As we look forward to the direction God is calling us to in 2016 and beyond, we have a vision for deeper relationships. A hope for a community of discipleship for each person God puts in our path. From the addict on the street, to the single mom struggling to make it, every person needs safe people who will walk with them through life. They not only need safe people, but they often need a safe place.
We dream of being able to meet every person’s physical need for emergency short-term housing and long-term transitional housing, with Christ-following roommates surrounding them. These are bigger commitments, bigger time investments, and bigger financial responsibilities. Bigger dreams usually are. Imagine for a moment if you didn’t have safe friends and a safe place. Now imagine joining us in providing that for a few neighbors this year. What a difference it would make in their lives, and in ours.
If you interested in giving a year-end tax-deductible donation to Urban Purpose, visit our website at www.urbanpurpose.org to find out how.
The closer we walked with the friends we originally met under I-65 and the more we got to know their stories, the more we understood their complex circumstances and what it would practically take to help these friends overcome them. As the ministry grew, we were consistently confronted with the lasting impacts of homelessness, addiction, loneliness, fear, and mental illness. For us, these were no longer distant categories to be discussed in theory. These were serious issues that our friends who we cared deeply for were walking through. We knew that loving them well required a deeper level of investment.
During these last six years, we became friends with more and more people that were in tough situations. As we walked with them, God was able to do some amazing things. We saw people overcome addiction, find community, experience wholeness, start careers, and most importantly, trust Jesus. It’s been incredible to watch God move in our lives, in the lives of the volunteers He leads our way, and in the lives of the people we have had the opportunity to work with.
We couldn’t be more excited about what He’s going to do in 2016.
Six years ago, we made a new group of friends under I-65. We hung out, ate meals together, laughed, prayed and had Bible study. We learned about each other’s lives. We talked about where each of us came from and where we wanted to go. We did all the same things that normal friends do, but these relationships were different for a number of reasons.
When these new friendships were formed in January of 2009, they immediately changed our lives forever. The Lord forged a special relationship between us and placed a specific calling on our lives to walk alongside them. A year later, Urban Purpose was formed. The relationships that have developed over the years as Urban Purpose have never been neat and clean, but has been with us every step of the way. He gave us this opportunity to be a part of His work in our friends’ lives.
Next time, we’ll look at what specifically God has allowed us to be a part of over the past six years.
This past Sunday a lady drove up to the parking lot where we serve the meal in tears. I watched as one of our weekly volunteers brought her and her father a food and began to talk with her. After a few minutes, I joined her and began to hear about this woman’s story and what kind of help she was needing.
Throughout this conversation, I asked many questions about what she might be needing such as financial help, counseling, employment, and anything else I could think of that might be good for her. The surprising part was that she continued to say she was in no need of financial help, which is typically the first thing most people ask for. We ended up spending about 30 minutes discussing what we could do and how we could move forward. She seemed very encouraged and relieved.
At the end of our conversation we prayed together. She thanked God for bringing her here so that she could talk to someone and.be listened to for the first time in a very long time. This was very surprising to me because I talked through many, many other ways that we might be able to help her in her situation, but what she needed most was not money or a job or clothes, she needed someone to care for her.
So often it’s easy to look past the simple, basic needs that I have in my every day life that many people lack. We are always wanting to fix what we think someone might be lacking instead of what they are really longing for. Our opinion of someone’s needs may not always be what they’re truly in need of.
About five months ago we met a young man named Mike and started to work with him. Since then he has been in two separate rehab programs. He was released from the last program on Thanksgiving day after spending time with a family member that is a poor influence on him.
That weekend we were faced with a big decision to make. Should we help? How should we help? What does he need? We knew that this time around it had to be different.
Since Thanksgiving weekend, we have put together a team of people that have been helping to care for and watch over this man. He has not been left alone at any point over the last three weeks. He is staying with people that want to get to know him, spend time with him and love him well. He has been working with a landscaping company every day and having dinner with different groups of people each night as well as having other measurements of accountability such as drug testing.
While this may seem extremely overwhelming and unnecessary to the average person, it is what someone trying to flee a drug addiction needs- and they need it for this specific reason:
One of the first nights he was staying with the guys, they went to Jimmy John’s to grab some dinner downtown. While they were eating, Mike noticed that an old drug dealer of his walked in the room. This man walked straight over to Mike and asked him if he wanted anything. Luckily, he was not alone. Mike said no, and the dealer walked off. Shortly after, Mike expressed how thankful he was that he was not alone during that encounter because it would have been much harder to say no.
This is why we believe it is good for people to be surrounded until they can get into a program that is a more structured environment. As far as Mike goes, we have been waiting for a couple weeks to hear back from another program that he could be in for six months. That is our plan during this “time of crisis” for these people- to wait expectantly for God to open doors to bigger and better things.
You may be asking, is it worth the wait? Well, this morning we received the phone call letting us know that Mike had been accepted and we can take him in on Tuesday. We’re thankful to have been able to walk with Mike through this time and that we could help him stay strong in the midst of a hectic time. Our hope is that we can do this for many people that are wanting to get clean but need help getting on that path to the long road of recovery.
When most of us ask a friend to share a meal, it’s usually because we value spending time with them. We might ask someone to dinner for multiple reasons: simply to get to know them better, because we need advice, to have quality time with a friend, or it could be a special occasion. Whatever the reason may be, whenever you are invited somewhere you can’t help but feel good because you know you are wanted!
This past Tuesday, we invited over 20 of our homeless or struggling friends to dinner. While many of these people attend most of the meal lines in Birmingham, we longed for this meal to be different. Rather than having them stand in a line to get a plate of food with 100 other people, we wanted them to sit down at a nice table to be served delicious food and surrounded by people that want to love them exactly where they are in life.
This meal was a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God. All of these people have very different past and present lives, but can bring value and worth to the dinner table.
This dinner was made possible by Common Thread, Redemptive Cycles, D’Armond Catering and Urban Purpose.