All My Homeless Friends Are Dead

We’re back in Honolulu for a little bit.  I was going to keep it under wraps, but that decision was based in fear.  And making decisions out of fear is gross.  Perfect love casts out fear.

One of the highlights from when we lived in Hawaii a couple years ago was the Tuesday night homeless outreach in Waikiki.  So last night I decided to head down and see what was going on.

I wrote quite a bit about some of my experiences down there over the years.  Like the time the homeless guy got beat up for an obscenity.  Or my thoughts on touching the poor.   Or the time the drunk guy wanted to fight me.  Or the time I had to call an ambulance for Jim.

It’s crazy we’ve been gone for about 2 years, and a lot of the homeless guys that I really connected with have passed.  Jim’s gone.  Martin’s gone.  Tony’s gone.

Tonight I got down there and they were already handing out pizza.  Faithful Cindy was there helping Pastor RK pass out pizza, she had a big smile when she saw me and I got to give her a hug after she was done passing out pizza.

I’m an introvert, I don’t like initiating conversation in real life, I don’t like large crowds, and I’m 2 years out of practice from doing this.

I stood there and just tried to observe.  Not a single person I recognized from two years ago.

One guy came through the line stuck out to me.  As he was handed his first piece of pizza he commented

“I like to say, thank you Jesus, shakka Father.”

He came through the line again for seconds, and was very vocal about being grateful for the pizza.

He stood off to the side and ate.  I didn’t come down there just to observe, and RK hates the holy huddle.  RK had to leave and jokingly but also seriously said, cast a demon out of someone, I wanna hear a testimony next week, he had to leave early.

So I moved towards the man with his shirt off eating a piece of pizza.  I gave him knuckles, conscious of how bad his skin looked.

“I’m Perry, with a P.”  He said sometime during the conversation.

I asked him if he was from here and he said he’d lived here all his life.

He went on to tell me where he lived, some of the cross streets where bus benches are.

He said he got out of the hospital in October because of a horrible staph infection, he pointed to some of his skin that had permanently bubbled up and looked discolored.

He told me that his boyfriend choose meth and heroin over him.

I thanked him for being grateful for the pizza.  “Oh honey.” He responded.  He told me he hadn’t eaten in 3 days.

He said he was down here just to make people smile.  I said something about how it’s good to have purpose, and he hung on that word.  Purpose.

I asked him if this was his first time here, he said he came once last year, but didn’t know we’d be down here.  I told him that RK has been down there with pizza every Tuesday for like 7 years.

He told me he missed his court date because the police had taken his things and he didn’t know when to appear.  He was told to turn himself in for missing the court date and said he’d do it tomorrow.

He told me that his court date was for a stolen sandwich from the ABC store.

“I hope you won’t judge me for that.”  “I was hungry.”

He was worried about what a complete stranger thought of him.  People are looking for mercy and they know right from wrong.

Meanwhile my brain is in outreach mode… the need to say something spiritual is overwhelming… I should say something about how Jesus is the bread of life and how if You eat of Him you will never go hungry…

I didn’t say anything spiritual, because it would have been so forced, and it wouldn’t have been in love, it would have been said in my strange feeling of needing of saying something spiritual.  Instead I asked him how I could be praying for him this week.  He didn’t really give me a coherent answer.  He asked me how he could be praying for me, and then started to recite and kind of yell a prayer I had never heard.  He said he got chills as he did it.

Father, I pray for Perry right now, I thank you that He knows you by name and I thank you even more that You know Him by name.  I thank you that its your kindness that leads us to repentance.  I pray that Perry would encounter your love for him in such a deep way this week that He would walk in all the good plans you have for him, in Jesus name amen.

What are God’s plans for the homeless in Waikiki?  Is it that they all get jobs and have homes?  Is that what the Kingdom of God is about?  Is it that they all attend a church on Sunday?

I honestly didn’t want to go tonight.  I even told Jess that.  She reminded me that I never want to go but I’m always glad I did.

It’s true.  I’m glad that I can be reminded that homeless people, who look nothing like me, who have withered skin from the elements, who are homosexuals, who sleep on bus benches and are in trouble with the law, were made in God’s image.  And that’s what gives them value.

I’ve been stuck in my suburban cul-de-sac to long.  Being back in Honolulu, I’ve noticed an increase in the homeless population.  On the weekends when the cops sweep the beaches they migrate to the end of the street where we’re staying and set up there tents there.  The other night a guy curled up ten yards from my back window.

Working with the homeless and then getting to go home to the safety or your tidy neighborhood was one thing.  Living where they set up is a complete other thing.  In fact all of today there was a cart covered by a tarp leaning against a tree right in eye sight of my back window.  It’s still there.

But the important thing is I remember that these are people, created in God’s image, which means they have value.

I don’t have all the answers for the obviously large population of homeless.  And I don’t think there is a normal story of how people got homeless.  I’ve talked with people that want to be homeless because they like the “freedom.”  Some people are homeless because of mental illness, or drug addiction.

I don’t want homeless people sleeping in my backyard.  Their trash and waste littering our streets and alleys. And I don’t have a solution.

But I bet that solution starts with them knowing that they have value.  Value because they were created in God’s image.  Value because God sent His son to redeem them.  Value because the Father is calling the prodigals home.

When we don’t think we have value, we don’t think we have purpose.  And purpose is what gives us hope.  And hope is what causes us to take responsibility.

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