I made my way downtown tonight around 7:00’ish to a heralded hot-spot of some of Portland’s finest. The spot was beneath Hawthorne bridge, and the “finest” were the collective faces of the homeless, the jembists, the fire-dancers, and any of those lucky enough to just pass by and find themselves in the throws of community of a different kind…at least to this affluent, Seminary, white-boy.
So, the story goes… my mentor, Brian Luse, grew up with this guy named Travis. Travis has, since they parted ways years ago, put into action an idea that God brought to him …in fact he literally nestled it up right under the forgotten bowels below the Hawthorne bridge. The idea is simple… serve the homeless and the Church, all at once. It’s such a simple plan, perfect for what it’s set out to do. His flyers read as follow…
Many people do not give to the homeless because they are afraid the money will be used for drug and alcohol. By substituting Sanctity of Hope tokens for cash, we’ve removed these concerns. People and businesses donating to Sanctity of Hope receive one token for every $1.25 donated. These tokens can be given to the homeless. The homeless bring the tokens to the Sanctity of Hope mobile storefront and exchange them for goods such as food, blankets, clothing and personal hygiene products.
Now, how many of you people that drive or walk by homeless people and want to give them something, but don’t, for fear of feeding an addiction, just felt like…“Well, there’s no more excuse, now is there?” I love this idea. Even just hearing some of the temperament tonight from the homeless people…comments like,
“This makes me feel like what it’ll be like when I get back on my feet”
“At other places, yeah, it’s easy and good to know you can come get free food and free clothes, but when they don’t have much of a system, and have more of a free for all like where everything is lied out on a table, people end up taking way more than they need to turn around and sell the stuff themselves.”
This is a very good idea God brought to man, for not only does it serve as a more refined and raw, in my opinion, process by which to provide at least some of a remedy to the condition of life…it also bridges that justification, albeit valid, between the Christian not acting much like Jesus to the homeless before their eyes. In all seriousness, I genuinely believe there are many people out there who would love to help the homeless by giving them the funds to better their lives, but honestly don’t want to risk furthering the already bad condition. It’s a tough and very real dilemma…do I not give and leave them in a bad spot, or do I give knowing it could make them even worse off.
Something like Sanctity of Hope I rejoice and fear does two things…one…it allows the very urbanized-never-gonna-even-purchase-a-home-near-anyone-homeless people in churches all across Portland to walk as their Rabbi did…make their way to the well, and draw from that downcast soul, that dirty face, that despised and forgotten individual, both conversation, life and maybe even a cup of (living) water. I think this is something that can catch on very easily across this country, and I pray it starts and catches momentum here, now.
Just imagine…all those affluent, middle to upper-class, typically white churches, taking youth groups out to beneath the Hawthorne bridge, heck, even before it starts getting crazy and noisy down there with the fire-dancers and the obvious abundance of marijuana…just imagine all those well-to-do people down there in the home of the forgotten people of Portland, having bought tokens with easy enough checks that were written in congregations earlier that day, now handing them out freely to people with perhaps even some bridgeful conversation…chit-chat that would never otherwise be exchanged between these economic chasm between these two worlds…
can you see it…can you feel it…I did…and I want more.
I will hopefully start trying to make my way down their Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights to be with these people, to learn from them, to hear their stories, and to be salt and light to them as much as possible…oddly enough…damn my stupid heart and mind for thinking any otherwise…I was the recipient of a bit of salt and light myself as the homeless taught me a few things about being broken and being over-comers of trials. And why wouldn’t they…they are beautiful and smelly…courageous and lazy…broken and manipulative…but they are beautiful, and probably would have seen more of our Savior face-to-face if He were here walking around doing His thing than I would.
And so…with out-dated Starbucks coffee, (coffee oddly enough these people would never be able to afford), some fire-dancers whippin’ around chains and ballet sticks, jembists, nearing a good dozen or more, rockin’ out a pure, unadulterated, deep, intense rhythm that warped me into some ritual far off in Africa, or some ancient pagan ritual steeped in sexual immorality with tartric tones leading the body…random dogs named “dude” and “baby-girl” who knew my smell by the end of the night, the aroma of marijuana so thick that it was a wonder how I didn’t get high just from hanging out, un-practiced handshakes filled with grimy stories of how days were spent, a smell still sitting on my clothes and fingers (keyboard) still, a few faces that I would never have met otherwise, some faith stories I would never have known and some evil I would never have seen…
I am honored to say I spent tonight beneath a bridge, trying to be a bridge to Christ for people who know Him to exist, but feel forgotten and abandoned by anything, or anyone resembling His follower. How sad it is that I should be able to find such a ministry. But how privileged I am to know I can serve and learn from some of the best people I know.
If you’d like…pray for Mary (drug addiction). For Rob,with the crazy light blue eyes and Hulk Hogan ‘stache (armed forces vet, recovering from glaucoma affects and gambling addiction). For Penny, a beautiful young boy who looks a bit like Quasimodo was characitured to be, whose always smiling and dealing with not being able to afford medication for his deficiencies stemming from his mental retardation…he’s always smiling and so very generous. For Dan who doesn’t look very homeless to say the least, but lives the rough lifestyle to say the truth. For Jeffrey and his gentle face with slightly red facial beard that’s more stubble than beard…he’s very shy but teaches me how to laugh. And of course for the whole Sanctity of Hope team…who prayerfully will provide a much needed outlet for both the church and the homeless. May we all find ourselves on that new bridge of Life.
If you don’t know the way to this bridge between the worlds…it’s easy…it’s beneath the bridge they call Hawthorne.