I hate to admit it, but I truly do enjoy talking to drunk homeless men. Of course the enjoyment level falls quickly for me the more alcohol my friends out there consume. The enjoyable ones are not totally wasted, but usually just buzzed on a few beers, or maybe half way through a cheap plastic bottle of tequila. The totally wasted, slurring, stumbling, punch throwing guys - usually from a full pint of hard alcohol, there is not much there to converse with.
One might ask, “What can be enjoyable about a slightly drunk homeless guy?” Well, let me tell you. The slightly drunk homeless brother with a few beers in him is usually relationally warmer, more brutally honest, and quicker to access his emotions regarding his situation and his trauma. This sort of alcohol-fueled relational banter makes for wonderful connection and rich gospel conversations all the way around. Another benefit is that when someone is on the shallow side of drunk, they will remember our conversation in a few days - which contributes to building relationships and holding onto the momentum of gospel conversations. The completely wasted guys don’t remember squat.
Even though there is benefit to alcohol, at least from a gospel ministry perspective, we all know that my teams won’t be passing out beers on the street anytime soon. Alcohol is the most addictive and destructive drug on the planet, bar none. And please don’t forget that I’ve logged a number of past years as a professional drug & alcohol counselor. So, even though Jesus didn’t have any trouble providing an extra 150ish gallons of high quality wine to an already buzzed wedding party (John 2), I think we are all fully aware of the destructive side of alcohol.
Alcohol serves multiple roles in a person’s life on the street. If someone is plagued by nightmares, a few 24oz cans of high alcohol beer can give them a restful dreamless sleep, freeing them from painful memories of estranged children and failed marriages. If someone is sleeping on concrete, freezing under a thin blanket on a windy night, alcohol can give them a sense of warmth - although technically this is a false sense of warmth, since studies show that drinking alcohol decreases a person’s core temperature. Another incredibly pivotal role that alcohol plays in the homeless community is the role of community-builder. I’ve taught our BroMo volunteers numerous times that alcohol (weed also) is the ever available relational currency of the street. You would be surprised at how much weed and alcohol is offered for free among the homeless community.
And can you imagine trying to get sober while still homeless? Almost all the social interactions out there are laced with drugs and alcohol of one flavor or another. Those whom I’ve seen maintain sobriety while homeless are the loneliest and most isolated people out there. It is not impossible, but wow is it a tough thing to do. Which is why recovery programs exist - someone escaping the streets and searching for sobriety almost always needs to be taken out of their community in order to truly address the idols and mediators of their lifestyle. This is often true of recovery in any demographic.
But there was a time when I did not give myself permission to enjoy people on the street when alcohol was involved. When I first started regularly spending time with the homeless on the streets of Portland, Oregon in 2006, I was often aghast when I was semi-regularly offered alcohol by those I was trying to connect with. I took it as somewhat of an insult, as a clean seminary boy, to be offered alcohol, or weed. Even though I was unaware of my body language, I would usually twist up my face, take a step back, and say something like, “Hey man I’m a Jesus follower, that’s not something I’m into….”, which of course never went well. Shaming people who were trying to be generous to me definitely did not open doors to the gospel! My response, unfortunately, clearly communicated disgust, disdain, and disrespect. In reality, I was attempting to shame these guys by letting them know that I was too good to drink with them.
After years of doing this wrong, I’ve finally learned to just take the beer and sit down and drink it with them…… Just kidding! I’ve never done that by the way. But what I have learned is to genuinely see their offer of a tepid beer (usually Pabst Blue Ribbon) as an invitation into community; as a warmly generous and sacrificial demonstration of community. It’s like they are saying, “Hey, I like you. Why don’t you sit down and stay awhile…” Which is why I serve coffee on the street instead of beer - it still works as a community builder. Those on the street are mostly neck-deep in shame and self hatred, which makes “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” mostly an acceptable statement. But verses like, “…but God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us…”, those are the difficult and unsettling passages to my friends on the street. So as a result, our hard work in BroMo homeless outreach is to winsomely, warmly, and generously build gospel-centered relationships with the homeless. We pray vigorously for them, and walk in the Holy Spirit who constantly opens doors for us to mediate His gospel love.
And just to make sure, again, that I’m being clear in the midst of declaring my enjoyment of the slightly drunk street dweller - 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that the drunkard shall not inherit the kingdom of God. I’ve semi-regularly needed to quote this passage to those wrapped up in the idol of alcoholism who claim to be believers. But please know that the gospel of Jesus demands that we preach JESUS as the Way before we try to preach sobriety, sexual abstinence, republicanism and/or the necessity of employment and sleeping in a house. Didn’t Jesus have a knack for spending oodles of time with those still wrapped up in their sin? He was the master of brilliantly weaving truth and grace together in a seamless package. We are not there yet.
Almost all the men on the street, women too of course, are ferociously lonely. And since they are all mostly broke, there are very few bits of currency that can serve as community builders for the long boring hours rotting away under bridges or on spits of green space throughout the community. Community for most humans involves meeting for coffee, getting together for tea or a beer, surfing/hiking, or sharing some sort of a meal together. We all do it. With people we love and enjoy we don’t arrange to meet each other in a barren windy Walmart parking lot and chat for an hour.
To sum up, my request is to please see these men and women on the street as they truly are: not very different than you or me when it comes to their need for JESUS first, before we crinkle our faces at their ghetto lifestyles. They are constantly replaying the details of their failed marriages, or mistakes that led them to prison, or their struggle with addiction - which leads to MORE addiction and stupider decisions. But in their hard world, they are also completely human: soooooooooooo many of them are OPEN to relationship and connection. Across our three outreaches we are constantly maximizing this openness with our strategy - we bring social, emotional, and spiritual support to those experiencing the crisis of homelessness.
So, to sum up. Don’t be a jerk when you see people all mixed up in their sin. I’ll leave you with this verse:
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Bromo family news
Atascadero Expansion: Our treasurer, Carol Barnes, and me have started to weekly hit the streets of Atascadero in order to connect with the homeless. We pass out iced coffee instead of hot coffee, due to the much hotter weather up there. I am super excited to work with Carol’s church (Abide & Pastor Chris and Ben) to help them establish a weekly presence in the homeless community. I will be putting together some resource-rich videos in the future to help train whoever will be joining us. Please pray for this new work.
Vehicle Outreach: About a month ago, 5 of the core vehicle dwellers at Laguna Lake finally had their vehicles impounded and towed. So my most productive fishing hole got cleaned out. Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence since none of them have licenses or car insurance or have their cars registered. Most of them are back at the local parks, which still makes them accessible. I will continue vehicle outreach, but it’s hit and miss.
Anderson Family: My kids are growing up so fast. Opal is 8 now, Bodhi 11, and Poppy 14. An interesting twist for our family is that due to California’s stringent stance on childhood vaccinations, my kids are now unable to attend public school, which means my wife Coral can’t work and must now homeschool our kids. This has been devastating for all of us. My wife and our three kids have autoimmune issues, which makes vaccinations a game of Russian roulette, which we have decided not to risk playing. We had medical exceptions through our local doctor, but CA revoked hundreds of thousands of these medical exemptions earlier this year. I am not an anti-vaxer guy, and I know this is a highly politicized issue. Yet, regarding our own family, we are trying to figure out how to navigate the practical implications for our everyday lives. Please pray for wisdom for us.
Jesus Coffee: The shelter continues to have active Covid cases, which means that Jesus Coffee is still on hold for the time being.
Thank you as always from our whole BroMo team for your partnership in this adventure. May Jesus guide each of you in how to intercede for and love those you meet, and those you know. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and give you peace.
805 903 2510
Hello dear friends!
Please check out my youtube video for a further explanation of what we are moving towards as a group. Click on the following link and it will take you there.
I’ve been trying to grow in the skill of listening lately. Listening well is just so HARD! Lately I’ve been recognizing just what a Herculean effort it takes, both emotionally and mentally, to truly hear with my heart and mind, and to enter into the lives of these people out here on the streets of SLO.
Even as a husband, I have to work especially hard to enter into the life of my beautiful wife Coral, to truly hear her, to feel her intentions behind her words, to flush my presuppositions and interpretations and to let her words, and the thoughts behind her words, be hers and not my own. I don’t always do this well. Listening is such a frustrating and wretchedly hard task at times - I am still learning and trying to grow as a husband. Can anyone relate, or is this just me?
I feel like sometimes I’m so stuck in my own life and perspective and the things that I’m worried about (kids, money, the future….), that I sometimes miss 90% of what’s being said by the person in front of me. Listening to my homeless friends out here is especially complicated, due to our radical difference in experience - in light of the fact that I was mostly raised in privilege and stability, and not in the violently unstable world of extreme poverty and addiction. And wow am I super grateful to Jesus that this is true!
My parents were drugged out and very lost hippies in the 60’s who met Jesus in the Jesus movement in southern CA. Jesus changed them substantially (with a long process of course!). Here are the cliff notes: My dad came to know Jesus, so did my mom, then they got married (they were living with each other), they stopped using LSD and all the other drugs and became a part of a strong Christian community, So that I was born into a family where my brother and I knew nothing of the addiction-world of violence and instability. In light of these facts about my family, I am in a frustrating deficit when it comes to genuinely entering into the world of my homeless friends, since I share a very different growing up experience than most of them.
And along with this frustration of trying to listen well, I also have this voice in my head that says, “wait, do you really need to ‘hear’ them to preach the gospel?”. And being a good evangelical Christian boy, I recognize that this question is important to answer - since there are many that would say that building relationships and listening well to lost humans is irrelevant. The following two points helps me personally navigate the tension in these two biblical statements: “Preach the gospel”, “deeply love and listen well to lost humans and enjoy their company”.
The example of Jesus in the incarnation. Simply put, even though God knows all things, he still chose to enter into the grit and grime of our broken world, choosing to be born, to live, and to die on the cross as a human. This is the way that Jesus embodied the true knowing of epistemology, in that he not only wanted to know us and our world, he wanted to know AND experience us and our world. There are obviously many implications of this history splitting act, but one of them is clearly that Jesus wanted to know and be known by those he was preaching the gospel to. Or maybe we can say that Jesus wanted his words and works to be rolled out in an integrated way. For many centuries before Jesus God sent countless prophets to creatively mediate the multi-faceted message of the Torah. But in Jesus we see God fleshed out in a living, farting, crying, yelling, hugging, gospel preaching, human being. In our call to mediate Jesus to all of lost humanity, the incarnation teaches me that true Christian love for lost people can never be less than the words of the gospel (rom. 1:16, 17), but if at all possible it MUST be more than just words. And since I am NOT Jesus, I have a further obligation to listen even harder in order to enter into the world of the person I am seeking to Love.
2)The example of Paul the apostle in how he shepherded the Thessalonians: 1 Thess. 2 “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Paul was absolutely in love with this group of people, which means that he wanted to throw himself into life with them. The basic give and take of warm connective relationships with lost people is unfortunately turning into a lost art. Too many of us either want to quickly share the gospel and get it over with, or we just want to have relationships with lost people with no gospel intentionality. Many times we are missing the Holy Spirits guidance in these relationships with the lost, and are too often just left to walk in the inclinations of our personality
There are many other pieces of biblical instruction I could share that would further establish the necessity of sharing life with and listening “well” to lost people, but those are my favorites.
I’d also like to confess that many times I go too far to one side or the other in trying to love my homeless friends. Sometimes I try to share the gospel, bringing up The love of God, judgement, hell and the grace displayed in the cross at inopportune times, hurting a new relationship. And sometimes I miss opportunities to mediate truth because I’m so busy just doing life with and enjoying the homeless. The reality is that we all desperately need not only the Holy Spirit leading us in these interactions, but we also need the community of the church to talk through the in’s and out’s of Evangelism and loving lost people. In the community of the church we can find out that we are not alone in navigating the motivations of guilt and fear, or in caring less about the lost and more about proving to ourselves that we can run through the four spiritual laws with an unsuspecting bystander, or just plain not caring enough about people to even think about evangelism. Just like I need my BroMo team in order to navigate these subjects well, you also need the community of the church in order to follow Jesus well.
Our Brothers & Mothers team is absolutely foundational and necessary in helping me not give up. Intertwining our lives with lost people, and especially lost people on the street, is difficult, frustrating, heart breaking work. Listening well to them is sometimes incredibly traumatic, since their lives are so often dripping with deep trauma, oodles of abuse, dedication to sin and the resulting deep brokenness. In light of this please do not forget to pray for myself and our whole team that we would continue to courageously intertwine our lives with our lost friends on the street and that we would walk in the Spirit of God as we seek to mediate the good news of Jesus to them.
God is powerfully at work in us on the BroMo team, as well as in the believers on the street, as well as those formerly homeless who are now housed in SLO. God is at work! Please don’t stop praying for us and for God to grow our gospel influence here on the central coast of CA. Thank you so much.
For Jesus and his lost ones on the street
805 903 2510
June 14th 2021 update
Hello dear friends. Thank you as always for your partnership with us in our heart of love and gospel mediation for our homeless friends. The following update is a spattering of a few highlights, consisting mainly of Forest and Charlie and their different dispositions towards the cross based grace of Jesus.
I met Forest at our Jesus Coffee outreach last week.
Last Friday, as I was strolling towards the cafeteria at the 40 Prado shelter I walked by this younger hispanic gangster looking guy - he was expressively slurping our Jesus Coffee signature drink, a hot coco & coffee mix w/a large mound of whip cream topped with rainbow sprinkles and cinnamon. He was making a bunch of noise, shaking his head, grunting a bit like he maybe didn’t like it - I said “hey brother, if you don’t like it I’d love to make you another one”. He quickly said that he actually totally loved it, and that he had just got out of prison after 10 years, and that in prison he didn’t have access to whip cream or anything “like this” in prison. He said that he was just so totally overwhelmed at how delicious it was. This guy was young, maybe late 20’s. I immediately thought that he probably went to prison when he was 18, probably for murder or something like that - getting an initial 20 year sentence, reduced to 10 due to his young age (slightly informed speculation). He said he was from the valley (Bakersfield), and that he moved away from his gang, relocating to SLO to escape “that life”, stating “they never did anything for me, I did my time for them, now I’m all done. I want to work and get a place, I’m all done.” As we quickly talked about who Jesus was to him, he joyfully claimed Jesus as his king and that the forgiveness of God was his - he had met Jesus at some point in prison. It was beautifully clear that Forest had appropriated the grace of God and was ready to live his new life. He was super down for encouragement and fellowship, it was wonderful to tell him of his value to God and the good plans Jesus has for him. He was all the while grunting and more stoked on a hot coco than I’ve probably seen even in a little kid. He also said that he was loving being in a big group, talking to a ton of people. He said he spent 90% of his last 10 years locked a cell by himself. This guy desperately needs our prayers - check out his courage in leaning into the forgiveness of Christ, his courage in believing that he could live a new life different that his last 20 years. Please pray that our BroMo group will have more opportunities to throw gasoline on the fire of this kids bonfire of faith. Please Pray for Forest!!!
I spent some time with Charlie last week at the shelter (5/28). Giving him a ride downtown and $20 after he showed up late to the shelter and lost his bed. Anelise and I saw him in downtown SLO today (6/5).
I’ve known Charlie for 8+ years. He was my client twice in two different case management programs - I was able to help him walk through a double hip replacement while with CAPSLO. He is funny, good company, in his late 50’s, with many friends and acquaintances all over SLO, the unofficial mayor of SLO. Anelise and I saw him walking in downtown SLO on the opposite side of the road as we drove by in my VW bus - we crossed traffic and parked on the wrong side of the street, jumping out to a surprised and slightly drunk Charlie. Drunk, but still cognizant. Not stumbling, but a bit of a beginning slur. He was super discouraged, stating in frustration about the disrespect of the shelter staff and the deep sadness of his life. He had recently been out of the homeless shelter for a few days, but not due to drinking. He had actually been sober for a small spell, But not anymore. He was in a dark place emotionally, resigned seemingly to the concrete walls of his alcoholism, on his way to 7-11 to get a bottle of vodka. We descended upon him with clear statements of his extreme value to the God who was in love with him, sharing the power of the cross of Jesus in his direction, challenging him to repent and believe the Gospel, hugging and pushing our hand on the shoulder engagement, praying for him in his moment of his self-hatred. The alcohol gave him a lovely bit of honest insight on the sadness of his life. Please remember that I’ve known him for years, so I knew him well enough to discern what he could receive - I don’t regularly find drunk guys to share the gospel with. To my surprise, our love for him in that moment broke him to tears, which is not normal for tough guy Charlie. In classic man fashion I stood there with my hand on his shoulder as he cried, and Anelise made eye contact with me and said under her breath strongly “will you please hug the man!!” (Thanks Anelise). In response to our call for Charlie to look at Jesus and the cross of Christ as a way out of his bondage - Charlie said, “I don’t have the balls for that…, my life is so messed up……. I can’t do that…. I can’t….”.
As I think about the heaviness of our time with Charlie and his sad withering at the warmly mediated Love of Jesus, The metaphor/picture that I have in my mind is of Charlie in a prison cell. Him locked up for life for some heinous crime, and him deeply hating himself for it. When given a chance to go free due to a pardon I can see Charlie refusing to leave his cell, screaming from the corner of his cell at his rescuers, “I DON’T DESERVE IT…., I’M TOO MESSED UP!”. This is Satans work my friends. As hard as it is to acknowledge, in the list of those who end up in hell is the “cowardly”:
Rev. 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
At a very basic level, when one somehow makes the decision to see their sin as being too disgusting, or ugly, or heavy for Jesus to forgive, one is saying that God is too weak to forgive. Deep insecurity, and self-hatred, of which I’ve been familiar with through different seasons of my life - these are expressions of Pride, of the unwillingness - a basic refusal - to trade in our self assessment for God’s assessment of ourselves. We humans love to arrogantly try to take our punishment into our own hands, to tell God that the cross was not enough, that we have the right to torture ourselves, to burn off the sin somehow. This is the core of the Catholic heresy of Purgatory.
But praise God that there is a way out of this self hatred. “But God being rich in Mercy… (Eph 3). This is God’s giddy, over the top, scandalously generous dumping out of the riches of his mercy on humans. It truly takes a desperate courage to believe the beauty of the good news of the Gospel, that God not only wants the mess of our lives, but that he can take the dead withered tree of our lives and turn it into the God rooted righteousness of a flowering fruit producing tree. In the following verse in the book of Romans we can clearly see that there is nothing that we can do “works of the law” to earn our justification - no self inflicted punishment, or any sort of “good work”, has any salvific power. God’s gift of righteousness can only be received as a gift my friends.
20 because by the works 1of the Law 2none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for 3through the Law comes 4knowledge of sin.
But now apart 1from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the 2Law and the Prophets, 22 but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction,
This truly is the wonderful and heart breaking work of Brothers & Mothers, to mediate the scandalous over the top riches of Christ for the throw away people of our community. To run after those mired in self-hatred, proclaiming God’s deep affection for these 21st century lepers and untouchables.
Please join me in praying for God to work whatever miracle it takes for Charlie to courageously believe that God truly does want his messed up life, and that through Repentance and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not only can Charlie be saved from hell and the wrath of God, but that God truly has warm affection for him as his intentionally created son and that God will transform his life into a fruitful tree. Please please please join me in praying for this miracle in Charlies life.
Here are a few more precious humans who need our prayers:
Nadine: Mom of the recently deceased Yolanda. She is genuinely walking with Jesus, reading the Bible a ton, and courageously grabbing ahold of God’s forgiveness for her. She has chucked her crack pipe and all her drug paraphernalia. Per her request, I brought her a bunch of verses on fighting temptation and believing God’s forgiveness via repentance. Satan is after her for sure, but God is able to keep her strong and will always provide a way of escape from Temptation. God is able to make her stand if Nadine is into it.
Joslin and Ben: Homeless in their van. Known them for the last 3 years. Periodically clean and not clean from meth. Girl states she has MS or fiber myalgia, in constant pain, said she was clean for a few days but super hard. She can’t stand very long, super open to prayer. Jewish federation might help with deposit if they can find a place maybe, looking for a place. Has a 19 year old daughter in the valley she calls monkey.
Ben: Deathly skinny mid 40’s. Actually took my number last week, after knowing him for a year. I’m trying to get him to let me take him to lunch. He is the passive member of the couple, trapped in a debilitating Cycle of using meth
Rebel Ron: good half hour chatting through our lives. Lonely and very isolated guy, with all his estranged fam. in Idaho w/4 bros and sis. pop was miner his whole life. Sounds like he knows Jesus, is just stuck in the isolation phase, trying to life a drug free life by living in the woods and staying away from toxic people. He needs the church! But much of the church does not want him. God have mercy.
Brian: Jesus follower downtown. Please pray that he will be open to the scripture that I will bring him next week on the necessity of using his mouth to build people up instead of tearing people down. He is a believer, known him for years - but has some blind spots that I’d love to see Jesus bring sight to. I’m hoping and praying that he will allow me to gently push him towards some aspect of discipleship.
David: Love this guy! True disciple. Pray that God will help him stay clean off of meth and that he will find and commit to a church.
Ray: True Disciple who lives in subsidized housing downtown. I get to meet with him weekly. Please pray that He will continue to stay clean off of drugs and alcohol and that God would give him wisdom in navigating the complexity of all his neighbors.
I’ll close with a picture of a book that I’ve been reading again lately. It’s a fabulous book written by Stephen Muse, who is a brilliant and very insightful orthodox therapist. This picture (as well as the book) continues to speak to me about what we of BroMo are attempting to do with our homeless friends. In the picture there are two people sitting down at a table across from each other, as true equals, with Jesus at the head of the table offering bread to both people at the table (think John 6:35). We of BroMo are not attempting to bring our superior wisdom or insight to our homeless friends, nor are we standing above our homeless friends in condescension. We are inviting them to sit down at a table with us, with Jesus, who is offering both of us his bread of life. Jesus has plenty of room at his table.
For Jesus and his lost ones
5/2021 update ------------------------------------
Hello friends. My update this week has two parts. The first part is the result of me processing through the implications of an interesting conversation I had with a fiery elfish homeless man next to Laguna Lake here in SLO. The second part is a gaggle of prayer requests from across our three outreaches this last week. I usually just send these out these prayer requests to our 15 active volunteers who are loaded in our local context. But I thought this week I’d invite our greater community (y’all) into the age-old practice of hopeful God directed intercession. We need all hands on deck for this tortured and confused people group.
Much love in Jesus our hope.
Pardon the slightly veiled profanity, but these are “things as they are”, in the words of Amy Carmichael the 18th century missionary to the child temple prostitutes of India.
“Clearly Constantine wrote the Fuc!$& Bible, not a word was written until the third century. It’s clear to me that the God of the Old Testament is an @$$h*le, and Jesus is an @$$h*le as well… It’s all a bunch of ridiculous garbage, I don’t need any of that, I’m an atheist, just like my whole family….”
Late 60’s Short and desert wrinkled, John was clearly upset. nostrils flaring from under his ball cap, his severely arthritic hands waving in the air, his short grey beard hardly hiding his bright red face. During this verbal tirade, a large black homeless man on foot began yelling at some other guy as he drove away behind us, and John’s wretchedly old dog limp-dragged himself, whimpering the whole way, to a new patch of shade under John’s trailer. It was quite a scene, and believe it or not it all happened around the same time. Truth be told it was one of the highlights of my interesting week, I was trying not to grin during the whole Shakespearean crack in reality. Please allow me to elaborate on the few reasons why this ended up being the grin producing highlight of my week.
Just to say the first reason right out of the gate, John’s profanity laden honesty was refreshing. I can work with authentic directness and honesty from my homeless friends, but deceptive half truths and “that’s good for you…” tells me nothing at all about one’s disposition towards Jesus or life. I’ve learned over the years to consider most of what my new homeless friends say about their connection to Jesus as malarky (yes there’s another word for this). Many of the longer term homeless are brilliant strategists when it comes to survival, since their ability to navigate complex relational situations is the prime determiner of safety. This sort of “I doubt your story” disposition is especially helpful when approaching a homeless person while flying a sign. Regardless of what the sign says, it's clear that the precious person with the sign is in desperate need of money. Many will say whatever they can to present positively to their potential benefactors - and please let's be careful of despising them for this proclivity, since we ALL do it in different ways. And please know that in no way do I show my new homeless friends that I’m respectfully taking their initial presentations of themselves with a grain of salt.
Most of us who are married probably did this sort of “put your best foot forward” early in the uncomfortable dating phase of one’s relationship. I for one, pretended to love hiking leg-burning switch back trails in the Columbia Gorge outside of Portland Oregon with my now wife Coral. I truly do not enjoy hiking - except if it’s flat, but I did it because I was in love with Coral and wanted her to love me back. It wasn’t a total lie, in that I enjoy being outside, and somewhat enjoy walking, and I definitely enjoyed walking with Coral. But walking up huge mountains for hours, even though with Coral….. this was not fun.
So back to our dear Elfish nostril flaring John. John was refreshing to me because he told me exactly what he thought about what he felt we were trying to sell him, which is rare. Although truth be told, we pushed John too far. When he clearly stated that he didn’t want to talk about religion, we kept pushing it, so we kind of deserved a verbal lashing - we learned our lesson. John’s honesty was not the only thing that was refreshingly challenging. John and Richard (my faithful vehicle outreach partner) and I had two different conversations with John after that initial outburst, lasting maybe a total of 20 minutes. In the course of those conversations John made these following statements that I’m going to list out. I’m listing out John’s statements here in order to share some of the tension in what John was presenting to his two Gospel pushing friends.
“I wanted to be a priest, but my dad never would have allowed that”
I care about all these people out here, I cook for them…..
“The Catholic Church has a bunch of screwed up stuff gong on…..”
“I love to cook, it gives me joy, it’s what makes me feel alive, its my gift from….. Mumbled something indiscernible (pointing up towards the sky)”
“Im sorry…….. sorry, I’m sorry”. Said this while we were leaving, in regard to his verbal lashing of us.
Do you have a card? Even though I don’t want to talk about him (Jesus), there are many out who really need to talk about Jesus.
The Reality for our new friend John (I believe), is that he most likely has very little idea who Jesus is, or what he stands for, and what sort of freedom and peace he offers. And he definitely has little idea on the foundations of the Bible, having regurgitated the standard American mythology on Bible. He was not in a space for respectful dialogue at that point, so I let his “the Bible is written by Constantine etc,… God and Jesus are assholes” go mostly unchallenged. I suspect that John is possibly not rejecting Jesus, but more than likely is rejecting all of organized religion, especially the Catholic Church - and who can blame John for that! Many in America, indiscriminately drinking the media handed to them on prime time TV, have been sold a lie about who Jesus is and what he stands for. These following deceptive factors hold the attention of many of the gospel-ignorant here in our America: The health/wealth gospel dominating the mid-west, the Richard Rohr/Oprah/Joel Olsteen universalist gospel slingers, adulterous rock star status mega church pastors, Trump worshiping hyper conservative believers foolishly associating republican politics, and hatred of their opponents, with the kingdom of God. Due to these, and many other factors, I’ve met MANY people (homeless and not) these last 10 years who think they are rejecting Jesus, when in reality they are truly rejecting these gross parody of the beautiful gospel of Life.
I like John. In John’s brutal profanity laden honesty, his love for cooking as a gift from God, his joy in helping and serving his homeless friends, I see hope that he is maybe, just maybe, more open to the good news of Jesus than most. Isn’t it just a little bit possible that John just might fit the lost sheep description in Matthew 18?
Lost sheep are an uncomfortable bunch. Brutalized and led over cliffs by false shepherds, mauled by vicious wolves, famished, thirsty and without direction. Having forgotten the masters voice, the masters warm care, the masters rod and staff. A lost sheep? I don’t know for sure that John is one of Jesus’ lost sheep, or one of his lost coins that he searches the house for in Luke 15, or a hated first century tax collector secretly longing for true connection to messiah. But regardless, a responsible read of scripture on God’s disposition towards the lost pushes me towards being SCARED of ever misrepresenting God’s heart towards them. I could be wrong. John truly could be dedicated to hating God. But in light of the evidence I think it be wise to look past his initial anti-God statements, seeing signs of his desire for my father in his greater story, and err on the side of compassion.
John’s willingness to cuss out those trying to love him remind me of someone else. When I was 16 my older, and much more stable, brother Isaac met Jesus. I watched his life change over a period of a year. Then he started pursuing me with the love of Jesus in the gospel, sharing the love of Christ with me as we washed dishes, leaving the Bible open on my pillow. I cussed out my brother a few times in that process, telling him to leave me alone. I am so incredibly super grateful that my brother didn’t conclude that I was a disrespectful blasphemous rejector of the Gospel. He kept relentlessly pursuing me and praying for me and loving me until the God inspired Spirit of LOVE embodied by brother won me over. Praise Jesus for his mercy!
So, my friends. Who are the “John’s” in your life?
Please pray that our relationship with John (and the many “John’s” on the street) will expand and that whatever is in the way of him confessing Jesus as Lord and giving his life over to God will be identified and removed. Let's pray for those miracles.
Our Brothers & Mothers team lives to throw ourselves into the lives of those who have not only given up on themselves, but whom the established church world reverse-engineers out of their fellowships. These are our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles - they belong at our table. Thank you so much dear family of Christ for continuing to partner with us in prayer, in giving, in volunteering, in encouragement.
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The following prayer requests are those that stood out to me from our adventures among the homeless this last week. There are many more we interacted with in our shelter/street/shelter outreaches, but I don’t want to overwhelm with all of them. Some are our family in Christ, some are our human family, but they are all family. Please pray for these precious son’s and daughters of God.
Nadine: Precious old black lady. Lost her daughter to an overdose last month. Long term user/dealer. Now genuinely clean from using, and trying to stay away from that evil world, trying to follow Jesus. When I asked her what led her to make that huge decision she said, “the encouragement from you guys…..”. Praise God! Please pray for wisdom for our team for HOW to support her in this step of hers.
Michael: Nadine’s son. He asked me to put hands on him and pray for him, very open to gospel encouragement, but still trapped in the world of using. Very mentally ill. Staying at Shelter.
Christine and Billy: Christine is sober and going through withdrawals, please pray for perseverance for her. She has her daughter back in her life again and she is working with a case manger. Super open to Christ and care from us, and encouragement. Homeless in their van.
Ron and Lisa: Living in a wretched broken down SUV in SLO. They both need Jesus to wake them up to the life that could be theirs in Christ. They are both open to Christ but are very ignorant of how to move forward.
Christine, Paul, Robert and Ben. Living in the midst of a ton of trash in and around their truck. Believe it or not, they feel that using Meth helps them stay connected to God - there was a lot to this conversation, but that was the thrust of it! Demonic self-deception is very real in every socio-economic people group, but wow is it thick in this area! This was mostly Ben, but the rest of them are not far from this statement. They mistakenly think the fruit of the flesh is the fruit of the spirit. Please pray for a miracle . Robert was the most open to relationship and conversation. Felt a bit unsafe with them in their dark world. But we were in a semi public space. Pray.
Ray: Dear older disciple of Jesus that I meet with weekly. Pray for his two hernias and upcoming operation, he is VERY nervous about this. His mind has been in “knots” lately, and he needs God to straighten them out. He is on a LOT of mental health medication. Pray for him to grab ahold of his assurance of salvation, that Jesus truly will not let him go and that because of the cross he is clean and forgiven. Subsidized housing.
David: Disciple of Jesus that I meet with regularly. Please pray that he will persevere in walking with Jesus, that he will turn his love of Jesus into regular disciplined reading of the work of God, prayer and fellowship. Leaving his isolation is tough for him, please pray for courage! Subsidized housing.
Tony: Recently had his truck towed, with everything in it, now homeless with just the clothes on his back and a small backpack - he is devastated and super ashamed. When asked, “do you know Jesus…” he said, “I’m just beginning to know him”. Cried super quick when I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. Raw and in need. Please pray for him. Fly’s a sign at the Madonna shopping center by McDonalds. Street homeless.
Brian and daughter Kimberly: Known him/her for years - Brian is a Christ follower doing the best he can while living on the street. He has begun going to church with a friend in Oceano with Ray and a few other long time believers in the (formerly) homeless community, which is a huge answer of prayer for us. Please pray for Kimberly that she will meet Jesus, she is very non-verbal and stays glued to her iPad all day. Street homeless.
The following are prayer requests from our Jesus Coffee outreach, from those using the shelter here in SLO. I’ve written them mostly as they are written on scraps of paper:
Pray for the Diaz family
Cord: Moving to Paso on Monday. Cord is developmentally delayed, has gone back to using Meth a number of times these last 6 months. It is amazing he is still alive at this point. He is a sweet older man with a big beard. He is moving into his own place in a neighboring town, so he needs WISDOM and a connection to a Christian community.
Rebecca: Please pray for me to get housing that I get either a voucher or a low income apartment in July. Also prayers for my family and my children that I get to spend more time with them. Thank you.
Jessie and Stephanie: Plase pray for better life for me and for help in my relationships. For housing and for wisdom in finances. Pray that both of these people will find their identity in Jesus and not in their chosen sexuality.
Jani: For Dianne’s back to get better.
Christian: That he would trust Jesus for the multiple levels of complexity in his life, instead of daily drinking cheap hard alcohol and using weed. We had a great conversation tonight on what it looks like to suffer as a Christian. He is presently (will be for years) recovering from a massive brain injury from a car accident. He is trying to follow Jesus, maybe just a little bit.
Michael: Jesus follower. Struggles with alcoholism for MANY years. Recently obeying Jesus more intentionally and moving back into fellowship.
Thank you! “The fervent prayer of the righteous man availith much”
4/2021 update ------------------------------------
Today in downtown SLO I experienced one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in at least a few months. This will sound a bit odd, but I’ll explain. I saw a pair of gums.
It’s common knowledge that many who get stuck in the homeless community for any longish period of time can end up with pretty nasty teeth. If you haven’t noticed, good dental care (as well as nutritionally rich food) is mostly inaccessible to the poor. I’ve observed over the years that those in the poverty community with missing, broken, brown or chipped teeth - they will very rarely smile big enough for you to see all of their teeth. Of course this is a no brainer that humans try to hide their blemishes. Our inclination to “hide” is the big money concept behind makeup, or it’s big brother, plastic surgery. There are not a ton of people who will confidently display their physical road bumps, if they can help it, especially in light of our toxic youth-worshiping culture.
My dear Jesus following friend Ray is the owner of those beautiful pair of gums that I saw downtown in front of the courthouse, with fellow street outreach queen Anelise. I’ve mentioned him before in past updates. I get to see him every week - we get together so I can read him the Bible (he can barely read) and explain the big words. He fortunately is no longer homeless, finally was able to find a place to live about 18 months ago. In this last year he has truly been transformed by Jesus in a number of powerful ways. He has completely walked away from Meth, has stopped drinking alcohol, does not smoke weed anymore, and has even stopped smoking cigarettes. I am so incredibly proud of him. And in the midst of that process he has become the periodic owner of that rare gem called Joy.
Last year Ray had all his teeth pulled out, and is now waiting and hoping for a shiny new pair of dentures. But that can be a long and sometimes futile wait. Especially for one on a fixed income. And one of the most humiliating and excruciatingly frustrating dental issues for one in poverty is to have no teeth.
Anelise and I were debriefing and praying in my VW bus after some time with our homeless friends. I looked up and saw Ray walking towards us, oblivious of our presence. Anelise jumped out of the bus and surprised him a warm greeting - and the resulting explosion of joy from Ray led to him smiling so big that I caught a quick glimpse of his beautiful pair of slick gums. We talked warmly of Jesus for a while, caught up quickly on each others lives, and ended up all holding hands and praying for each other.
In the process of walking away from all the drugs and the drama of the street, Ray has also as a result had to walk away from all his friends. He is very lonely in his tiny subsidized apartment above Hamburger Habit. Genuine Christian fellowship is more and more becoming precious to Ray. His huge toothless gum revealing smile again challenged me to the core, to not give up praying for and working hard with our team towards some sort of church-ish-is expression among the downtown SLO poor/homeless community. Please join us in that prayer for the SLO poverty community.
I personally needed that bit of light shining out of Ray’s smile in downtown SLO today. It’s been a heavy few weeks. This last month we lost 4 different people from the SLO homeless community, three of which I knew well. Two people died of overdoses, one dear old lady from suicide, and another one I found out about today - not sure of the cause of his death yet. Yolanda, Donald, Jan, and Kevin. In light of these deaths I’ve once again been personally reminded that Heaven and Hell are inseparable realities woven into the warp and woof of Judeo-Christian scripture. The tangible expressions of the LOVE of our Brothers & Mothers team, paired with the verbal expression of the Gospel good news - this is what we are fighting with, these are our weapons against the despair and the oppression in the homeless community. Please please join us in praying for God’s movement among the poverty community of SLO. Thank you!
3/2021 update ------------------------------------
Greeting to all of us in Jesus name. This update will be a bit different in that I’m mainly writing to ask, to actually plead with you, to offer up prayer to Jesus for a few precious people. These people I’m going to present are a few of those local San Louis Obispo homeless whom our street outreach team see regularly.
Allowing worry, or anger, or angst, to turn into prayer is not natural for me. I wish I could say differently. I have three people in particular in my life on our BroMo volunteer team, who constantly challenge me to trust Jesus by turning my internal angst into intercession. I want to offer a strong thank you to these three: my best friend wife Coral, super volunteer/friend/sister Anelise, and Jedi knight mentor John Knox, for showing my independent self how to live a life of prayer.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
We have been praying for many of these people for years, so their stories will sound familiar, because many of their stories are stuck on repeat. Some would say that our continued investment in them is a waste of time. We might not say it, but we definitely think it. I think it sometimes. But if it was me, or you, I wouldn’t want to be given up on. We humans of course lean towards high yield stocks, easy to grow crops like tomato’s or peas, and for the teachers among us – we love and lean towards those students who eagerly and attentively suck up our instruction. But as far as I remember, a famous Jewish teach once said somewhere, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”. These friends of ours on the street are oh so sick. Remember that mercy triumphs over judgment friends. And I don’t say this as a socialist, or as a redistribution-of-wealth bleeding heart. I say this as a Jesus follower.
Mike: Sits in a bus stop most all day every day, across from the SLO courthouse, for the last 5+ years. Originally from England, came here 15 years ago on a work visa. Paid 40% tax on his wages as a foreigner, then when he lost his job and requested some assistance, he was nowhere to be found in the system – yes this does happen. He would be homeless in England if he went back, and here as a foreigner he does not have access to health care (outside of the ER) or the simplest social assistance like GA. He is funny, warmly engaging, able to express his thoughts eloquently, and is a constant source of humor in regards to recent American politics. He has a form of cancer in his legs that leave them swollen to double, triple their size, cracked and oozing. I see him almost every week, sometimes twice a week. My wife and I support him with some necessary mediation, and he sucks down at least 3 cups of our high end coffee, which serves as a fabulous diuretic. Please pray that God will supernaturally move in his heart and that he would come to known Jesus. He is a skeptic, but is close to the kingdom. I would like to see Mike come to know Jesus before he dies, which could be any day. I want to be in heaven with this beautiful stinky man. Please join me in praying for Mike.
Justin: Mid 30’s, used to go to my church in Morro Bay, plagued by voices, in and out of housing programs over the last number of years. Now he wanders the streets of SLO, increasingly yelling profanity, over the last month or so he has been talking of being raped and walking in and out of traffic. Yes he is a drug addict. Covered with sores, barely dressed at times, dragging a blanket or a nasty sleeping bag. This guy is someone’s son….. I get to spent time with him almost every week. Sometimes we hug and chat, he asks me to pray for him and is painfully aware of his lost ness. And sometimes he is too messed up and wild eyed to talk to any human. Lately he is even more disconnected from reality. I don’t even know how to pray for him, except, “Jesus PLEASE help my brother Justin…”. Please join me in that prayer.
Brian: On the street for years, with his 27 year old daughter – Brian is in his early 60’s I believe. He is a Jesus follower, but believes that all he can do is ask for money on the street and try to scratch out a meager existence. He is as pugnacious as they come, sometimes violent, but usually only in self defense or out of necessity. Survived three heart attacks, has gout, ulcers and a bunch of other health stuff. Cries regularly when we talk about Jesus, desperately misses the fellowship of going to church regularly. Passionately HATES masks, and is deathly afraid of dying in his sleep. Please pray that he will allow me to weekly take him to coffee/lunch so that I can mediate Jesus to him and help him see that while he is alive there is still powerful beauty in the world for him to experience. He is dominated by fear. Please pray that Jesus will help my brother GROW in his relationship with Jesus.
There are many more, but just a few more, so I don’t overwhelm.
Gary and Susan: This last week I was finally able to convince them to try to access the shelter system here in SLO. They were both kicked out of the shelter over the year ago. Gary is an early 60’s 6’4” autistic alcoholic musician, who loves to take care of people, and who has a tremendous capacity for abuse. Susan is a dear mid-50’s catholic, yet extremely secular, woman with a fiery tongue. Gary can go back to the shelter, but won’t go without Susan. Susan has an upcoming appointment with the shelter manager Jared. In the middle of trying to help prepare Them for the upcoming shelter meeting at Laguna lake today, they both defended into a nasty name calling session (not towards me), with lots of tears and frustration from both of them – I had to leave. I love these guys, but also don’t know how to pray for them. They are just so very stuck. I’ve tried so many angles with my gospel proclamation, with case management options, couples counseling, etc…. Please pray that either they will break up and go their separate ways before one of them kills the other (seriously), or that they would both truly repent and come to know Jesus and walk with him. And also please pray that Susan will humble herself, keep her vicious tongue under control, and that the Prado shelter allows both of them back into the shelter. They need those resources so very badly. She is incontinent – no bladder control, can barely walk. He broke his hip two weeks ago and now he can barley walk. They are stuck in their nasty mini van with their slightly zombie-like deaf and blind chihuahua. Please pray for God’s intervention.
Thank you for joining us in caring for these precious people.
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2/2021 Update -------------------------------------------------------
Just a few snapshots to help you get a glimpse of what we are up to among the homeless these last few weeks.
Here is a symphony of statements that somewhat summarizes our last few days of Gospel work among the homeless of SLO.
“I’m 9-0 out here, I don’t look for it but sometimes you have to fight, its just the way it is. I’m sure I’ll get beat some day. I had to fight ‘squidward’ (some poor guys street name) last night, he woke us up at 3am asking for weed and wouldn’t leave us alone, all whacked out on something….”
B. Known him for close to 3 years. Genuine Christ follower. He’s got his sins and struggles, just like you and me – and don’t think his sins are worse than yours.
“You hurt me every day, every single day, you hurt me over and over and over (insert profanity between every word)…..”.
G&S – during a couples counseling session I did with them at Emerson park. G was pretty drunk, and continued to sharpen a metal spear all during our time as they both screamed at each other, both trying to convince me that the other was the root of their abusive relationship. Both are convinced they are Christians, and are not open to refinement on the subject. Anelise and I held hands with them today and prayed over their tension filled relationship. Believe it or not, God is at work in these guys.
“I’ve been bleeding for 4 days in a row, I’ve got diabetes and I’m sleeping on the street and you don’t give a Shit, you worthless no good mother f$%%%@@ etc…”
E – this is what she yelled at me, with no apparent context we could discern at first, as we approached her and her boyfriend downtown. I had interacted with them maybe 3 times these last 2 months. I drove by and waved at them yesterday on the way to an appointment downtown. Since I didn’t stop and give them something they somehow took this as cold hearted total rejection. They were red faced furious at us. Anelise and myself had to jump in our van and drive off, as they were both yelling profanity and insults at us walking towards our open window. It was a very hurtful, and bizzare situation. But not too far out of the realm of “hurt people hurt people”. Still processing this.
“G moved into his place a month ago, he was one of ours (in the HUB program I used to work for), he was just found in his apartment dead of a heart attack last week. And C just last week got in a massive car accident that crushed his skull. He is still in intensive care. And we also lost JS earlier this month to a massive stroke.”
My conversation with my former supervisor in the 40 Prado parking lot before our Jesus Coffee outreach. Our people are more fragile than most.
This is just a small slice of the incredible variety of people and situations that our team has the privilege of mediating Jesus to. Not easy, but oodles of joy at times explode in our hearts as we spend time with them. We love this group of people dearly and see great things in store for many of them. And God is at work my friends. The work is definitely symphonic, sporadic, with seasons of darkness and hibernation, as well as intense seasons of flowering and fruit bearing. But to be honest, this week was tough.
The following is a list of the prayer requests we received at the shelter tonight. We have a basket with pens and paper to write out prayer requests on and drop it the basket. Please choose at least a few that you resonate with and pray for them. Thank you, and may Jesus richly bless you for your partnership with us in this adventure.
V: sciatica. Pray for pain relief and good sleep.
J&S: Peace of mind
J: Prayer for son Chris’ lumbar back spine leakage surgery, or nerve blocks. Wants cure. I would like more real time with them and so on. …. And continue with day bed here at shelter.
C: medicine for surgery for blood disease.
R: Pray for all 40 Prado
JS: Strength and courage
JR: new marriage, wisdom and sacrificial love.
G: sobriety and honoring God in his relationship with his girlfriend
1/2020 Update -------------------------------
Hello dear friends. The following is a video where I share a bit on the uniqueness of the SLO area for the homeless community from the SLO creek bed, as well as give our present January 2021 context for our work among the homeless community. Due to the deep bondage that many of our believing homeless friends are stuck in, I’ve been super challenged on many levels to renew my commitment as the BroMo director this year to leading our group in praying before, during, and after all of our footprints in the community. So much of this ministry has to be done as an interconnected community, and in the sprit and power of prayer. Last week we met as a group here in Los Osos to look over all the variety of movements we experienced this last year, as well as talk about where God is leading us this year, and ending with spending extended time in prayer, it was wonderful! Wednesday I’ll be sending out another email/video elaborating on our continued push into God’s blessing for the homeless community in 2021, and a list of people that we are praying for this week. I deeply value your partnership with us in our service of Love for those on the streets of our community. Please check out our following video, and radio show link, and please join me in continuing to interceding for God’s rescue of our homeless friends – as well as wisdom for our leadership team in being wise missionaries to our unique context.
I’m slowly learning to use a GoPro (I’m a recovering technophobe), so in my amateur-ness I cut off the video a little abruptly at the end.
About a month ago I was hosted on a radio show put on by a local pastor and friend Kurt Pflegl in SLO. Be warned that It’s an hour long, but I was able to distill a chunk of our history as a non-profit and chat through some extended descriptions of God’s heart for the poor that we are seeking to live out.
May you be found deeply enjoying Jesus and all that he has for you this year.
805 903 2510
12/2020 Update -------------------------------
Hello dear friends! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
A warm greeting and a hearty MERRY CHRISTMAS from our whole Brothers & Mothers team to all of you! I can truly say with Paul the apostle in Philippians 1, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Having a ferocious and rather debilitating independence streak, It’s been a wonderful challenge to realize (and actualize) the need for a whole team of partners in seeing our vision for the homeless turn into a reality.
As a result of a lot of hard work from our team, and the continual empowerment of the Holy Spirit, this last year has brought a lot of change to our little group: We have changed clothes from an underground handful of volunteers serving 4-6 hours a week, to a board led 501c3 crowdfunded non-profit giving 20+ hours a week to loving the poor of SLO in Jesus name; This last year Carol and Jenny have taken the Prado based women’s study from an idea, to a movement with so much momentum that the ladies at the shelter are begging for a weekly meeting (instead of our present bi-monthly meeting); John Knox has started (and I joined him as happy sidekick in October) the bi-monthly Men’s bible study; I’ve had the privilege of starting phase 2 of our vision with our Thursday and Friday street outreaches, with the goal to establish a contextualized church among the homeless of downtown SLO – thank you so much to Ryan, Anelise and Carol for their work this last year; and our weekly Jesus Coffee session at the shelter continues to be a foundational footprint in communicating LOVE to our brothers and sisters in Crisis at the shelter.
The following is a youtube link to my video update, essentially a Merry Christmas and a bit of a year summary, from the SLO cemetery next to the 40 Prado center.
Thank you so very much to all of our prayer partners, our financial partners, my church Calvary Shoreline and all the encouragement of my pastor and friend Ed Compeon, our volunteers, our board of directors and all those who have sacrificed to see Jesus work his magic among our homeless friends this last year. Even with all the heaviness of COVID this year, the boiling racial tension, the Jerry Springer fiasco of present day politics, and the massive unemployment in America……. I’m still genuinely excited to see the miraculous sloppy grace of Jesus explode in the homeless community this coming year. Next year is going to be awesome! Mediating the unrelenting LOVE of our father for the “garbage” people on the street is exactly where I want to be – and once again thank you for joining us in this adventure.
The following is Carol Barnes beautiful assessment of what our warm God is doing among the ladies of the 40 Prado center through the ladies bible study:
“It's been over a year now that we have been having a Ladies study at 40 Prado. What an incredible opportunity God has given us to have "church" with these precious women. That is what it feels like, church. We come together every other Friday night for fellowship, worship, and teaching. There has been a core group of about 4 women who come consistently, while others come and go. These 4 women have been there for many months. They are dealing with so much, a lot of pain and health issues.
They love Jesus! They love to worship: holding hands high; singing from their hearts. They are so open and vulnerable. Just the way Jesus wants us to be. I think I can learn something from them! The Spirit anoints this time, and brings peace and encouragement to us all as we focus on Him.
The teaching has been shared between Jenny, Mary and me with Cindy coming alongside as support. We have focused on women of the Bible, and most recently, the book of Luke, focusing on Jesus. We facilitate the teaching and are always amazed at how the Holy Spirit weaves together what the ladies share with what we are teaching.
The ladies are so hungry for fellowship and being in God's word! They have asked if we could meet every week! PTL! It is a joy and a privilege to know them! They all have their issues, but so do I!
Thanking God for His Grace and Mercy!”
The following section is my summary of some of what I (we) are experiencing during our Thursday and Friday outreaches:
These last six months I have had a tension filled relationship with Mitchell park here in SLO. Over this last year I’ve spent one to two days a week, a total of 4-6 hours weekly, riding around SLO on my bike connecting with the homeless at the various multiple hot spots, preaching the gospel, praying for people, and intertwining my life in with theirs. My faithful companions Ryan Anderson and Anelise, and sometimes Carol, have joined me in this adventure. Our eventual goal is to establish a Jesus worshiping community of sorts (church!) where the downtown subsidized housing dwellers, as well as the homeless, can be encouraged to follow Christ and be discipled in the way of Jesus. Many of the downtown homeless, as well as the subsidized housing dwellers, will stay away from Mitchell park. There is a public bathroom there, and it’s about 2 blocks away from downtown SLO, ample trees and plenty of grass to lounge on. It’s known as “tweaker” park, due to the large number of homeless who spend their days smoking meth in the bathroom, rotting their brains away and chasing various forms of drama. Many people view this group of homeless with about as much affection as they see a cockroach. This group is the lowest of the low on the street. And even among the homeless they will say “I’ve been clean for three months”, even while smoking weed and still drinking alcohol periodically – what they mean is clean from meth. Meth is viewed as the genuine bottom. It’s called Satan’s drug for a reason. I won’t go into all that meth does to one’s body and soul, but In essence one can say that meth takes away one’s humanity – and one can imagine what happens in the dark when humans are acting more like crazed animals than humans. And believe you me, they all hate themselves for it.
The tension for me in Mitchell park is this: Those who are furthest from Christ are the most in need of Christ. Right? Didn’t Jesus say, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” Mark 2:17 – and sinners come in all shapes and sizes. I really do believe this. As Christians we should be in the red light district chopping it up with hookers and pimps, seeking to mediate our Jesus. Our hearts should be moved with compassion as we drive by the gay bar in full swing on a Saturday night. It should also grieve us to meet those conservative upper middle class “believers” who genuinely hate their political antagonists and don’t “lift a finger” to live out the gospel, just like It should hurt our soul to see our middle aged post-divorce female neighbor come home with a different man every few weeks. Jesus constantly aimed his gospel at the (self) righteous religious addict as well as the brash unashamed sinner, both were constantly challenged to repent. So I feel compassion for those at Mitchell park, but feeling compassion and committing to consistent action are two different things. And please know that I’m not trying to set you, the reader, up to somehow be guilted into starting spending time with crack dealers and prostitutes. Jumping into these sorts of ministries truly does require the thoughtful calculating investment of a whole missions minded team, not just one person. But of course, as usual, I’m trying to motivate you to think theologically about our lower classes here in America.
The short of it is this. I have been staying away from Mitchell park because I’ve slowly begun to drift towards seeing them as a waste of time, as a group that is too far gone, as a field full of thorns and rocks with no possibility of good fruit. I’ve had a change of heart after today. I’m not going to spend all my time there to the exclusion of the rest of the homeless in downtown SLO, but I’m going to once again make Mitchell park a regular part of our outreaches. There are just too many of our local downtown homeless hanging out in that park for me to ignore them.
Since our crazy vision involves saturating the three most accessible areas of homelessness (Street/Shelter/vehicle homelessness) with Jesus and his gospel, then there is no way I can say that we are doing this in the street arena’s while neglecting tweaker park. Basically I think it would be unjust, discriminatory, and basically anti-Christian to say “screw the tweaker”, I’m going to try find some less complicated homeless friends. Especially since about 35% of the 80K overdoses this last year nationally were meth related. So, in light of this, at tweaker park on Friday we passed out coats and gift bags, poured coco and coffee w/whip cream, passed out bibles and bible verse packets. We also heard peoples stories, prayed for people and preached the gospel. In the process of all this gritty face to face interaction, eye contact, hand shaking and person to person relationship, I basically once again was forced to experience them as sheep without a shepherd. More precisely, they are sheep without THE shepherd. They definitely have their shepherds: Alcohol, meth, weed etc…. Which could be called mediators or “maladaptive coping mechanisms”, but what horrifically wretched shepherds these things are!
Please pray for us as we seek to be thoughtful, intentional, and tenacious missionaries to this incredibly oppressed (sometimes possessed) group of humans. My hearts desire for them is along these lines (please pray for me!), “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thess. 2:7.
Lastly, I decided to do a video drive around of the 40 Prado center, along with some descriptions of their services. The 40 Prado center is a HUGE partner for us, in that they allow us to do our weekly Jesus Coffee outreach as well as the men’s and women’s bible study, even though they are a secular shelter. Their partnership continues to be a miracle on every level. The 40 Prado center is managed by CAPSLO, a very large non-profit involved in about 13 counties all over CA. At one point the director of CAPSLO “Biz” came by on a Friday night and gave Grace Macintosh (40 Prado director) some crap about having a Christian group serving in their lobby (we have a “Jesus Coffee” sign on our table). Grace reportedly told “Biz”, “These guys (us!) are the only group doing this sort of thing, and our people love them. If a Mormon or Buddhist or Islamic group wanted to do the same thing I would gladly allow them to, but as it stands, Jesus Coffee is the only group willing to serve like this.” So this year we bought 8 of their key staff $20 Starbucks cards, in a pretty handwritten card and a gift basket (my wife would be proud). Thoughtfully Maintaining our partnership with 40 Prado will continue to be a huge priority for us. Please check out the following drive around description of 40 Prado.
Once again, thank you so very much for your partnership in the gospel with us.
805 903 2510
Mid November 2020 update.
Hello friends. The various stories I’ve been hearing from our team these last few weeks, as well as my recent experiences on the streets of SLO, has had me thinking about how much unnecessary tension Jesus constantly wove into many of his parables. Jesus regularly made the most hated and despised of his hearers world the hero’s of his stories. Think of the tax collector, the woman caught in adultery, and the story of the good Samaritan. In our world we can replace those anti-hero’s with the meth dealer, the section 8 system player mom with 5 kids and multiple lovers, and the porn shop owner. Our natural inclination is to visibly cringe when these despised member of our society receive any sort of grace. Why is this?
Because (just speculating) I think we intrinsically want mercy/grace to go towards those who are pure victims, who have done nothing to contribute to their sad state. To hand oodles of Grace to the “undeserving” smells like a violation of Justice, dare I say an inefficient and lack-of-stewardship waste of that precious grace, and definitely is massive fuel towards those losers continuing their nasty behavior. And historically, the desire to make those particularly nasty sinners pay a bit more than the rest of us, had it’s expression in the Catholic creation of Purgatory. But mean non-conformist Jesus leaves us constantly cringing, regularly thwarting our desire to fuel our “deserving poor” and“undeserving poor” categories. What about us? What about you? Did you earn the mercy of God more than that meth dealer? What was your life like before Jesus rescued you from the garbage heap of humanity? Do you somehow feel you deserve, are entitled to, God’s mercy more than that porn shop owner who just met Jesus? The truth of the matter is that exactly how all of us “fall short of the glory of God” is truly unimportant in God’s economy, which is the core of the “stumbling block” of the cross. The fact of the matter is that we are all crowded in the sad elevator of humanity together as those who have all fallen radically short, and who are all equally unable to save our selves. Just like our friend Cord (who you will meet soon), we are all simply in desperate need of the miracle of God’s redemptive grace.
I’m not denying the reality of the multiple tension filled philosophies that absolutely must answer the questions of “why and how do we help the poor?”. Those questions (which I LOVE to read deeply on) must be navigated, with one hand on solid biblical theology, another hand on secular psychological theory, and a firm biblical hermeneutical grid to force it all through. But, friends, if the realities of the cross of Christ are not first on our mind as we turn to figure out how and why to help the poor, then we are already wrong!
J.R. Baker, my boss and fellow chaplain at the Portland Rescue Mission where I worked from 2005-2010, said this in light of a similar discussion. “His grace is extravagantly wasteful”.
With this in mind, I’d like to tell you about my friend Cord. 6’3” developmentally delayed sweet mess of a man. “Too severe” for the HUB (dual diagnosis case management) program at our local 40 Prado shelter. Cord semi-regularly experiences auditory and Visual hallucinations, and sometimes fights off those trying to steady and stabilize him. Along with being developmentally delayed, Cord also has a proclivity towards meth and alcohol. Six months ago I experienced this lovely man on the streets of SLO, on upper Marsh, not too far from the Victoria Secret store. He has wide engaging eyes, a simple child like countenance, and had dirty clothes soiled here and there that day with a brown substance that I tried not to conclude was “that” substance. He cannot read or write, is a constant target of the evil meth dealers that feast on his simple and easy trusting nature – and his monthly SSI check. Beard full of snot. Not small strings here and there, but thick multiple strands, wet and dried. Back then I engaged him with warmth, coffee, socks and prayer with hand on his shoulder, trying to avoid touching the brown mystery substance. Cord eventually made it back into the shelter, then worked up the courage to share his life with a case manger, leading to MH medication, healthy relationships, sobriety and becoming more stable. Our Team (Friday Jesus coffee team) spent regular quality time with him and ended up ordering him a “talking bible”, but were unable to give it to him since he got a place to live. That was six months ago. He was doing great back then, clean, happy to regularly report to us that he was walking with Jesus and clean from drugs and alcohol.
Fast forward to Today. Today I saw Cord on the streets of SLO. During my Friday afternoon outreach I decided to go to a section of SLO that I usually don’t go, a place tucked away behind SLO bbq, next to the creek, on a dark overgrown section of the creek path. I at first did not recognize Cord, mostly because he was the quintessential drunk, in the process of finishing a pint of vodka. I usually stay away from those who are exceptially drunk or high, for obvious reasons. I rode my bike past Cord, concluding that this disheveled drunk was not to be engaged. I stopped my bike about 20 yards away and looked back, recognized him, paused, and proceeded to go back. Here he was again, like six months ago, a total heart wrenching mess of a human. He got kicked out of his housing due to drinking, ended up in the ER with Pneumonia, which I could hear in his lungs, and was fresh back on the street as of a few days ago. Beard full of snot, soiled clothes, drunk, depressed and hopeless. This was hard for me. Last I saw him he was headed off to his new life, a success story to himself and others, and example of the shelter system at work.
Part of what’s hard about Cord’s situation, is that I think I’m just so used to Disney movie plot lines. I think through the story of Shrek, Frozen, Tangled, Aladdin, Moana, etc….. (which I’ve seen dozens of times) and I realize that I’ve been trained to only tolerate so much tension in a story before wanting a dramatic resolve in the form of some sort of rescue by a hero, then we get the resulting resolution that stays in place forever. The “happier ever after” ending. But the reality is that us humans are not like that. Even though Cord’s situation is dramatic, it’s not too different from our own stories, on a smaller scale (sometimes) for us middle class-ers. What area’s of persistent debilitating sin do you struggle with? The poverty/lower class sins are easy to gasp at: Meth use, violence, prison terms, drug dealing, scandalous sex, etc….. But what about our sins. Do we just repent, and then never do them again? I wish the answer was yes. So how many times do we engage in gluttony, coveting, gossip or character assassination, or men fantasizing about women who are not their wives, or falling in love with the stability or instability of your bank account, or believing your value as a human is based on how awesome or not awesome your body is. Forgiveness is real, and necessary, and easily accessible for all of us, praise God! But repentance is never just a one time thing, it’s actually a lifestyle that we are constantly called to live in.
Why don’t we see the nature shows where the hyenas are tearing the intestines out of a still screaming wilderbeast? Because the directors of these shows know that those sorts of scenes war against our divine nature, where our soul would call out “NOOOOOOOOO”. To see this would go way beyond interesting entertainment and would (should) frankly make us sick. This is my experience on the streets of SLO sometimes. It’s would be a lot easier to not get to know these people, to just hand them coffee or socks with no eye contact or relational invitation. Then their symphonic attempts to crawl out of the hell hole of too-scared-to-kill-myself addiction and self hatred, and to get pulled back down to get torn up again – this would just be a distant reality. But this is my vision for Brothers and Mothers right? Yes! We as a non-profit are called to be that collective group of Jesus followers who are positioned everywhere in the homeless world – shelter, street, and vehicle homelessness – ready to push our Holy Spirit inspired social, emotional and spiritual support, to encourage and build up, To give people our hearts, to preach this scandalous extravagantly wasteful grace, to cheer when people succeed, to hold people as they weep in light of their failure.
So I did my best stumbling attempt to encourage Cord, to warmly connect with him, to speak of Christ and his mercy. And of course we talked about meth and alcohol and his plans for the future. But it’s complicated – Cord self medicates w/alcohol at this point in order to stay off of the meth, which is what he told me. Staying drunk keeps him away from meth, and also keeps his dangerous psychosis at bay. But it also keeps him out of the local shelter that has the resources he needs. Cord actually asked me, “Andrew, don’t you think alcohol Is better than meth right now? I transitioned from meth to alcohol in the past, then got sober, so this is my strategy”. To explain my answer to Cord would take too much space, so I’ll just leave it hanging. As both of us wept I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed my heart out. His beard filled with more snot as he loudly wailed “Jesus please have mercy on me, please help me….”, as I tried to ignore the well dressed couple as they nervously walked by our scene.
I called my connection at the local shelter to see if Cord was suspended from shelter services, or just needed to test clean to get back in.
“He just has to sober up, then he can have shelter services again….”, Crystal the 40 Prado case management super boss tells me over the phone. “He just has to test clean.” This means that he would have to pee in a cup and they would test if he had any meth/opiates etc… in his system, as well as have him do a breathalyzer test.
It seems so simple right? Just get sober and go back to the shelter. But none of this is simple. And the reality is that it does not matter that I’m an ordained pastor with two masters degrees in theology and 15 years experience working the the homeless. As I tell all our volunteers with Bromo, we are desperately in need of the Holy Spirit to help us navigate how to love this group of people. And to be honest, Cord is a “type” that many of our dozen volunteers regularly experience as we are doing gospel ministry among the homeless of SLO. Please pray for us. Please pray for them.
I know I’m leaving us with some substantially dark overtones, but this is “things as they are”, in the words of Amy Carmichael.
But just as evil is at work among the people I’m called to shepherd, God is also at work in some crazy powerful ways in our people as well. Our Thursday and Friday downtown outreaches continue to draw out those trying to walk with Christ in the community, as well as those whom God is waking up from their sleep. I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of beginning to disciple a guy who met Jesus through our ministry, and whom I had the privilege of baptizing (this last Sunday) in the ocean at Morro Bay in front of some of our team (see attached pictures). We met for three weeks and talked through the dozen passages on Baptism, helping my new brother prepare for his new act of commitment. Along with our downtown outreaches, my brother mentor volunteer John Knox has started up the men’s bible study again at the shelter, wading into that group of men at 40 Prado who want to draw close to Jesus. This last Friday Carol and Jenny lead the Womens bible study with 8 ladies in the 40 Prado conference room, praying and studying the Bible, learning community and connecting with each other. So even as COVID ramps up again, God is continuing to use our team to bring the warm light of Jesus to those no the streets of SLO. Thank you so much to all of your for your continued prayer and support. ❤️
Much love in Christ to all of you.
Brothers & Mothers.
In a very real sense we are all family on this wretched ball of earth. One of my favorite verses dealing with God’s feelings towards the poor is this,
“Exodus 22:21 you shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and my anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
This verse always makes me laugh, in that literally God is threatening to kill anyone who messes with his cherished people. Food for thought (and action!) for sure right? But Is the 4th century BC middle eastern, “Stranger” exactly synonymous with today’s radical variety of homeless in 21st century America? Not exactly, but the shoe still fits for the most part. Check out the 52 verses on the “Stranger” in the Torah, and then the massive wealth of scripture on the subject of the righteous use of wealth – and you can make your own decision. Regardless, if your mother or brother was homeless in your town, would you quickly shuffle by them nervously trying to avoid eye contact? I hope not. We should treat everyone as our Mother or our Brother.
Before I launch into these following pieces of experience, here is a video update that I made last week for my home church Calvary Shoreline here in Morro Bay. It’s a quick update on a few things to pray for our group.
Thursday October 1st
101 degrees hot in downtown SLO. It’s October first today. First of the month has a percentage of the downtown homeless out doing other things – those on social security income, and their friends, spend the first week or so partying or spending their precious little cash on a week in a hotel to grasp at a semblance of normalcy. This monthly routine does not envelop all of them, but the reality is enough to notice a difference in the downtown population every month.
Those left in downtown SLO are either a little more mentally ill than the rest, or are the more isolated type, or are those trying to stay sober. Sobriety is initially a wildly lonely adventure. I love these guys, the first of the month leftovers.
Here is a snapshot on a few people that I interacted with as I rode around downtown SLO on my bike, passing out cold bottled water and bibles/socks. Here is the bones of my routine: 1.5-2 hours of bike outreach, then gather for another few hours (with whoever is available) at Emerson park for donuts, case management stuff, Bible, and Christian and non-Christian fellowship. As usual, names are changed to protect confidentiality.
Butch: Slightly nuts, but in a way that has him still longing for relationship, but sane enough to wonder why he has so few relationships. Over a decade of meth fueled motorcycle gang shenanigans left him mentally and physically broken in a number of ways. Off of the meth, but I’ve heard from friends that he is starting to drink heavily in his newly acquired subsidized room. Open to my friendship, not open to the friendship of Jesus. I’ll keep praying and engaging. Please pray that he finds Jesus. Now lives in subsidized housing in downtown SLO.
Steven: 6’4”, 375lbs of baby faced (maybe 29?), trump loving, punk rock blasting, conservative day talk radio addicted man-child. Is almost totally dedicated to monologue, but I have my ninja ways of forcing slightly mentally ill monologue’s into dialogue. He claims to be a Christian sometimes, but mostly in the vein of his man-crush (Trump). He is very angry and very lost. And his reasons for anger are not totally off base. Raised in SLO, worked a number of lower level warehouse jobs, struggling with mental illness, and now doesn’t want to leave his home town for cheaper rent in the valley, but can’t find a livable wage job with his meager resume. There is more to his unique story, and he’s not a pure victim of his circumstances, but a huge theme I see and heard about among the homeless is the lack of a living wage. Building bridges takes time, and prayer. Please join me in praying for Steven to chose a better savior.
Jackson: 5’5”, 90 pound black guy. I’ve seen him around for many years, have had very few interactions with him. Seeing him in many contexts I’ve assumed he is somehow wrapped up in the lower level drug selling world. And please don’t think I’m racially profiling. You might have forgotten that African Americans make up more than 40% of the homeless population, but represent 13 percent of the general population. One of the most racially diverse area’s of any town will be the homeless shelter. I hold no angst against Jackson, he is a survivor, and has (most likely) found a hustle that supplements his meager SSI check. Around the first of the month in Skid Row LA, one can observe hordes of Bloods and Crips (LA gangs) descend upon the Skid Row bound homeless to happily offer their pharmaceutical wares to those in need of some cheap non FDA approved medications. The lonely homeless addict one day, next day the subsidized housing dwelling drug dealer. But Jesus is always around, always offering his bread of life on the corners, on the highways and byways. I regularly tell people, “Meth is not the bread of life my friend…”.
Ronald: Toothless former client, pushing late 50’s. Clean off of the hard drugs 6 months. Got my number from another guy in subsidized housing and called me a few days ago, stating he has been reading the book of John and wants to follow Jesus. Isn’t that awesome!!! It was too hot for him to join us today in the park for donuts and fellowship, but he’s the real deal. Jesus must love this guy so very much. Developmentally delayed, maybe 8 years old mentally. I can’t wait to walk with this precious man in his new discipleship. Please pray that He will walk with Jesus. A major sign of his recovery and discipleship was that today, October 1st, I saw him on the Streets of SLO Sober and on the way to pay his bills – the first of the month is a very difficult day for many former addicts.
And then there was Susan. I had to wait a day to write about her, sometimes it takes a bit for me to process. Susan is an early 50’s homeless park dweller, long beautiful salt and pepper hair, a kind demeanor, unusually peaceful in her communications. Strikes me as a classy Santa Barbara mom abandoned by her husband (just speculating). I’ve never seen her wrapped up in drama or involved with any sort of drugs or alcohol. Something is mentally off with her, but not in the major off putting ways. Slowly over the months I’ve been trying to learn more of her story. Today as Ryan (super volunteer) and I chatted with her over donuts and coffee I asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She said, “A haircut…”. We talked a bit about this, asking if she would receive a gift certificate for a salon, which eventually brought out the fact that her head is crawling with lice, which I never would have guessed – she is very clean? She picked a few out to show me, we looked them up to try to identify them on the internet. They were lice for sure. She was humorously cavalier about it, but clearly she was sharing a huge piece of her misery with us – Ryan and I felt super honored. So….. we went to CVS and got her combs, lice treatment, a mirror, scissors, mayonnaise (possible treatment) and a few other things to help her feel human. And… we actually offered to help wash her hair over a basin – to be honest, Ryan is the one who was definitely being the hard core Christian here, I just went along. Fortunately she said she did not need that help, but she was super stoked to get some love in Jesus name.
Please pray for these people. Please pray that God would continue to call our homeless friends out of darkness and into the light of his beloved son. God is working among our friends!
God bless all of you, and please keep the homeless of SLO in your prayers.
Brothers & Mothers Director
805 903 2510
Hello, Dear Christ-Family, Friends of Our Brothers & Mothers on the Streets:
This update has two parts this time. The first part is where I’ll share a few significant stories that highlight our adventures among the homeless of SLO. The second part is sideways look at the unexpected joy of being on an interconnected team. I hope these updates are able to bring color and texture to our Brothers & Mothers adventures.
I want to start off with two stories from this past Thursday & Friday, July 30 & 31st. Two is probably the most story-content anyone can truly manage in this sort of weird genre. I tell these stories to highlight the magic that Jesus is working among our homeless family as we are becoming more of a presence in downtown SLO. I also tell these stories to push forward “Things as they are” (a title of Amy Carmichael’s brutally honest telling of her missionary efforts in late 19th century India). And I also tell the stories of these dear men and women so that you can pray, because I believe firmly that God is actively using pain “as a megaphone to a deaf world” in all of the crescendos, descents and refrains of all of our stories. He is not the author of evil in any way, but he is the master of working “all things together for good…” (Rom. 8:28). It always seems like such a scandalous statement to me, but I’ll say it anyway, and because it’s true – God is using us broken, frail humans to be his hands and feet. As usual, I’ve changed the names to protect their identities. But their names don’t matter, truly. They matter to me, they matter to Jesus. But these precious ones are representative of thousands of similar “types” all over America, waiting for intervention from you and me.
1) Latisha. She pretty much lives in the girls bathroom at Mitchell park. She passes her time doing meth, prostituting herself to the many men willing to use her, sleeping fitfully, or picking at the large sand dollar patch of missing skin on her face. She is six months pregnant by the way as well. She hates herself deeply, yet somehow truly wants to find a way out. I met her about a year ago at the mothership 40 Prado Shelter here in SLO when I was a case manger. When she was first kicked out of the shelter she would pass her time dancing away the evening at the various local college bars, exhausting herself before finding sleep in a park somewhere. She told me once that she is a hopeless romantic, in that many times she would pass an afternoon reading through the wedding magazines at our local Barnes and Nobles, imagining herself as a bride in a beautiful dress – can you see the little girl in her? I can. Her mother lives in the same park, I know her well. Yesterday I held mama’s hand and prayed for her a few different times as she wept fat tears down her beautiful black face. Mama is one of the kingpins in the park, selling drugs – although today (Friday) in my presence Mama told a very high young man seeking her services, “I’m not in the game anymore”. So maybe there is something good brewing. Latisha’s brother also lives in the same park. He has two blood clots in his head, and has been slowly decompensating for the last six months. Can you possibly see some of the reasons that pushed Latisha toward her present hellish existence? Empathy is a good place to start,right?
- Yesterday when we were setting up to charge phones, serve coffee and make an initial shot at church in the park, Latisha walked up all distressed. She hurried over to me and said “Andrew you gotta pray for me, I’m a mess”. We prayed and processed a bit about what she is facing. She is mentally slipping, is actively talking about suicide and is very angry. Today in my bike outreach session I stopped at her bathroom and called her out to get a cup of coffee. I clearly let her know, “This cup of coffee represents the deep love of Jesus for you, sweetheart, that you are his valuable daughter, and that he has good plans for you…” She received those words and our brief conversation with a moment of eye contact and some mumbling thanks. My ask is that we would all pray for supernatural intervention in this dear lady’s life. Miracles are easy for Jesus, right? He is showing up at the tomb of every Lazarus, ready to call out to a pile of death His words of life. Latisha’s in this flock that I’ve been called to shepherd and chase after. Please join me in praying for her!
2) Valentino: God is at work in this young man. In and out of addiction for many years. Handsome Hispanic/Filipino, maybe mid-20’s. Just got social security disability, reluctantly hears voices, just moved into his own subsidized housing last week – leaving behind the 40 Prado shelter hopefully for good. He was one of my clients at some point in my last 10 years of work in this county. We chatted a bit about community and his need for a new family system to keep him from sliding into the all too prevalent post-housed relapse that is very common. Valentino was actively expressing his desire to know more about Christ and to head in a very different direction than his life was going in the past. We made plans to get together early next week to talk through what it means to be a Christian. An hour later he texted me these words “Hey Andrew, I have a serious question for you. How do I go about getting baptized in the faith of Christ?” Ha! Check out the work of Jesus in this guy’s life – God has been working in Valentino through all of his crisis for years, and now he’s ready in some capacity to move forward.
We are having dinner together in the park Monday night, where I’ll take him through a simple description of what it means to be baptized, visiting some clear scripture on the subject. And when he is clear on baptism, we will gather some Christians, dunk him in the downtown SLO creek, and then celebrate. That’s my hope anyway. Our first baptism for Jesus Church among the poor in downtown SLO. Please pray with me to that end. Please pray for our time Monday night as we eat and shoot the breeze. He is presently a bright eyed, sober, expressive and hopeful Valentino. Please pray for his strength to resist the MANY temptations in his new world, and please please pray for me for WISDOM in interacting with this young man.
This is part 2.
I would like to share with you a text I sent out at 10pm Friday night (yes it’s a bit late), July 25th, to our dozen volunteers on the Brothers & Mothers team. Here it is.
“Hello Friends. Together all of us are working as a team to bring the rich mercy of our Jesus to the most oppressed and needy group of people in our county. I am so overwhelmed with joy and pride this evening as to what Jesus is doing through your good work - thank you for another week of beautiful Gospel ministry. The last two days we collectively spent 9 hours in direct relational contact with the homeless in Love and service. Anelise and I did 4 hours of prayer and ministry at Mitchell park on Thursday, then I did 2 interesting hours of street outreach today, then our Carol and Doug Jesus Coffee team spent 2+ hours at the coffee bar, then the Mary and Jenny did the women’s support group for another hour or so. God is soooooooo good in these last days. Thank you thank you thank you! Let's keep praying for REVIVAL among the homeless of SLO - the soil is definitely being prepped for his continuing salvific and sanctifying work among our homeless friends. This coming week let’s please be found drinking deeply from Jesus the water of life, making prayer and meditation on his word a first necessary priority. Much love to all of you in Christ.”
I’m sharing this bit of communication with our team for a few reasons. One reason is by way of confession of one of my many weaknesses. I run pretty hot when it comes to my proclivity towards brash independence, illustrated by countless sessions moving and installing VW engines by myself to the chagrin of my back, as well as building structures on my property that could have been done in a handful of days with help – but I’d rather take months and do it by myself; or surfing sharky reef passes in the morning fog by myself in Oregon and here on the Central Coast; and more close to home, by hucking myself into close relationship with my many homeless friends with no prayer support or volunteer partners – which I did for years. And I have usually have a large bucket of friends and neighbors who would love to help……. Please forgive the male bravado, which I admit still elicits a bit of pride in speaking of my independence, ugh.
But as I continue to read and meditate on scripture into my mid-40’s (turned 45 last month), I’m realizing more and more how little “resonance” I find in God’s word with my independent inclinations. I’ve been plugging away at a study of Philippians over these last 6 months, not having read this little book in over 10 years. Last month I read and meditated on this little gem, which seems to keep calling me into more reflection and repentance on the subject of interdependence.
“For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonments and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:7-8.
This little word translated by the NAS as “partakers” here, is the Greek word συγκοινωνούς which is translated “one who participates jointly, a co-participant” by Mounce (Greek Dictionary). This continues to be significant to me, becausePaul is writing from prison about how God is using him to preach the gospel to the Roman “Green Beret”, the Praetorian Guard. Paul is telling the Philippians that they are all working together to produce the good fruit he is telling them about – that Paul is NOT alone . Paul is not framing himself as an independent agent charging into the jungles of Vietnam by himself, or like a shirtless sweaty Rambo taking on the Soviet army with 4000 rounds of ammo, 35 grenades, 3 bazookas and 7 machine guns (Rambo 3). So God is continuing to show me personally how much more joy, freedom, and warm affection and stabilizing mutual love flows out of being “joint partakers of Grace” with our team. And I’m not just talking about some sort of type A ministry assessment, where the “work” is being done efficiently and productively due to more people working in partnership – and yes this is happening. Yet, I’m more talking about the scary thrill of falling in love with other Christians, many of whom are more gifted and godly than I, to the point that I need and love them……. That’s scary right? If I need people, then I can truly be hurt, and who wants to be hurt? It took me a few years to truly let my guard down and need and be needed by my wife. And Coral is oh so safe in a million different ways – we are celebrating our 20th anniversary next month! But to do this with other Christians is new territory for me. And I have to say that in doing this non-profit adventure, I feel like I’ve become interconnected with a big pod of my mothers and fathers in Christ, many of those on my team whom I consider mentors. So, my rambling point is this: WE are all working together for the progress of the gospel in the homeless community. WE are volunteers, donors, prayer partners, board of directors and advisors. And my dear family in Christ on our prayer team: you are joint partakers with all of us of Grace, joint participants in the good fruit of what God is doing in us and inour homeless friends.
I keep coming back to this verse as a embodiment of what we are aiming for in the homeless community, “Take care brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,” Hebrews 3:12,13.
Isolation is a death sentence in the course of “normal” life, and how much more so when one is left to suffer alone through the crisis of homelessness. And we i’m sure we can all relate in the midst of Covid to our brushes with forced isolation. We need that ENCOURAGEMENT so desperately. Our goal is to provide that necessary social, emotion and spiritual support to those who are experiencing the crisis of homelessness. Independence and isolation when one is walking through crisis is a slow life sucking, torturous experience – and it is purely inhumane and cruel to leave our fellow humans to drag themselves through this crisis alone. We on the Brothers & Mothers team are not only seeking to grow in our relationship and dependence on each other, but we are seeking to share this relationship and dependence with our homeless friends in their crisis. The life and fellowship that we have as Christians belong to the poverty community as well. Our money and treats can only go so far – what they need is our fellowship and community. Please please continue to pray for us to live out the meat of the Gospel through our continued courage to give ourselves unreservedly to sincere friendship and communion with our homeless friends. And please know that as a team we are continuing to pray and think through what “social justice” (read – “righteousness” biblically) looks like for our homeless friends. Money, treats, hugs and fellowship also only goes so far. My vision for BroMo also involves, by necessity, alleviating suffering practically, developing and training the greater church network in SLO, and attacking and dismantling systems of oppression. Our first stab at meeting physical needs is our recent purchase of a generator and our weekly charging of phones in the park. More to come in the future.
Here is a bit of picture context. This is my stoked face. This is our first collection of “customers” for our charging station. Our non-profit board let me buy this super cool charging station to bless the park dwellers with charged phones. Although small, this a bit of “social justice” in action, where we are not just bringing Jesus, coffee and relationships, but also meeting a need in the homeless community. Due to Covid there are very few places to charge phone in downtown SLO, so we bring the power to them, in more than one way. Thank you for your support that makes these kinds of purchases possible!
This is me brewing a big mess of organic high end Joe Bella coffee for my Friday afternoon bike outreach. Our homeless friends taste the quality and feel super loved knowing we value them enough to serve them the best - which is great fuel for speaking of Jesus and his deep love for a broken humanity:
This is another “stoked” face, actually totally blown away at the generosity of the body of Christ! Last week some friends donated a 91 Ford Aerostar van to house our expanding collection of Jesus Church/Jesus Coffee paraphernalia, and to make transport more seamless for volunteers. It’s enabled me to get a whole bunch of our non-profit stuff out of the nooks and crags of our tiny property, to the blessing of my wife. Now we are able to send our volunteers with all the stuff in one place, yay!
If you have any questions on any of this, or want to pursue volunteering or supporting what we are up to, please do not hesitate to call/text or email me at any time. Our website also is a fabulous was to browse our activities and vision, as well as to donate online.
May the riches of Christ and his sweet fellowship be yours.
Hello, Dear Friends of All Things Brothers & Mothers. Greetings in Jesus’ name!
I hope this email finds you navigating our present national distress well. I have to tell you, that in spite of all the chaos and heaviness of what is transpiring on the news, I presently have a tremulous amount of joy in writing you tonight. Last Friday, I had the privilege of spending quality time with a group of precious homeless individuals in downtown SLO at Mitchell Park. Anelise and I got to meet a bunch of weird people in a variety of bizarre circumstances; we had the delight of being used by the Holy Spirit to mediate the gospel and preach the God who loves failures. It was incredibly fun and exhilarating to be with our homeless friends. The reality for me is that the joy I experienced on Friday (and expect again today, as it is Friday again) is directly proportional to the heaviness and horror of what I experienced a few weeks ago in the same park. Please allow me to explain.
I don’t always have oodles of joy in serving in the homeless community, nope, not always. Sometimes it’s a commitment that just needs to happen, which in a sense is distantly analogous to parenting. I don’t always enjoy my kids, right? But I’m not going to go surfing instead of pick them up from school because I’m burnt out on parenting on a particular day; I’m still going to show up and care for my children. I’m sure you can relate, if you are honest. We get the best and the worst of those we live with, giving us a well rounded human experience of the “Other”. And of course, a mature perspective is that we give those around us the “best” and the “worst” of us to deal with also.
Similarly, in our ongoing relationship with the homeless, our relational intentionality truly is aiming for the genuine sharing of life, not just evangelism. Not just social justice, not just coffee or hospitality – all these things work together to make for a powerful proclamation of Jesus. So, serving the homeless community – pursuing my friends on the streets with the gospel of life, attempting to spend time with them in relational ways where I can share life with them and mediate the bread of life —well, this is hard at times. Sometimes really hard……
Let me share with you what was “hard” about sharing life with those on the street these last few weeks. This will be a bit graphic. But this is things as they are.
A few weeks ago one of our volunteers (Ryan) and I had finished spending time downtown SLO serving coffee, praying for our friends, shooting the breeze and connecting with our unhoused friends where possible. We were happily sitting on a park bench at Mitchell park, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, praying over the few people we saw downtown. In the middle of our prayer session, the peace was broken violently with a man yelling, screaming actually, from the nearby public bathrooms, “Help… help me!!” Now, I truly am used to the regular yelling and the all too normal-to-me strange/bizarre noises that those who are high or mentally ill produce in public. But this was a bit different. The increasingly louder yells of “HELP ME!!….” Were punctuated by gross muffled sounds of something hitting a human head, like the sickening blow of a fist against a face, but different.
As a rule, I don’t get involved with violence in the homeless community, for many reasons. Mainly because it always has a justice-laced backstory (according to street culture), and also because I don’t see it firsthand very often. I’ve been punched in the face, pushed, had my life threatened etc…. In the course of serving the homeless these last 15 years, which I expect. But witnessing bloody confrontations is not the norm. So, I was stuck in the moment temporarily. Then, since the yelling didn’t stop, we starting running towards the bathroom – Ryan was the first initiator, not having the experiential baggage of “don’t get involved” in his head. He made the good choice, I followed. So, we both ran to the bathroom. As soon as we got to the corner of the bathroom structure, we were met by three very bloody individuals quickly exiting the bathroom. The first man was carrying a small axe, yup, an axe. He was covered in blood. All over his shirt, his axe, and his pants. The second person was a lady, also spattered with blood, yelling the whole time “You had it coming, you stole her wallet, you had it coming!” The third individual was the victim, bleeding from a huge wound in his head, yelling at the guy with the axe, “You hit me with an axe…. You hit me!” The three just walked right by us, almost running into us, like we didn’t exist. Ryan and I, shell shocked and shaking a bit, slowly made our way back to the table. There was some yelling between the two perpetrators and the victim, then the two perpetrators left the park. Then, an old frail lady (maybe 65/70), “Arlene” (I spent some time with her the previous week) proceeded to start to yell at the guy who was bleeding from the head wound. She was clearly the lady whose wallet was supposedly stolen by this guy. They had some spicy banter back and forth, then out of the blue he punched her in the face….. it all happened so fast.
I called 911 at that point. Maybe I should have done it when we first saw the axe, but it was so rapid-fire. We ran over to Arlene who was lying on the ground crying and holding her head. As I held her hand and rubbed her back, with her eye rapidly swelling shut, she cried and poured out a lament on how her life has sucked and been miserable for years. Police and fire department showed up, police took a report from Ryan and I, took away the victim of the axe assault and treated Arlene.
To top it off, over the next few days I heard from a number of homeless friends about some of the details of the assault. The downtown homeless community is akin to a jr. highschool in a tiny rural town, where drama of all flavors travels fast and nothing is private. Overall, the summary from other homeless individuals was “He had it coming, he stole her wallet”. A few of them acknowledged “the axe was a bit much…”, but it was clear to me that the community was almost completely unified around the righteousness of the assault. As heavy as it is, after my many conversations I was forced to conclude that what I saw was simply a picture of what “justice” sometimes looks like in the homeless community.
Here is a bit of the backstory. The victim was a newer member of the SLO homeless community, clearly mentally ill – walking around shirtless talking to himself. We had served him coffee and had a brief interaction with him earlier in the day. Maybe he just got off the train from LA or San Diego, which happens semi-regularly. This guy followed grey haired senior citizen Arlene, befriended her and stole her wallet the day before. The news went viral in the community. Then he was dumb enough to stay in town and loiter around the most dangerous and visible homeless gathering spot in SLO. The guy who assaulted him was clearly not homeless. Maybe he was the low level drug dealer who services the park, maybe he was a friend connected to Arlene sometimes, who knows. It does not matter who he is. But what does matter is the fact that the perpetrator definitely believed that he was doing “justice”, that he was in the right and that he was protecting the community. After the scene in the bathroom, the assailant had the victims wallet, and I heard him yelling at the victim “So where’s her money, where’s her money”, shaking the empty wallet. Then, to top it off, the next day when I was walking in a crowded downtown I walked by the couple who almost killed that guy in the park. They were wearing the same clothes, except that the man was carrying a bottle of Tide bleach, if you can believe it.
Justice. Right? Is this justice? Well, as hard as this sounds, this is “Justice” for our homeless friends.
So, the painful reality is that the the homeless community almost never appeal to the police. And definitely not in situations of assault and/or theft. Why do you think that is? The truth of the matter is that the homeless are regularly treated as the untouchables of our society, by the police as well as general society. Justice for the homeless is many times a secondary issue in the perspective of law enforcement, whose priorities are dealing with manifestations of addiction, protection of the non-homeless, the needs of the downtown business owners, mental illness, and basic homelessness. There are reasons why all throughout the Bible God commands the leaders of Israel not to rob the poor of their rights ( Ex. 23:6, Prov. 14:31; 29:7; 31:9, Isa 32:7). Never are the rich the targets of God’s explicit protection – because the rich leverage their money and influence to their advantage. The poor are left purely on the mercy of the justice system, with nothing to leverage for their rights.
And unfortunately, here in Slo county the biggest “bucket” of minorities and diverse ethnicities is in the homeless community. Over 40% of the national homeless population is African American, yet the percentage of African Americans in the US population is 13%. I’ll send you the article quoting these stats if you want.
When there is a lack of justice in any sort of tribal situation, then elements within that tribe will organize to police themselves. Looking back to the early history of the Crips and the Bloods, or even elements of the Black Panthers of the 60’s and 70’s (read on Bunchy Carter, Fred Hampton), or Medgar Evers and MLK – we see that vacuums of justice will always be filled by some uprising element, positive or negative.
Black lives matter, yes. Poor lives matter as well. Homeless lives matter also.
The vision of our Brothers & Mothers 501C3 non-profit is to treat every homeless person as if they were a member of our own family. To give them the Jesus-based social, emotion, and spiritual support that they deserve to survive their season of homelessness well: this is our call. We do not just live to build relationships with our homeless friends and mediate the gospel, we are called by God to work for “social justice” for this tribe of humans in our society.
Beyond the details of this story and the nuances of Homeless culture that I experience, I am also writing you this evening to ask you to pray for our little movement here in SLO. Here are a few things that we are desperately in need of your intercession through this next season.
1) As a group we have been unable to participate in weekly 3-hour Jesus Coffee outreach at the shelter, due to Covid-19 restrictions. As of yesterday (6/10) the shelter director finally invited us back into the shelter to continue our outreach, PRAISE JESUS!!!! Please pray for God to use us to lead many to Christ during this next season. We will also again be starting up our men’s support group and our women’s support group. There are so many lives and stories I would love to share with you, but overall, please pray for God to silence Satan’s destructive voice in the lives of our homeless friends and that they would hear and see HIS light.
2) I’ve had the privilege of spending a ton of consistent time doing weekly street outreach on most Thursdays and Fridays for a few hours these last couple months. I’ve made a lot of new acquaintances and friends, seen a lot more of the darkness of downtown street culture, and generally been overwhelmed with the desire to plant a church in their context to meet the huge spiritual need I’ve seen in this group. I have been reaching toward this objective – a church to specifically meet the unique needs of the homeless community - for a while now. Over a month ago, I felt led by God (rarely does he speak to me with specifics) to prayer walk around Mitchell Park in downtown SLO seven times every Thursday and Friday. My dear friends John Knox, Anelise and Ryan have been joining me most of the time for this intentional prayer. John has been consistently serving at 40 Prado Shelter throughout the quarantine. I also want to thank Anelise and Ryan for joining me in regularly doing street outreach: they are a fabulous and much needed team.
PLEASE pray for God’s specific direction for us in WHEN to start this church, what STRATEGIES will be the most effective, and for God to bring the right TEAM to commit to this adventure. The BroMo board and I will be seeking Jesus as well for God’s direction for this new work. I am also gathering our volunteer team to pray over the launch of this new work, as well as our other ministries, next Saturday the 20th, 6:30pm at the Jennison house. (Call me for the address). Along with this, we also have the full support and encouragement of my church Calvary Shoreline, as well as the support and encouragement of Calvary SLO. I am scared to death of this new movement, since it feels WAY beyond the possible... but I also know that none of this is about me and am 100% convinced that Jesus can do “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or imagine… “. The fact of the matter is that there are no fewer than 2 dozen churches in SLO and none of them exist specifically for this population. This has to change. Please pray for our Brothers & Mothers movement as we seek to love and lay down our lives for our lost mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters on the streets of the central coast. Thank you!
Since there is so much developing in our ministries, I will be writing you more often. I know many of you pray when we ask, and when there is enough information to pray specifically. We are entering that season where we need much more spiritual covering, since we are moving into areas that Satan is dominating the homeless with his darkness. Thank you so very much for joining us in this fabulously fun and exciting adventure.
Please check out our developing website, where you will find some of our history, volunteer information, good reads, and opportunities to financially partner with us for the blessing of the homeless community: https://sites.google.com/view/brothersandmothers
Please call/text/email at any time with any questions about any of our mission and work. We are all in this together!
For Jesus and his lost ones on the street
Brothers & Mothers Director
805 903 2510
5/17 BroMo Update
Hello dear friends!
A warm greeting from our Brothers & Mothers team to all of you in Jesus’ good name! I hope this email finds you hunkering down well, navigating this odd season with a firm grasp on Jesus and his warm, reliable, and consistently unchanging nature. Being a professional worrier (sadly), this season has been a good challenge for me to learn more thoroughly how to work hard, pray hard, and then rest hard.
As many of us can attest, the more we worry about things we can’t control (pretty much everything ultimately) the more we are unable to truly be present with and care for those who are right in front of us: spouses, children, neighbors, strangers, etc… This is to say that I’ve experienced a wonderful amount of support and encouragement through times of prayer with Jesus, meditation on Scripture, and heart-settling walks with Jesus.
There also has been a good deal of joy for my wife and I and our 3 kids in this season as well, learning that we can experience peace and a tremendous amount of fun and laughter even when we don’t know what the next month will bring personally, economically, nationally, or internationally.
But what of our homeless friends? What about that group of precious humans who have not been happily married for 20 years (our 20th is in August); who don’t have a network of supportive relationships – people to call and text them; who don’t have jobs or cars or at least some framework of mental/emotional stability? And of course I am very aware that those who are reading this are not all completely put together – neither am I. But we all know that the homeless community is way worse off than we are, and that many of them are completely alienated from our life-giving Rescuer of a God.
My personal experience of this Covid-19 pandemic has been an interesting and tension filled season, because I am acutely aware that our homeless friends are experiencing the pandemic in a very different way than me or my middle-class friends. Carrying many of them in my heart is painful, even in a normal season. As I shared last update, we are unable to be with our homeless friends whom we love, since the shelter system is not allowing us to serve coffee, or have our Women’s/Men’s support group. We are just left with (albeit gratefully) an expanding ministry to the downtown homeless crew, which is personally my joyous bread and butter weekly on Thursdays and Fridays.
So, how exactly has the homeless community been experiencing the pandemic? The following are a few snap shots of what I’ve heard from my homeless friends in downtown San Luis Obispo:
Kenny: “I hate this fuc$&!ng pandemic! No one is downtown. I can’t even get guitar strings for my guitar”.
Kenny is drunker and skinnier every time I see him. He is the quintessential (forgive my generalization) downtown homeless guy that no one wants to support. Definitely not working towards “self-sufficiency”. Early 50’s, toothless, on monthly SSI payments. Funny and engaging, not totally mental ill yet. His isolation and rambling self-talk is definitely exacerbated by the present ghost town of Slo. Please pray that I can find him not drunk enough to possibly receive my gospel words that Jesus truly can meet his deepest need. He is just as valuable to Jesus as you or your son or your daughter. Do you believe that?
Lewis: “If people thought we were diseased before the pandemic, they are straight up convinced that we are dripping with nuclear waste. This lady in a Mercedes brought me some food 4 days ago, but she got out of her car, walked within 20 feet of me, put a box of food on the corner, then ran back to her car. And no showers! I have not had a shower in a month! The mobile shower people have shut down. And I can’t even charge my phone, the library is closed and they blocked off all the public outlets….. “
Lewis is my English friend whom my wife Coral and I have known for years. We are in the midst of a rough draft of “adopting” him as a family. He has severe Lymphoma in his leg, lost his green card years ago, so has no access to health care or the basic system of General Assistance through the department of social services. His leg is twice its normal size, can’t hardly wear a shoe, and his leg oozes and stinks to high heaven. My wife and I had the privilege of getting him a hotel for two days, and Brothers & Mothers paid to fill his fridge with two day’s-worth of vegetarian (he’s a vegetarian) feasts from Whole Foods. We usually don’t do the hotel thing for people, but due to our knowledge of Mr. Lewis over the years, we decided he could use a bit of respite and a nice, long shower. He is clean from drugs and alcohol, so I was mostly confident that he wouldn’t throw a raging meth/hooker party on our dime. It was also a great opportunity to challenge his false belief that he’s garbage not worthy of investment by showing him that God values and sees him! My family has been praying for him to come to know Jesus and for God to heal him. We are excited to see how God will intervene in Mr. Lewis’s life.
Gregory: “Everyone is high….”
I don’t think I’ve had one conversation with Gregory where he was not drunk. I’ve maybe spoken with him 6 or 7 times these last few months. He claims to be a Christian; it’s possible, but I have thought it not likely. Tonight, after seeing him sober and sharing about Jesus with a transgender street friend, I think his connection to Jesus seems a little more likely. Two weeks ago we had an uncomfortable conversation about alcohol. Tonight he was three days sober; it is so cool to see these movements of God’s Spirit – they are victories!
Gregory has an older lady who he is “taking care of”, but more looks like the other way around. His comment “Everyone is high..” is just the reality. With less police presence among the homeless community, and more resources inaccessible to them (DMV closed, DSS limited access, Prado locked up tight), and very little $ flowing into downtown from the housed community – there is a very little motivation to not participate in the oodles of cheap, low quality weed, meth and alcohol that makes up the social fabric of the downtown homeless community. I don’t love Gregory, but I’m working on getting my heart right towards him. Jesus loves this guy. Our middle class struggle with gossip, pornography, materialism, coveting, and general hatred of whatever does not look like us is NO different than Gregory’s sin. Humanity’s sin is all the same to Jesus. Please pray for an open door for me to love Gregory and find keys to his heart.
Our overall goal as a non-profit is to provide a relationally mediated social, emotional, and spiritual support to our homeless friends in SLO. Covid-19 has taken some of our younger college age volunteers home, but we still have a large pod of Jesus loving, homeless-loving volunteers looking for ways to continue caring for the homeless in SLO.
• Last week we were able to have two of our volunteers, John and Carol, serve a meal at the 40 Prado center. They were behind the counter in the dining room, but they were still able to relationally connect with a few of our friends in line. We are working with Prado, and our team will hopefully serve a meal through Prado at least once a week until we are able to restart our Jesus Coffee ministry on Friday nights. Please please please continue to pray for God’s work through our group at the homeless shelter!
• Please pray for our growing presence and ministry in downtown SLO. Our aim is to plant a church among the homeless at Mitchell park on Santa Rosa Street in downtown SLO. We don’t know when, but I’m praying for 2-3 people to join me in claiming that park as a beachhead for God’s redemptive power in downtown SLO. God is continuing to show me (Andrew) the incredible desire in the homeless community to connect with Christ and those who represent him, as well as the demonic oppression on those who are weakest in the downtown homeless community. Something has to be done for these people!
I am so incredibly grateful for so many of you! Our work in the homeless community would be impossible if it were not for the multi-faceted investment by many of you. A huge special thanks to the following contributive people for their help in launching Brothers & Mothers as a non-profit, and for believing in God’s work in us as well as the homeless community:
A HUGE Thank you to:
- Pastor Ed Compeon and the elder team at Calvary Shoreline, for their constant encouragement and support. For their financial partnership with us, and for Ed’s love of me and my family and our many surf and burrito sessions talking through God’s love for the lost. I’m sorry I’ve dropped in on you so many times while surfing Ed, I’ll work on that.
- Pastor Bryan Stupar and the elder team at Calvary SLO. Thank you for your financial support, for allowing me to share with your church a number of times these last few years, and for believing in me and our vision. I love you guys.
- Joshua and Lauren Wheeler. Thank you for your years-long provision of high quality, organic, and expensive JoBella coffee. We have not had to buy coffee in over 18 months, and your high quality brew speaks the love of Jesus in very powerful ways to our homeless friends. “This is the good stuff…” is what I’m constantly hearing. To which I am able to say, “You deserve it!”.
- Our board of directors: Carol Barnes, Doug Jenison, Ed Compeon. Thank you for agreeing to join me in this crazy adventure. I could not have done any of this without you. Super stoked to be a “we” instead of a “me” in all this now.
- And to our many dozens of prayer partners, financial supporters, and friend/mentors (especially John Knox) who continue to encourage and push me towards living for the blessing of the homeless community.
3.26.2020 BroMo Update
Brothers & Mothers
Street Outreach in Downtown SLO
Hello, Dear Friends!
Like all Americans at this juncture in world history, our homeless friends find themselves in a time of deep loneliness and increased vulnerability. The homeless population in our county has suffered a steep rise in their experience of isolation due to the closure of most area agencies who regularly provided supportive services. Agencies like the county libraries, the DMV, churches, Catholic Charities, the Food Bank, and Jesus Coffee (unable to serve at Prado because of physical distancing regulations)...all of these have been compelled by county-wide Coronovirus precautions to suspend their needed helping hands to our unsheltered friends on the streets. These men and women, for whom Christ died and after whom He is chasing in love, are now forced into new levels of poverty and loss.
We most acutely feel grief as Brothers & Mothers (BroMo) over our inability to serve at the local homeless shelter. To push out past the settling fog of social isolation and lack of services, our footprint now involves an increasing of our presence on the streets of downtown SLO. Using gloves and masks to protect ourselves and these most vulnerable in our population, we intend to provide social, emotional, and spiritual support for our homeless friends while we hand out cups of coffee, conversation, and prayer by bicycle. We will refrain from touching our friends, which is hard; but overall, I’m committed to BroMo being a strong, supportive and helpful presence in our downtown SLO homeless community on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
Pre-1960’s pastoral ministry in America used to include regular “house visits” by the pastoral staff, where face to face relationship building, practical help, discipleship, and encouragement was expected. Our core heart behind street outreach is doing these “house visits”, where we can mediate the relational warmth of Jesus to those in their “home space” on the street corners and parks. We serve high quality organic coffee while praying for people, sharing the good news of Jesus, mediating community resources, and doing basic case management activities. Please, please join me in praying for our homeless Brothers and Mothers on the streets of SLO during this season of Coronavirus.
The following snapshot of my time with “Henry”, a homeless man whom I care about and have known since 2013, was one slice of almost 20 or so conversations that I had over the space of a Thursday and Friday.
Henry: “So, Andrew, does any of this ever rock your faith? I mean, no offense, but how can you continually look at all this suffering (in the homeless community) and not have it effect you?”
Well.... So this question is, of course, a deeply difficult question regardless. It would have been difficult to navigate even if it had been asked by any one of my middle class friends, or from someone over e-mail. Having just finished Timothy Keller's book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, and also knowing the good theological answers, I could have rattled off some platitudes. However, this question was asked by my long-term homeless friend, Henry.
I met Henry, a British citizen, about 8 years ago at the former 43 Prado center. Being a British citizen, Henry has no ID and no social security number. Therefore, he has no access to general assistance/food stamps (basic level welfare for individuals), or the CHC Medi-Cal based health care system. Henry has Lymphoma in his right leg. When symptomatic, his right leg swells up to more than twice its regular size, his skin cracks, and he pretty much bleeds everywhere he goes. I’d say he has been “symptomatic” 60-70% of the time over the last 8 years I’ve known him, which means that he is a well known frequent flyer in the local emergency rooms at French and Sierra Vista. He is always at the library when it is open – but with the pandemic, the library is closed So he’s wandering the empty streets of SLO. Often in severe pain, and with little sleep.
There is sooooo much more to his story of course, which time and space does not allow. But there it is in a nutshell. Henry has, and is, suffering deeply. I see him usually 2-4 times a year. My wife gave him her old iPhone about 5 years ago, which he always tells me to thank Coral for (it is a neat connection). What makes his situation worse is that he is not obviously mentally ill; he is engaging and intelligent; and he has a wonderfully dry sense of humor – I like him. It’s much easier to brush off questions of “Why is life so hard” from people you don’t like, who are mentally ill, or who can easily be blamed for their situations. It is much different with people in complicated situations. These are not answers that can be reduced to simple platitudes.
I stumbled through and navigated Henry's sincere question mainly by sharing with him the story of Hosea in the Old Testament. I didn’t share this story as a way to “teach” Henry, but as a way to share with him how I see God “holding space” for our suffering, how God experiences our suffering. God is incredibly active and powerful over and through human evil, but Hosea’s story is a good place to start. Hosea’s story is this: God told the prophet Hosea to love and marry a prostitute and have children with her. Hosea's wife eventually goes back to being a prostitute, but it's clear that Hosea loves this scandalous lady and is being tortured by her rejection of his love. It’s a disturbing story on many levels, but mostly because God uses the heartbreak of Hosea, who truly loves this lady, to illustrate how HE feels about His “bride”, Israel, who is continually committing adultery on him by chasing after other gods (idols). Hosea can empathetically communicate God's sorrow and longing for His people because of his wife's deep rejection of his care and love.
Is God all-powerful? Yes! Is there any evil in God? No! And does God have a plan to fix all this evil that we see ravaging the world and the human heart one day? Yes! And God absolutely did something about our suffering on the cross. Christ Jesus carried our infirmities...our griefs He himself bore (Isaiah 53). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf so that we might become God's righteousness in Him. It is a great mystery of divine Love that absorbs all of our pain and suffering, to console us with eternal comfort and good hope!
And of course all of this is correct, but you have to please understand that all of this theology turns into an inexpressible throbbing ache when paired with dear friends (or family) who are in a seemingly endless tortuous season. Theology is designed to be mediated beyond words, but with actions. Our vision is to “show up”, with all of who we are, in a non-transactional, sincere partnership with those most messed up. The words and the works (acts of love) of the gospel are designed to go hand and hand. But many times, in my context with our homeless friends, words don’t work. Those various acts of love that we do among the homeless, we pray are like numerous Trojan horses, sent into the locked tight gates of our suffering friends – full of Jesus based love and power, but wrapped in packages that are more palatable that naked theological statements. Is this not the Easter we are called to experience? But I digress….
But, in thinking about Henry, even right now (8pm Friday night as I’m writing), as it is getting dark and cold (approaching 35 tonight) and he is crawling into a very dirty and unhygienic sleeping bag right now. All the theology I learned in my two tours of seminary does not account for anything if the sufferings of precious humans like Henry doesn’t push me, push US, to do something about his suffering. Henry needs our prayers. I asked him what I could do, and he said, “Please pray for me”. So, please pray for Henry to come to know Jesus AND that he/we could discover some way to break the negative trajectory of his damaging situation. And please pray for me, that I will be able see him regularly; that we could start to work together (doing “case management”) toward some solutions; that maybe I could be a part of his solution. We made plans to try and see each other weekly, and he said he would be open to talking about on his complicated problem. Maybe with your prayers I can help.
Our weekly Jesus Coffee outreach at the local Prado shelter continues to be on hold at this point, due to safety concerns around our outreach drawing a crowd at the shelter, as well as the obvious health concerns for our volunteers. According to the volunteer coordinator at CAPSLO, the reality is that social distancing is almost impossible to maintain with our Jesus Coffee outreach. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her assessment. As soon as this crisis from viral pandemic abates, the Prado shelter is 100% willing for us to continue serving on Fridays. I will keep you informed if anything changes. Instead, as I mentioned earlier in this update, we will head to the streets, masked and gloved, coffee in hand, and ready to robustly support our homeless friends in the social, emotional, and spiritual vacuum that they, most of all, are trapped in.
I’ve also included a short video giving a brief synopsis of Thursday's outreach. It includes a visual (video) on how deserted downtown SLO right now on a Thursday night, which usually hosts a Farmer's Market drawing a few thousand people and almost a hundred vendors. The present ghost-town, deserted lack of people is eerie and ominous. We thank you for all of your fervent prayers and support that makes our determination to illuminate the darkness with the resurrection life and love of Jesus Christ possible.
Please keep in mind that this video was from a week and a half ago, where the use of PPE was a little less necessary, so I was not using mask/gloves at this point. Moving forward it is a necessity.
For Christ and his lost on the streets,
Andrew & the Team