J.R. is a Vietnam vet, born and raised in Midland. According to him, he once had over a million dollars in the bank but due to the dissolution of his marriage and resulting alcoholism, he lost it all. He isn’t your typical homeless individual, but if you get to know enough people on the streets, you’ll realize that nobody’s story is typical.
I first met J.R. last winter near the south side Wal-Mart. I saw him sitting on a retaining wall wearing only jeans and thin t-shirt in the sub-freezing conditions. I went over to talk with him and as you can imagine, he was in a state of despair that I myself can’t even fathom. Imagine sitting alone in your hometown with no one that cares about you just wondering if tonight is the night you are going to freeze to death.
God knew J.R. needed some help and just so happened to place me there to give it. He was so depressed that he refused a coat and sleeping bag several times, not thinking he was worthy of such a gift. As we sat and talked I could see his breath and the pain in his eyes. He told me about his time in the military, his PTSD, and the events leading up to his homelessness. It was clear that he hadn’t talked to anyone in a long time. He was so happy to have a listening ear that I kept prodding him to put on the coat and he just kept talking. After nearly an hour, he asked if he could pray for me.
There have been several times that people on the streets have offered to pray for us and they are some of our most treasured memories. J.R. finished his prayer and gave me a long hug. It’s experiences like these that the Lord has used to change our hearts and radically alter the course of our lives.
On Monday morning, I was completely exhausted. I had arrived from a trip to Florida just a few hours earlier and was running on about 8 hours of sleep for the whole 5 days I was gone. There was a big storm at about 4 AM and I was too busy thinking about how tired I was from my vacation to consider that our friends on the streets were currently getting pummeled.
I have seen J.R. each morning on my breakfast run with Breaking Bread Mobile and he always welcomes me with a smile and a firm handshake. After navigating the flooded streets on Monday, I arrived at his camp and my heart sank as I saw his tent torn to shreds. He was sitting underneath an old tarp soaked to the bone and shivering. When I hear people say that people choose to be homeless, I think about the misery my friends are living in and do my best to graciously explain that nobody would choose to suffer like that.
We got him some dry clothes and a new tent and he said that it felt like Christmas. More than the gear, I could sense that his spirit was lifted just knowing someone cared about him. J.R. knows that we love him because God first loved us. He is our brother in Christ. I thank God for the experiences that Briana and I have had with people like J.R. that have helped us to see the homeless with the eyes of Jesus. Each time we become more and more anxious to be a part of the restoration of people God created in His own image—masterpieces.
While I was fishing in Florida, Briana was working her tail off to develop relationships with funders and share our vision with the people in our community who will help us make it happen. She represented The Field’s Edge at West Texas Rural Philanthropy days and did an outstanding job. She also gave a report to our church missions committee and asked them to partner with us financially. God knew what He was doing when He blessed me with her.
We are currently seeking more ministry partners to come alongside us in cultivating home for the homeless. My work with Breaking Bread Mobile covers a significant portion of our needs but God has graciously given us the opportunity to bring others into our journey. I never thought I would be asking for financial support and definitely felt out of my element until a short time ago. I just finished a book called The God Ask, by Steve Shadrach, that totally reframed support raising, and reminded me that God designed His ministry workers to partner with others in fulfilling His mission. We are encouraged and emboldened knowing that God will provide for the work He has set before us. I now understand that we are not beggars, but instead we are inviting others to join us in the life-giving work of the Kingdom. We hope to meet with each of you face to face to share God’s vision and invite you to be a part of it.
We are grateful to be in the middle of God’s work and each week He continues to amaze us. We can honestly say that there has never been a time in our lives that we have felt such peace and joy, even though what we are doing seems risky. Thank you for continuing to follow along and pray for us. Our prayer requests this week are as follows:
· Pray for a loving home for our friends on the streets.
· Continued prayer for a course of action for JM’s back.
· Our dog Waylon is having another ACL surgery on Friday.
· Upcoming decisions on a more permanent house.
· Perseverance and trust in the Lord when the enemy tries to get us down.
· JM’s paternal grandmother’s health. She is not doing well and is now receiving hospice care.