Truth is a Whisper

I was talking with my friend, Michael, who’s in China right now exploring the lands in which he was born, all the while doing ministry where he can. It’s pretty great too, because he’s been sending periodic emails of humor and joy that always have me laughing at the great time he’s having. He was telling me about how he ate about twenty sticks of meat over a fire the other day, and the selection ranged anywhere from lamb to kiwi to gizzards. I was quite grossed out at the gizzards simply because that’s disgusting and you don’t eat organs unless it’s absolutely necessary. However, I speak of all this because his email reminded me of something I saw today, which most likely isn’t a good idea to make public, but I find it funny right now (it’s about 2AM), so I’ll just throw it out there.

I was driving from work today and saw a dead kitten in the road. Initially, I thought to myself, “Dang, I wonder how long that thing got to live. Kittens certainly aren’t the most common of animals you find in roadkill form.” As I continued to ponder on this idea my mind continued to flow and I soon figured, “Hmm… I wonder how hardcore it would be if I scooped up that kitten, skinned it, and ate what meat was left in a stew solely for the purpose of saying I’d eaten kitten roadkill?” I decided against the idea because 1) I’d die and 2) There’s probably only a handful of people who would fully understand just how grand this endeavor was, and of those people, odds are I haven’t met them yet. So I’ll hold off until I find a homie who’s just as crazy.

UGM keeps getting crazier and crazier as the days go on. I’m learning so much about Seattle’s homelessness situation and how it compares to other cities, and it turns out that Seattle’s issues are pathetically miniscule to those on the east coast. Over here we have the occasion mental illness patient, drunkard, druggie, unsuspecting victim to either the economy or a relationship pitfall, or just the apathetic and lazy person. The men who walk in that I’ve talked to have a plethora of expressions and responses where one will give you a cheerful wave, another a blank stare, and then the unfortunate somber gentleman who steps up to the window saying in a disheartened tone, “I… I don’t know what to do. This is my first time here and I’m not sure where to go. Can… can you help me?” They were either just kicked out of their house because of marital issues, evicted from their homes because of unemployment and lack of income, or their life took some other sudden dive that landed them unexpectedly at this shelter. These people are never in despair for long, though.

(Crap, I guess I fell asleep writing this. I just woke up and am currently eating chocolatey, sweetened rice cereal, also known as COCOA KRISPIES!!! Yes sir.)

I say these people are quickly lifted from their hopeless mood because there’s another aspect to homelessness that few people see or even understand if they haven’t witnessed it for themselves. The homeless have formed a kind of sub-community, which can be clearly seen on the streets if you look hard enough, but is definitely prevalent within the shelter. I mentioned earlier in the month that the homeless don’t have relationships, at least ones like we do where somebody, i.e. family or friends, can take care of us if something happens, and that’s a hefty contributing reason to why they’re on the streets. I still believe this, but it’s interesting to see how that lack of relationship within their lives before homelessness can so drastically change the moment they are vulnerable, desperate for love, and seeking to survive amongst hundreds of others who are trying to figure the same thing out. It’s as if they’re free from the middle-class hell that so many of us reside in where life is monotonous, broken of the community that Christ has really called us to, and filled with idols that all of us fail to recognize or address. The homeless have lost their “lives”, at least from our perspective, but in turn have found such a community, though imperfect yet still fulfilling, that many of us may never experience even within the Church.

For example, all the Mexicans that come from Spanish chapel sleep in the dayroom of the mission and soon after they’ve set up their mats and everything for the night they slowly make their way to the front desk to buy a sack lunch. However, there have been times where some either don’t have the change or enough money to buy a lunch, so one guy will step up and buy for the lot of them because he’s the one who has the means of doing so for the night. On Urban Plunge we were at Pike Place early one Saturday morning talking with a guy who’d slept outside despite it raining and night. Everything he owned was soaked and laid out on a table to dry. Soon after our conversation some random, fairly well dressed man walks up, talks to our new friend, and they begin gathering up all the stuff and soon walk away. We don’t think much of it until we are eating at a shelter that evening when we run into the well dressed man again who just so happens to be sitting in the same pew as us during chapel. We ask him what he’s doing here, he explains that he his homeless, which then prompts us to ask what he was doing with the guy that was soaking earlier in the morning. It turns out they’d never met but the well dressed guy saw our soaking friend, knew he could provide help in taking him to a place to get dry, and that was that. What’s even more beautiful is that his guy in the pew continues to talk to us and then asks if he can take a picture. We say, sure, if you’d like, in which he pulls out a disposable camera, snaps the shot, and says these words that I’m sure I’ll never forget, “True friends.”

Sadly many of them were forced into submission of surrendering and redirecting their lives, and from this I don’t know how many was because God has greater plans for them or if it’s due to their own brokenness, but I’m going to stand by the fact that the love and support they provide for each other often exceeds that in which we are giving. This whole internship reminds me of those high school short term mission trips where you go to help the people in another country but end up being the subject that gets ministered to. I only pray I’m showing as much Jesus to these people as they are to me.

I’m going to see if I can turn this volunteer experience into a full blown ministry on campus via Urban Involvement, so if you’re interested just say the word. I know 5 people who want to pursue this in the upcoming year, but if we could get at least five more I’m sure we’d be recognized as a legitimate ministry. UGM needs the help too, especially during the school year. You’ll love every minute of it too, I promise.

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~ by Chris Kyle on July 17, 2009.

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