving it from where you feel you should. I felt the feeling of hopelessness and a lack of purpose that they must feel — what it’s like to just be wandering through life.

I know most of you want to know what churches I stopped at, but I am not going to say because we must decide which church WE will be. I will say I went to three different denominations. We are each the church and it is up to us individually to make a difference. I know this, most of us have placed the homeless or those in need into two categories — either criminals or lazy. I see that it doesn’t matter if they are good people; we have already cast judgment on them based on their situation instead of the person that God made them to be.

My 10-year-old daughter told me when I was getting ready to do this that I didn’t have to be afraid. I asked her why not and she said, “because you are the one they are going to be afraid of.” I asked her why she thought that, and she said, “because people are afraid of homeless people.” I asked her why she thought people are afraid of homeless people, and she said, “because they don’t know them.” I asked her if she was afraid of the homeless people we have met at the cafe, and she said, “No, because I got to know them.”

We need to get to know people before we pass judgment on them. I understand we must be careful and not just give a person the keys to our home. I also know if we walk in the Spirit and allow God to lead us, He will show us what to do. When someone says all Christians are hypocrites, it’s not fair to the Christian. When someone says all homeless are criminals or lazy that is not fair to them, either. Many times in the Bible, God says help the poor and needy. God just wants us to be willing to help anyone and He will bring those in our path that He wants us to help. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. We just have to be willing. Join me today and ask God to show you a need and give you the ability to meet that need.

Day 3 coming next, and you will find out who God led me to give my stuff to. It is awesome!

Homeless on Purpose – Day 1

Over the past few months I have been praying about how to better relate to those we reach and come in contact with every day. I have really never been without, and I’ve never been homeless. So I prayed about it along with my wife Tara, and I got this strong feeling to go homeless for a little while. I will tell you at first, I pushed it out of my mind. But it kept coming back and would not go away. I have made friends with many people in need because of job loss or other things out of their control as well as those who are without a place to lay their heads at night. I have learned a lot through these friendships, but I knew I really had no idea what they went through. So I kept praying for it to go away, but it wouldn’t.

Tara and I decided on a date, and everything really worked out for me to do it. So  I started making plans to go homeless and see how long God would have me do it. The following is an account of the day-by-day journey and its struggles. The days leading up to this were very stressful. I could not concentrate on anything except having to do this. I guess in a small way it was like what someone goes through when they are first in danger of losing their home. I had feelings of fear, uneasiness, and dread.

 

Day 1

I started with a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, books, one change of clothes, a protein bar, flashlight, $10 and the clothes on my back. It was Saturday, February 19, and I was still hoping God would change His mind and tell me I really didn’t have to do this.

I parked my car at the cafe at 7:30 a.m. and began to walk. Thank God there was a break in the rain. I had decided where I was going to put my tent, so I started walking there. It rained off and on all the way, and I had to duck into McDonalds one time when the rain got real heavy. After it let up, I walked a few more blocks and I got to the location I thought I would stay at around 9:30 a.m. It was raining a little harder then, so I darted in the woods to get to my spot.

As I am walking in I noticed two people leaning against a tree covered by a blue tarp. I walked slowly, trying to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle them. I talked with them a while and did not get a good feeling about them, so I prayed with them and moved on. I walked up to a bus stop cover and sat under there for about an hour while it poured down rain. I didn’t know what I was going to do except walk and try to find another place. Once the rain let up a little, I began to walk, really not knowing where I was going to tell the truth — just wandering without a real plan, and for me, that was difficult. I walked and walked and along the way checked wooded areas as I came to them to see if there was a good spot, and each time there were either signs of someone staying in the woods or there actually was someone.

You really don’t want to stay in a place with others, because to be honest, you do the same thing in the woods that most people do in their homes. (wash up, use the restroom, etc.) And if you don’t like people walking up on you in your home, so it goes in the woods. I kept walking and looking, feeling a little more desperate as I went. It really started to rain so I got under an overhang at a church to get out of it. By now everything is soaked — my clothes, backpack, what was inside the backpack — so I just sat there, frustrated, cold, and really wanting to stop this. I sat there and someone drove up. They saw me and immediately backed up and left. I continued to walk again after the rain let up a little. It is was around 12 p.m., so it had only been a few hours, but I can tell you it seemed like much longer.

I checked a couple more wooded areas, but again, each time there were people in them trying to stay dry. About 2:30, I found a place to set up my tent that looked good and could not be seen from anyone on the road or walking around. I set the tent up in the rain and had a hard time keeping the inside dry as I did it. I was done setting up around 3:30, and I got inside and sat there, wondering if it would ever stop raining. I then realized I had no water or food to eat, so I began to hope the rain would stop so I could get out and get some water at the very least. Finally it let up, so I unloaded my backpack of all the wet stuff so I would have something to carry the water in. I went to the gas station and had to buy a gallon jug of water and then I went to the laundry mat to see if they would let me charge my phone, and they did! Well, I sat there and then the bottom fell out. It began to rain so hard I could not see the light pole in the parking lot. I began to wonder what was happening to my tent and how I was going to get back before dark because I had forgot my flashlight.

I sat there until about 5:30 and realized that it wasn’t going to stop, so I begin to walk. I went into the woods and the path that I had taken was 6 inches under water, so I waded back, thinking my tent was probably soaked through. When I got there, it was fine, and I got inside and tried to figure out if I had anything dry. I didn’t, except my sleeping bag, a t-shirt and a pair of underwear that I had in a water proof bag — thank God. Well I got into my sleeping bag at 6:15 and realized it was 12 hours until daylight, and I’m in a tent with lightning storms and tornado watches going on. As hard as it is for me to admit, I was scared and wanted to go home. But then I thought of those who don’t have a place to go home to, and I prayed for them and it took my focus off of me. I pulled out my Bible (I did put that in a Ziploc bag) and began to read. It helped with my fear. God’s word is cool like that. I tossed and turned and thought every noise was someone coming up on me, a tree coming down or a host of other things. It rained all night and I do mean all night, and the wind blew as well. I probably slept 30 minutes or maybe an hour, and then praise God, it was daylight. Now what?

Some of my thoughts on Day 1:

Day one was eye-opening to say the least. I felt frustration, anger, fear, resentment, embarrassment, joy, and conviction all in the first day. I will tell you this, I noticed people don’t really notice what is going on around them. Most of the time, we are all in such a hurry with our lives when there are people in need all around us. I wanted to feel what they feel, but had no idea how overwhelming it would be. The end of that day brought knowledge to me that no book had ever done. I also thought that sometimes it’s just easier to not know what is going on in the world around us because it takes away the obligation to do something. But that is not what I read in God’s word. Those in need are His heart and who He talks about the most. We all need to just open our eyes — there are needs all around us that God wants to meet through us, but if we ignore the call, we miss so many blessings.

Day 2 coming soon!!!!!