Yesterday afternoon several of us served lunch to some of our neighbors at the Bridge, a new shelter that opened up in May for the chronically homeless in downtown Dallas. Click here for a few fast facts about the facility at the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance website, the organization that runs the Bridge. Click here for an article and video from Dallas Morning News.
We worked in conjunction with First Presbyterian Church’s ministry, The Stewpot, which serves three meals every day for the homeless at the Bridge’s cafeteria, Second Chance Café.
A few of us served our neighbors meals from the kitchen. Others of us filled/refilled water glasses for our neighbors at their tables.
It was a great experience — one we’ll probably begin doing regularly.
I was struck by the overwhelming number of people at the Bridge. The Café director told us the shelter was built for a capacity of 400, but sometimes hosted as many as 1,200. The facility has gotten so full that many people sleep in the courtyard area in the evenings.
Raj and Lauren, two Storyline volunteers, commented about the diversity of the people they served. Young, old, Black, White, Latino, male, female—people of all different kinds were present. Homelessness affects a wide range of people.
I’m also struck by the way the Bridge seems to corral the homeless into a corner of the downtown area (the facility is located at one of the southern most points). Other organizations, like our friends at Soup Mobile, are no longer allowed to serve food downtown. Is it a subtle (or not-so-subtle) attempt to make the homeless less visible to the wealthy professionals who work and live downtown?
I know the issues are much more complicated than I’m aware. I’m just raising questions as an outsider.
One thing is certain: the Bridge is just a beginning step of a much larger process. Given the significant overcrowding at the Bridge, it’s clear that much more help is needed to serve the poor and homeless in downtown (which makes me wonder why other organizations are being asked to leave).
I talked to a 22 year-old woman just before we left. She had been on the streets since she was sixteen. She’d gotten pregnant and then lost the child after birth. I could see desperation in her eyes. When I asked her how she was doing she shot straight with me: not good. She couldn’t find a place that gave away sanitary pads and so she was left to bleed all over herself. I could tell she was humiliated. (I know this story is uncomfortable to read — but so is the reality of the streets, to say the least.)
Yesterday afternoon I found myself thanking God for a cooled home and a comfortable bed, and praying for my neighbors like that young woman who were at that very moment sitting out in the sweltering heat.
You don’t walk away from these kinds of experiences the same person.
May justice flow through Dallas like a river.
wasn’t it last summer me and you were getting houses ready for “shine” week?
wasn’t it yesterday we were building a house for worship for a church south of the border?
i often wonder what change… if any is happening in teens, and or families. more and more it is evident that effective change in teenagers is happening when they share those “truth moments”, like the one ya’ll had this weekend, with parents. and when the parents change and the values in that home change, then the teenagers change. i’ve given them many many experiences of helping and serving others, yet the change in perspective (world view + beliefs) of the teens change when their immediate environment changes in light of this new truth that is revealed to them (their new “beliefs” about justice, mission, and God’s Love). that’s when i’ve seen life change. that’s when behavior changes.
it’s too easy to get a certain behavior for an event… but, in my life – as in everyone’s, true change, lasting change doesn’t change until i really change my world view, and my beliefs.
surrounding myself in a lifestyle of seeing opportunities, and meeting people with love and sometimes being a solution (or part of) means getting rid of the business i’m so able to surround myself with.
i don’t know why i wrote all this… just thought i’d enter the conversation. thanks for your weekly blog, bro. and no thanks but thanks for the challenges.
Charles, so glad to hear you guys went to hang out at the Bridge! Marjorie and I never had the opportunity, as we were always out of town, and then we moved.
There are so many organizations that are doing so many great things all across America. They are feeding thousands of people per day, providing legal assistance, job training, and so on and so forth.
Those organizations have my deepest gratitude and thankfulness for what they do.
However, I honestly do not believe that this is the answer to the problems we encounter on the streets. I believe it begins with good ole’ human friendship. With love. With having someone to talk to, cry with, and be encouraged by. So many of the people I’ve met in NYC, Boston, New Orleans, Memphis, Little Rock, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Forth Worth and Houston have been HURT by people; sexually abused, kicked out of the family, neglected, laughed at, betrayed, no parents… The depressing list goes on. And so it was the lack of love that caused most of them to tailwind into the situation they are in now. This isn’t always the case, but often.
And so providing them a t-shirt doesn’t help solve that deep issue within their heart. A conversation with someone, a hug, and a friendship will. Providing a bed for the night will give them a place to sleep, but they still feel worthless the next morning. Why? Dad beat them. Mom let them get raped by drug dealers.
Let me say again that these organizations are FANTASTIC! And they are needed desperately. But it’s human relationships and love that’s going to provide relief in the world of homelessness. I believe that with all my heart, and I’ll stand by that. For instance, in the book of Acts Peter passes a beggar. The beggar ask Peter for money, but Peter has none! Peter replies, “I’ll give you what I do have! The Spirit!”
The man is taken care of. Not with resources, but with the ultimate relationship.
That’s why I believe your community can make a HUGE difference – much bigger than you can imagine.
Love you man! You are great! And I am so glad to see you and the rest of storyline involved like you guys are.
Charles…just want to thank you and Julie for your commitment to serving Jesus in Uptown. Your concern for justice in this world full of injustice is an inspiration to me and Cody. We will be praying for God to open our eyes to these things here in Fort Worth. We love you both so much!
– Lindy Lou
I have a copy of The Same Kind of Different as Me for you and Julie to read!
keep it up…
Chad…I want to echo what you’re saying about the great benefit of these kinds of organizations. I neglected to give the Bridge praise for that in this post.
I think you’re right about the significance of relationship in seeking social change. People experience change and healing in the context of genuine relationships of love with other people. Indeed, we experience God in our relationships with other people.
Perhaps the saddest thing is that many of our homeless friends are starving not just for food, but for meaningful relationships with other people.
We’re forgetting one aspect to the Acts example. Peter, in the name of Jesus Christ, healed the beggar. He didn’t just say “I, Peter, give you the Spirit”. He invoked the Name Above All Names, Jesus Christ.
Christ, is He being preached? Do these people know that through Christ you receive a love that you cannot help but share with them? This is our message, is it not?
This whole emergent-style talk of God without Christ is detrimental to any evangelical purpose and is antithetical to the Gospel. (I’m not necessarily saying this is what you are doing, but I have yet to hear Jesus Christ in any of these blog entries)
You can have a relationship with all the poor people you want but if the Gospel is not preached (even eventually after establishing this “relationship”) then what is the point? The soul remains lost. (same disclaimer above)
You can fight for social justice and change all day long but why? It certainly should not be for the glory and uplifting of man; for that would make it all a very humanistic approach, no?
But when these things are fought and argued for for the glory of God, through Christ, where we receive all spiritual blessings and the uniting of all peoples; then and only then is it cosmically relevant.
OK, I don’t know why it put a face next to the word “relationship” but it was supposed to be a closed parenthesis ), not a wink. Good ‘ol wordpress. (not that blogger is that much better)
JR, thanks for your thoughts.
I agree sharing the life we’ve found in God through Jesus is a critical part of our mission.
A couple thoughts, however:
1) I’ve found in my experiences among the poor that faith in God and Jesus are not lacking. In fact, my encounters with the poor have revealed to me that many times they have much deeper faith in God than I do. They have to depend on God much more, after all. It jives with statements in James about how God has chosen the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith. Sure, we should share the good news of God’s kingdom with the poor — but what I’ve found is that many are already living deeply into it. It’s not proclamation they need (cause they’ve already accepted it); it’s justice.
2) Concerning the whole “mentioning God without Christ” thing…my mention of God so frequently comes out of biblical and theological conviction rather than any emergent trend. Part of my frequent reference to God is shorthand reference for the Triune nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Another part of my reference to God (as Father) stems from the fact that the language of the NT is pretty explicitly theocentric (God-centered) rather than christocentric (Christ-centered). It’s christocentrism, ironically, that has been a growing trend in recent evangelicalism. Jesus himself saw his life in service and submission to God the Father. Paul says every knee bows to Jesus to the glory of God the Father. It’s not that Jesus and his role in the restoration of the world is not important; it is. It’s just that he would say, “It’s all about God.” Thus it is for us, too.
Another thought: I wouldn’t say we’re “fighting” for justice. I wouldn’t even say we’re the ones who establish justice. That is the work of God. We’re only hoping to serve in humility in such a way that justice is embodied in our own community. And we’ll see what God does.
Charles, appreciate your response. (I find these discussions revitalizing by the way and make no mistake, I do appreciate your team effort in serving the poor among you in Dallas.)
You wrote: “It’s not that Jesus and his role in the restoration of the world is not important; it is.”
“His role” is primary. Without “His role”, there is no restoration, period.
Through Christ and the Cross we receive reconciliation with God. Through Christ and the Cross we all unite under Christ (who is head of the church, where united peoples are) as equals and without blemish in the eyes of God. (Colossians 1:15-22, Ephesians 3:10-12) This is our Gospel of peace we preach: All walls are broken down (with God and with men) at the Cross of Christ.
There is no other way to have this relationship with God, except through Christ. God cannot be in relationship with us when we are robed with sin; therefore the blood of Christ, which wipes away all sin, is essential for this relationship with the Father to occur. One cannot have a relationship with God without being in Christ. We cannot differentiate the two. Jesus, in the Father; the Father, in Jesus. Call it a theochristocentric message if you will (however repetitive it may be) – all throughout scripture, both “Old” and “New”.
Can it be “all about God” without Christ? Is that possible?
Thanks, JR. I completely agree with what you’re saying about the centrality of Jesus in the restoration of the world.
To say it’s all about God is not to downplay the role of Jesus or the necessity of being reconciled to God through Jesus. It is only to set his work within the broader context/community of the Triune God. Salvation is broader than Jesus’ role. It also includes the role of God as Father and Holy Spirit. It is God (not just Jesus), after all, to whom Jesus reconciles us.
Perhaps it’s better to say ‘It’s all about God in Jesus, by the power of the Spirit.”
I have a God-centered, Trinitarian bent if you can’t tell by now. 🙂
Thanks for the good conversation at this point.
Personally, I’ve never disconnected justice and evangelism. When I go out and love people who are considered the least of these, Christ and His love is something that just happens – through conversation and touch. More often than not I am told about the power of Christ that lives within THEM.
1 John 3:17 says, “if anyone has the ability to help a man in need, and doesn’t, how can they have Christ love within them?” John goes on to say in 18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions or truth.”
So, can Christ be preached through action? Yes, according to James and John. This is not to say that words are not necessary, because they are very much so. But without truth and action, it’s meaningless. Too many followers spend too much time having too many conversations and not taking enough action as Christ himself did, and still would be.
When commissioned by God to do a work, which Charles is, then God the Father (one with Jesus) isn’t just a topic, or a reason to have a relationship, He is the source of everything.
Honestly, I believe these things go without saying.
I say all this to say, JK, I agree with you that Christ must always be the centerpiece of our lives, and of our purpose.
And Charles, you’re the man. And there’s no doubt about that. You inspire me and encourage me, my friend! I am glad we are BUDDIES!
Ryan is cool too.
Indeed, may justice roll down.
Thank you for your heart and your sincere commitment, Charles. May God continue to bless you.
Central Dallas Ministries