Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Missional Misadventure

Becoming missional for me has required changing how I think. I am so aware that I've been willing to overlook needs around me. For many years, I could easily have been the person who hurried past a person needing help on my way to a church meeting.

Our small town doesn't have an obvious population of poor people. In fact, it is more of an upscale community. I realize that being missional can and should include suburbia.

However, I have also been convicted by how out of touch I am with the truly needy in our town. We don't have soup kitchens or homeless shelters. Seeing transient-looking people is actually very rare.

I am trying to learn to see all of the people around me. Sometimes I don't feel very good at it, but I'm willing to keep stumbling along.

A while back, my husband and I were returning to town after eating at the Chinese restaurant in a nearby town. At our exit near the stop sign, there was a man holding a sign.

His sign said:


("God, give me a sign, show me what I should do.")

The lightbulb came on, and I glanced around the car, wondering if we had any food. All we had was our leftover box from the chinese dinner, and I didn't think used food was an acceptable offering.

We decided a quick run through a drive-through would be a good option. This seemed simple. Get food, drive by, hand off food.

While we were waiting for our meal in the drive-through, a thunderstorm suddenly gathered overhead. It began sprinkling, then raining. By the time we left, there was small hail mixed with heavy rain.

We wondered what the chances of finding "our guy" again would be.

We guessed that he might have taken shelter at a nearby gas station. Driving by, we didn't see him, so we concluded that maybe he went under the overpass.

After trying to park out of the way at the intersection, my husband ventured to the bridge, meal in hand.

As I watched from the car, a police car came on the scene, and the officer also stepped out into the rain.

A little detail you need to know, so you can visualize this, my husband's knee catches sometimes, and he was having trouble with it that night.

I was waiting a little nervously for him to come back from under the bridge and wondering what the policeman was going to do.

Finally I see my husband, attempting to run, but more hopping/limping quickly towards our car. He yelled a few things at the policeman through the rain, and ducked back into the car.

Well, what happened?

He said the guy was under there, but he was yelling. Hubby thought maybe he was on a cell phone. (Yeah, I'm wondering what phone plan most homeless people sign up on.)

As he approached him with the food, the guy said, "What the #*// is that?"

Logical guy that he is, my husband said, "Well, it's food, like your sign said."

Then he left the food, and tried to run.

He cautioned the policeman that the guy under the bridge was upset. I wondered about what would happen with the guy. Would the policeman give him more help?

We left, somewhat relieved that my husband was neither attacked nor arrested, concluding, "We're not very good at this."

Anyway, the whole thing turned out kind of stoogish, but at least we tried.


Cindy said...

you know, Grace, I've come to the conclusion that the key is getting used to feeling stoogish and doing it again the next time- but the next time expecting to feel stoogish. It's the broken people helping broken people thing. It hardly ever looks or feels like we would hope. Y'all did great.

aBhantiarna Solas said...

What a big heart you have, Grace! I love that you and your husband were willing to be open to that whole series of events. I love that your vision of success is that you tried. I just love this whole story. Pax, Sonja

Robbymac said...

Despise not the days of small beginnings... :)

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

I'll second all the comments so far. Good on ya. :)

Cell phones, by the way, are actually a good idea for homeless people. I see them bought and sold at the Mission for $5 or $10. Buy a $10 phone card and you're back you're in the world again.

Try to imagine looking for a job Without a phone number. You have to return - every day - to every place you applied for a job and hope they haven't called somebody else in the meantime. Ditto with landlords. And, with a cell-phone, you can still keep in touch with your kids, something that very few people realize that homeless folks have, or want, or would still want to be in touch with.

With the homeless, everything's more complicated than it seems, even just giving a guy at the exit ramp some food. So yeah, good on ya!!!

wilsonian said...

Whether it felt like it or not, you fed Jesus. Humbling to think about...

iggy said...


Great story... I am sure Jesus enjoyed the food!


Bruce said...

Good for you guys! And I think it's funny it was your husband that had to go sloshing in the rain, limping and all. What a great insight on "being Christ." By the way, wonderful use of the word "stoogish."


Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...


Remember that the measure of our "success" is our obedience to the missional call of Jesus, nothing else. Like KWK said, cell phones can be a real life saver for many homeless people. In our neighbourhood, we work with a church that created a free voicemail system for just this reason. "Homeless" can be a tricky title, as it can mean a wide range of things. Here in Winnipeg, with our harsh winter climate, there is much less street life and a larger "slum landlord" problem. At any rate, keep on trying.


John Frye said...

You and your husband jumped in and did a kingdom of God thing! Way to go. Giving into those good (Holy Spirit) hunches is a marvelous adventure.

House of Grace said...

Keep trying, Grace. With practice it gets easier. It's never simple to find practical ways to care for the homeless since expectations are as different from one person to the next as with any other portion of society. It took several months of going out weekly before I started to feel more at ease in these settings; but, I still get taken off guard from time to time. I keep trial sized soap, lotions and shampoo in my car to have something handy and easy to give away. I have some friends that keep Subway gift money and jamba juice cards in $3 or $5 increments in their wallets to have something tangible for food. Whatever you do, remember that there are people with feelings behind the needs you see and keep trying. I learned the hard way when a homeless person offers to give something back to me it honors them when I receive it. It's a joy to give - I shouldn't deny even the homeless this joy.

David Cho said...

Sounds like an excellent beginning. I see them all the time here, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, and I drive right past them. They are humans too, and I like what cindy said - broken people helping broken people.

Broken Messenger said...

This is where I struggle with my Truly Reformed brethern (of which I am one) when they launch attack after attack on the Emergent Movement over guys like McLaren, and do not realize that so many have joined the movement over a protest over practice, not merely theology. Nice post, thank you for sharing this...


Kyle J. Mason said...

Hey, I’m just some random stranger that stumbled into your blog but I loved your story and your heart. It’s a wonderful start and the world needs more people like you and your husband.


Trailady said...

Unfortunately, some of the most desperate, stressed out people I've met are the ones in suburbia who are killing themselves for the American Dream. They are mortgaged to the hilt and worn to a frazzle. Often just taking a plate of cookies or delivering some flowers to these people is all it takes to win a friend.

Bless You!!!! :o)

Lorna said...

ouch... (but it would make a good sit com!)

it struck me too that in your town there are lonely people for you to reach out to. It doesn't only have to be about food for the homeless.

(trilady said it better - now I look at the comments)

grace said...

Great comments everyone. I know that what we did wasn't a big deal, but as far as how my thinking is changing, it was a big deal.

Great point. We might as well expect it to be awkward. And it's awesome that God can use broken people.

Thanks. I hope the Lord gives me more opportunities to learn and grow.

I feel like I'm in the kindergarten class on learning how to love others.

That's interesting about the phones, but it makes a lot of sense.

wilsonian and iggy,
When you think of it that way, it was a wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to serve.

The reason my husband went is because I'm the weaker vessel. ;)

I struggled with using the term homeless in this post. I am still working on learning to not differentiate people as "them," but rather as one of us.

The big sign was helpful in recognizing that Holy Spirit's prompting.

house of grace,
Thank you for the very practical ideas.

Due to our cold winters and small town, it is rare to see people here asking for food or money.

I don't really know if I'm reformed or emergent. I might be. Ideally good theology should lead to right practice, shouldn't it, and good practice should be formed by sound doctrine.

Nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by.

That's so true. God is really working on me in this area too. Due to what we've been through in the last couple of years, I have become more isolated. I feel Him pushing me towards being around people more.

You are right. I just pray that I will have eyes to see those with needs around me and ears to hear His spirit leading me.

Pam Hogeweide said...

yeah, i'm clumsy too in the Reach Out and Touch Someone department. I was talking to a street youth at our church and I asked about his parents. His emotions got really intense and I realized Duh, He wouldn't be a street kid if things were ok with mom and dad. I felt like an insensitive idiot. I like what the pastor at our church says about homeless youth: He calls them, "Our friends without homes" or "Our friends who live outside." Much more dignity since homeless nowadays equals Loser or Failure.

(you and I can start a Stooges for A Kinder World Campaign :-) ! )

grace said...

Yes Pam, I can relate. It is a slow process trying to become a different person than I've been for so many years.