Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Following the Example of Momma T

Los Angeles County has an estimated 91,000 homeless. Orange County-a bordering, affluent county-has an even higher percentage of homeless. As I pray to not be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of poverty in my community, I have sought to embrace Mother Teresa's wisdom: "I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one."
A local Orange County youth group recently came on their annual CSM-LA weekend trip. One morning, in seeking to live out Momma T's wisdom, they were given a few dollars to take a homeless person out for breakfast. Christie and her son were with the group who enjoyed a scrumptious Irish meal (McDonalds) with Charles. Charles was an older man who was dressed in ratty clothes and female flip flops that were half his foot-size. After breakfast, Christie helped Charles pick out an entire new wardrobe from clothes collected at her church.
But the thought of Charles' sandals never left her mind. She cried out to God for him all weekend. When her group left on Sunday, Christie told me that she was going to collect shoes and socks (which are like gold to the homeless) from her friends. Three days later, Christie and her sister loaded their Expedition up with the donations, and made their way back to downtown LA. She called me to ask for directions and to tell me that she had been praying all week for God to help her find Charles. I was touched by her act of compassion, but realized that finding Charles within downtown's sea of homeless people was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
As Christie exited the freeway and began entering downtown, she saw a homeless man standing by the traffic light. At first she thought he was barefoot, but as she drove closer she quickly realized that this man was wearing size six female flip-flops! Charles was given new socks and shoes; Christie and her sister were blessed to eat another meal with Charles; and I learned a valuable lesson in the power of prayer.
-Jason Porterfield, City Host, CSM LA

Monday, April 17, 2006

Youth Leader Reflects on Homeless in Toronto

The following is a poem written by a youth leader who recently brought a group to our Toronto site. We thank him for his insight and for sharing his heart with us.

John Doe

There on the street they huddle.
The cold is not so bad
if you're watching from a heated van
anticipating a warm, soft bed.

But to walk with empty pockets,
no money and no I.D.
Well - a toonie you might be hording.
From past abuse you might be free.

But the night stretches before you
so endless, cold and dark.
The new life you have dreamed of fades
'gainst realities so stark.

The streetlights glare with a cold, cruel light
casting shadows all around.
Your courage shrinks as terrors creep
from each outline on the ground.

You hate the one who forced you
to finally run away.
You hate your helplessness and fear
of this night and coming day.

You cry to God. But you don't believe
that he hears you - or he cares.
For painful years have led to this.
When has he heard your prayers?

And the toonie in your pocket
might ease your hunger's pain.
But you can't yet bear to spend it
so you shuffle on again.

Still the smells from the hotdog vender
are a torture you've never known.
They force your memories to look back
on the good you once called home.

But that good was stained by a trust betrayed.
Pain's an overflowing well
that rises, stirring up the murk
of shame - flushed straight from hell.
You can't go back! You WON'T go back!
You swear it once again.
But your empty belly mocks you
on this dark night full of shame.

And the streetlights glare in the bitter cold
casting shadows on the ground.
The darkness seems inside of you.
Hope cannot be found.

Desperate though you are to trust
you can't trust anyone.
You cry inside, though the tears don't spill
as you begin to make a plan.

Your toonie would buy a token,
down to the subway train.
A single step could bring relief;
an end to all your pain.

Your eyes begin that bitter search
and your feet move on as well.
Then you're stumbling down a long, long stair,
descending into - Hell?

But the love of life is still too strong
and you turn and rush away.
Your tears this time you cannot hide
and your pain, they must betray.

So your feet go on their endless tramp.
It doesn't matter where.
You're dead - you're just not lying down.
The passers by just stare.

No one reaches out a hand
or offers just a smile.
Your weary feet still pound the concrete
mile after mile.

The shadows fade. The sun appears.
One endless night is done.
You find a corner free from wind
and stand there in the sun.

You've almost ceased to shiver.
You hardly feel the cold.

It doesn't seem to matter now,
the death of your plans bold.
The sun's soon covered by a cloud.
The cloud spits freezing rain.
Your strength is gone. You half believe
you must deserve this pain.

You cry to God, a wordless cry.
You wonder, does he hear?
You're empty now of bitter rage.
You've almost ceased to fear.
Your knees buckle beneath you.
Head sags against your chest.
One more John Doe, on memorial role
will say - you found your rest.
.. .. ..

There on the street they huddle.
The cold is not so bad
if you're watching from a heated van
anticipating a warm, soft bed.

I drove that van on Toronto's streets.
I saw them huddled there.
My cry to God - a wordless groan
was an anguished, pain-filled prayer.
The memorial plaque with its list of names
in my memory is burned,
and the purplish red of a cold, cold hand
and the help so often spurned . . .

A hot sandwich and hot coffee
there on the freezing street . . .
Is that all I can give them
their needs to somehow meet?

For I the poet - full of words
was dumb there by their side.
And home now in my comfort,
sat with pen in hand, and cried.

Copyright April 10, 2006 Brian Austin

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why Mission Trips Are a Waste of Time

If you've never read the article "Why Mission Trips Are a Waste of Time" by CSM's President (Noel Becchetti) we encourage you to do so!
"We're going to Ecuador!" The words ring out in a dimly-lit sanctuary. As music pulses, more lights come on and more voices ring out: "We'll be working with our denominational missionaries!" "We're going to repair the roof of their mission house!" "We're going to put on a Bible club for the village children!" The voices? Members of a youth group in a large church in the Pacific Northwest. They were presenting their upcoming mission trip to members of their congregation. Me? I was the guest speaker, brought in to inspire the adults to support their students' summer mission plans. No problem--except that I was in a quandary. What can I honestly say to these people, I thought, when I know that this trip is mostly a waste of everyone's time and money? Read on...

Read what other bloggers have to say...

Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions before going on a short term mission trip! Any thoughts? (Please read the entire article before commenting!)