Since taking my new job I have done little else but live and breathe street outreach. I accepted the job as director of outreach. My job has been to go out into the streets, identify homeless individuals and then ask them if they wanted services or to go inside. There were two key components that I wasn’t informed of upon accepting the position. I wouldn’t be provided any office supplies, nor would I have a building yet in which I could offer people as a shelter to get indoors.
For the past 4 months I have walked the streets of downtown learning the faces of those that most walk by or even worse don’t even notice because they blend in when hiding under the bridges and overpasses. I have had to get creative to win over clients who on average have spent 5 or more years on the streets. These are people have lost all faith in those of us who dwell indoors. They have been beat down by the system and given up on agencies and social services. For many of them they have had door after door shut in their faces. Boldly they survive on little to nothing but more than the mere will to conquer death. Their strong spirits have kept them going on the mean streets of San Diego and until our paths crossed survival mode was all they knew.
I have brought to their camps case managers from mental health, rehab programs, and even concerned souls to care for doggies. Over the months, I have given hundreds and hundreds of them a name and number referral for an agency so for the first time they could walk into an office without getting a door shut on them. I have gone to court to advocate for them. I have sent multiple notes of encouragement to jail to tell clients I would be there for them to just hang on until they got out. When they have screamed, “I can’t do this I want to die.” I have screamed louder, “I believe in you and I won’t let you quit on me. I will fight for you and scream from the rafters so that you are heard.” We have cried together, laughed, and even danced on the streets as small milestones have been met for them.
I have suffered many sleepless nights as I am jolted awake by the sound of rain. For some this is a soothing sound, but for me I see the faces of those I have lived life with who aren’t safe. I see the 60 year old female client who I know will be huddled with three of my other clients fighting to stay dry and warm under a tarp laid out in the center of the city. Sometimes I wake up in cold sweats because I know the following day I will have to go battle the powers that be to make things happen to get my clients housed.
My poor husband has had to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches many a night because I have spent 16 or even 20 hour days trying to fix a problem for clients or the organization. There have been nights when he has picked me up off the floor as I cry in the fetal position uttering, “It isn’t fair. This isn’t fair.” His reply, “I am willing to sacrifice time with you because I know what you are doing is helping so many people. You are strong and you can do this. Your clients believe in you and I believe in you.”
The only thing that has kept me sane these past few months has been my faith. Sometimes hanging by the slightest thread, some days it feel as if my sanity and my faith is about to break. Then I recall Matthew 17:20 where it says, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Day after day barriers rise and what I think isn’t conquerable, God simply flits them away as if they are little crumb on a table. In a week 150 people will have gotten housed because of the connections I have made with clients on the streets. Is it me? I can honestly say it isn’t me. In my time doing outreach on the streets, there have been countless individuals, agencies and even volunteers that have come to my rescue when I cried for help. God has provided me with a team who has skills I do not possess resources I didn’t have access to and even sometimes just a place for my clients to sit so they weren’t bothered.
My dear friend Monica, an intelligent business woman and a beautiful sister in Christ always says, “We need to just put our crosses in our back pocket and help people. God will do the work and save the souls.” Every day since I accepted this position I have prayed that God would help me to lead with love. Each and every day he has not only helped me to lead with love but he has shown me his great love. I have seen clients do amazing things and staff at partnering agencies go above and beyond for the client. I can’t help but be in awe and more in love with God each and every day.
The other night I couldn’t sleep I was worried about work. In the darkness of the night I began recalling all of the people in the Bible that God had kept his promise to. Slowly naming them off, similar to counting sheep, but better it was reassuring as I uttered person after person recalling story after story. God had my life and job under control the whole time. Today as I write this one of the huge weights off my mind has been lifted. A client has taken over and is helping run Caridad for me, what a cool thing he has done to allow my ministry to come full circle.
I don’t really know how to wrap this up, but I will try. You, dear friend please take heart. Whatever you are battling, whatever you are struggling with God is there with you. God is our strength and ally. I leave you with this quote from my very favorite author and theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, “When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”