5th July, 2012
Via Assist News Service
Not all Americans are celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, a day off from work, a thankful heart and food.
For some, it’s just another day of fear and uncertainty. An incident from a couple of years ago just prior to 4th July came to mind. While out on the streets with Joy Junction's Lifeline of Hope mobile feeding unit and parked at a local motel (where guests daily make the choice between paying the tab for a night's sleep and buying food), a number of worried guests asked me if we would be there over the upcoming holiday.
PICTURE: Kevin Gonzalez/www.sxc.hu
"Perhaps some of you are thinking, 'Well, that's the reason they've got all these problems. They need to get into a recovery program and accept Jesus.'
While that's true, it doesn't address the reason why these precious souls started drinking excessively or abusing drugs in the first place. I'm obviously not excusing drug and alcohol abuse, but in many cases, it is a way to deal with unbelievable emotional pain that eats away with an ever increasing intensity at their soul."
“Yes,” I was happy to reply, realising yet again that need and hunger don't take vacations.
On 4th July of that year while out again with the Lifeline of Hope, sharing God's Word, sack lunches, and other food as well as ice cold beverages with the hungry and discouraged, someone asked me in a plaintive tone, "Can I have a couple of sack lunches? It's hard out there today, and you guys are all there is." I gladly gave him a couple more sack lunches. (This year I won’t be out personally with The Lifeline, but our truck will be still going from east to west across the city).
However, one story that year especially pierced my soul. A man that my colleague and I had never seen before began spilling his soul. Among many other heartrending things he told us, “My stepfather told me I would be a drug addict so I'm going to be the best drug addict I can.”
I told him, “You can be free today.”
The man responded, “I'll never forgive (my stepfather). He's ruined my life.” My colleague and I were able to pray for this man, and give him some hope. His plight and story were tragic.
Daily we meet hurting and desperate individuals, both at Joy Junction and on the Lifeline of Hope. The bodies of some are in various stages of neglect and disrepair, suffering from the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse. When alcohol is sometimes unobtainable, mouthwash (and these days even hand sanitiser) serves as a convenient, but dangerous and potentially lethal alternative.
Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Well, that's the reason they've got all these problems. They need to get into a recovery program and accept Jesus.”
While that's true, it doesn't address the reason why these precious souls started drinking excessively or abusing drugs in the first place. I'm obviously not excusing drug and alcohol abuse, but in many cases, it is a way to deal with unbelievable emotional pain that eats away with an ever increasing intensity at their soul.
It would take a miracle of God to penetrate the heart of the man I talked about who hated his (now dead) stepfather. As he shared some of his intense personal agonies with us, I wondered how many people with whom he shared these struggles had written him off. It's easy to do so, because then we feel relieved of responsibility to pray and get involved to help effect positive change in this man's life.
And while I strongly believe in God's supernatural working, I know He works many times through us. He commands us to love the unlovely and unlovable. Whether we do so or not, the needy are out on the streets of Albuquerque (or your city) crying out to you for help. Your love and compassion are needed - but many times in short supply nationwide.
The words of the hit song Need You Now, from the superstar country group Lady Antebellum come to mind. While the song explores the longings of separated lovers to reconnect in the early morning hours, I believe the Lord reminded me it could also apply to the thoughts of the homeless in those difficult hours as they ponder perhaps unsuccessfully reaching out to Christians and others.
Some of the Lady A lyrics read, "It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now... And I don't know how I can do without- I just need you now."
The lyrics continue, "It's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk and I need you now. Said I wouldn't call but I lost all control and I need you now. And I don't know how I can do without- I just need you now."
So my question to you is this. What would be your response if a "high-maintenance" friend, a distraught but troubled acquaintance perhaps on the periphery of homelessness, or maybe a homeless person you've known was to call you in the early hours of the morning?
Your answer might well make the difference between someone hanging on to the last thread of hope, or plunging off the cliff into a terrifying whirlpool of emotional and physical devastation. It's worth thinking about, isn’t it?
I hope that you have a wonderful 4th July celebration, but don’t neglect to pray for and help those for whom this day will not have been one of joy and family togetherness.
Jeremy Reynalds is the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a PhD in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is Homeless in the City.
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