It’s always interesting to meet the families of people who are going through an intense addiction. To be honest, it’s extremely easy to assume there are some alarming skeletons hidden in their closet’s and an underlying reason from years ago about why this family member is now struggling like they are.
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to meet with the parents of a young man that we are working with. (You should know that while this is not the first time we have had this type of meeting, it also not a regular occurrence. A lot of the people we work with have not spoken to their family in years, and in many cases are not sure where they are now.)
As we were beginning to meet the family, we were all somewhat anxious about what we were going to discover.
After about two and half hours of getting to know each other and diving head first into this situation, we all walked away both encouraged and hopeful in the midst of a pretty dark circumstance.
What we continue to learn is that the Devil does not play favorites. He does not choose to only attack the people in dire circumstances who struggle with depression. He comes to steal and kill and destroy in every area of our life- good, bad and in-between (John 10:10). Not only can we not give our lives over in the bad times but even in the good, because he will be there to take control. At times like this, it is humbling to be reminded that we have a Father that has come to give us life to the fullest- if we are only to give our lives to Him!
We all know that friendships require work. They require effort from both sides. They also require understanding, patience, love, communication and trust- what we are focusing on. When we begin to let someone in our lives, we typically find out whether or not they are trustworthy before completely opening that door. How does this same principle apply when we’re trying to build a friendship with someone that does not have much to offer? To wrap up this three-part blog, we want to mention a few different ways that we have attempted to build trust with the men and women in this particular situation.
Come back. Now, what we mean by this is that you physically showing up somewhere only to see them. You are not required to always bring something with you, but you actually being there will make an impact in their life.
Remember the little things. Time and time again we have found that many people just want someone to listen. When they finally find someone to listen, it will be extremely impactful when this person actually remembers the details of their story. (This is harder than it sounds, and sometimes could require you to write some of this information down)
Laugh with them. We all know that any good relationship requires a great deal of laughter and light-heartedness. Many homeless people have very intense backgrounds and struggles, so at first most of your time will be spent talking about this. But whenever you get the chance, find something to laugh about with them! It will spark a fire in the friendship and open their hearts even more.
Open up. One thing that we who “have it together” (and I use this term very loosely) are miserable at is being vulnerable with one another. Try to show the men and women your befriending that just because you have a roof over your head does not mean you are perfect- not even close.
We could keep going and develop a list of 100 different ways to develop the trust of someone, but this is just a start. We have seen that if you at least begin here that soon these people- who are the outcasts of society and have most likely sworn never to trust anyone again- will begin to open their lives to you. And that is where the journey truly begins!
You would think that most people in rough situations, such as being homeless and without consistent food, clothing or other resources, would jump at the chance for a new friendship. Right? After all, they do not have much to choose from. But just like everyone else in this world, they have feelings, emotions, wants and needs.
In our last post, we mentioned the basics of relationships. One of the main foundations in ALL relationships is being able trust one another. We know this to be true in our own lives and friendships, and we have seen it take form in the relationships we form downtown every week. Throughout the years we have learned more and more that the “building” aspect of our friendships with the men and women we work with is a slow, slow process. We are constantly looking for different ways to connect with these people on levels outside of their basic needs being fulfilled.
To preface this- you should know that we make our fair (even more than fair sometimes) share of mistakes, and we would never claim to be experts on anything. But after being around this group of people for years now, we have learned that one of the best ways to start showing your love and care for them is giving them something to trust about you.
Now realistically, what does this look like? How do we build these relationships? What kind of things do we promise? That’s the real question.
Each week at our Sunday meals there is a mix of people; some we know and have been coming for years, but still there are new people every week. Our intention in coming downtown every Sunday is not just to feed these people, but to build relationships with them. Sometimes it can seem like a difficult task. After all, how can I relate to a homeless person?
Recently I have learned something great about forming relationships: they all require the same basic things.
One of the main aspects of a relationship is being true to your word. This is true across the board of relationships. Whether you are starting a friendship with a coworker, neighbor, drug addict or a homeless person, you want to know that they are trustworthy. When you are seen as a friend who remains true to what you said, whether it was a promise or statement, you build trust. Obviously, we must be wise and careful with what promises we make to any of our friends (but especially to those who are in need). They should be promises that are good for both people and that we are able to fulfill.
So the question is, how does this manifest itself in the friendships we have with people that might be homeless, recovering drug addicts, or in unstable life situations? That is an ongoing question and something we are still working on figuring out. Tomorrow we’ll fill you in on what we’ve learned so far.
Yesterday, we sat down with a new client. This guy has about 8 years of drug use under his belt, which is a long time but especially for a person in his 20s.
When we asked him what triggered the drug use he couldn’t really give us an answer. He said that he couldn’t really describe why he used drugs and when he did. His one answer was that even when he was in a good place, he was always searching for something more. There was always something missing.
This is the same thing we have heard over and over again, the desire for “something more”. We believe that this is the ultimate problem within our friends and in our world. As long as we are seeking things that this world has to offer us, our affections and desires will always come up short of being fulfilled.
Please pray that Jesus would use us to help show our people what it is that their heart and soul are truly missing.
Most of us know what the two greatest commandments are- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthews 22:37-39) But what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? I can tell you one thing for sure- we do not have the answer and are constantly learning how hard this commandment actually is to fulfill.
It is easy to love and feel compassion for people that you meet for the first time or people that you rarely come in contact with. We can sympathize with them, cry with them, laugh with them and then leave and go back to our normal life. But what about the people we see on a daily basis, our actual neighbors? The ones we walk with through the ups and downs of life, through the good and bad decisions, through the laughter and tears. How do we love our neighbor when they make poor decisions, choose wrong paths or bad options? How does love become that first emotion we encounter rather than the last emotion that comes to mind? The answer is simple (but easier said that done): turn to Jesus.
“Beloved let us love on another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
We love because Christ first loved us and we cannot love others without His love. Please continue to pray for Jesus’ love to be so overflowing in our lives that it will be evident to all of the men and women we come in contact with.
Last week, we were given the privilege to attend the annual Global Impact Celebration at Shades Mountain Baptist Church. This is a global missions conference that the church hosts for missionaries from all over the world which they have partnered with throughout the years. We were surrounded by people who live in Vienna, Austria, the Middle East, Thailand, Oakland, CA, Vermont, New Jersey and more. During this week long celebration, we had the opportunity to hear about and share how the Lord is working through His people all over the world.
During one of our favorite nights, each missionary gets a 60 second spotlight (or maybe a little more) to share just one example of how God is working among them. For our 60 seconds, we asked one of the men we have been walking with for over a year now to help us out. As you’ll notice, Mark and Wilkes have almost identical backgrounds. They grew up in the same hometown, went to a very similar church and both had loving families. The difference between the two men is how Jesus chose to bring them to himself.
; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user8534567″>Urban
Purpose</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>
Last week was full of encouraging testimonies and encouraging supporters, eager to spur on those who have been led to give their lives for His work. It was such a helpful reminder to know that we are not alone on our journey to reach the lost and help the broken, and that there are many others who are willing and ready to partner with us. We are incredibly thankful for the body of believers at Shades Mountain Baptist Church and for the loyal patronage they have given not only to Urban Purpose, but to missionaries all over the globe for many years now.