Posted by: Cameron Raulston | August 1, 2008

A Not-So-Final Word

August 2008 HOPE Newsletter

Dear Family and Friends,

As I write to you, my emotions are in bittersweet limbo. My time here at HOPE is coming too rapidly to a close, which makes me sad. But at the same time, I can reflect on all that I have experienced this summer with joy, knowing that God has used me to love people and share hope with them, even though I am broken and often make mistakes. He has also challenged me, stretched me beyond what is comfortable, and grown me in ways that I cannot fully grasp right now. Thank you for your prayers and support as I have lived and served (and been served) here at Jeff Street. Please know that they were and are very important, needed, and appreciated.

How can I tell you how I have changed this summer? How can I possibly explain what I have experienced and learned about God, my teammates, my homeless friends, and life? I cannot. I am at an overwhelming loss for words. So, instead of trying to sum up every thing I’ve learned and what changes have been occurring in my heart, I would like to tell you a story.

Every Wednesday is deemed Outreach Day for the other HOPE guys and me. We don’t have to work in the day shelter on that day; instead, we usually have the opportunity to build our relationships with the residents here by talking, listening, playing pool, going bowling, and doing anything else creative together to get to know our neighbors a little better. During one Outreach Day last month, however, we were asked to work in the shelter because our directors were going to be gone and our help was needed. We decided to wear polo shirts that day since we would be the main staff, and we were also wearing the center’s new handheld radios.

As I was walking through the cafeteria in the shelter at one point that morning, a man named Simon* called me over to where he sat. As I approached, I overheard him mutter to his friend, “He’s got a radio. Let’s see how much power he’s got.” Simon is a regular homeless guest to Jeff Street. He is sometimes friendly, but more often drunk and very rude and sarcastic; so, after I heard his challenging comment, I really didn’t want to deal with him. He asked me to give him a t-shirt, claiming he needed one to wear to work, and my immediate thought was, “this guy’s probably not going to work. I bet he’s just trying to take advantage of me.”

Even though clothes are donated to Jeff Street fairly regularly, we do not offer a clothing service and typically give away clothes only if someone has a true, urgent need. I informed Simon of this and he replied that he really needed a shirt, even though his shirt seemed to be in fairly good condition. He then retorted, “If I needed you to call the police, you’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?” To make a long story slightly shorter, I told him I would go look for a shirt but could not promise I would find one.

The whole time I was talking to Simon, I was impatient and didn’t feel like dealing with him. I carried this attitude with me as I walked begrudgingly to the donations closet, and as a result I wasted about fifteen minutes after I found a shirt. When I finally got around to taking it back down to the cafeteria, Simon was gone. I asked another guest where he was and he said, “Man, he went to work.” I felt instantly convicted. I had given Simon excuses as to why I couldn’t give him a shirt. If another friendlier day shelter guest whom I liked better had come to me with the same request, I would have gladly helped him or her. Instead, I had played favorites; I had not loved as Jesus does, but attached strings to love and mercy.

Later that afternoon I was reading the Bible and came upon this: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13). Mercy is good. It’s better than judgment. This is just one of the many truths I have been learning this summer.

I am tempted to end this letter with, “I have learned ____ this summer.” However, I think it is more true to say that I am learning, meaning that I am still in the process of understanding the many things God and my friends are teaching me. It is dangerous to put learning in the past tense. One thing I am learning is that the difficult things in life are the ones most worth doing. Sitting down to talk with my very reclusive friend Wallace, for example, is sometimes taxing; dealing with people like Simon is stressful; and it is not always easy to live, eat, sleep and otherwise spend all my time with two guys who were strangers to me two months ago. But even though these are challenging experiences, the rewards that come from them are numerous.

I am also learning that the love and salvation that Jesus Christ offers are the only true cure to our brokenness and sin-mine, yours, and everyone’s. I knew this. But, while talking and listening to homeless folks this summer, I have often found myself faced with the question of how to help them. How can I help someone when he tells me his brother just had a stroke, and he doesn’t know what he’ll do if he dies? What do I have to offer a man who shares with me that he has been trying to fix his life and battle the monster of alcohol for years, but keeps going back to the bottle? The most important thing I can do is listen and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I can give people all kinds of advice and consolation, and refer them to social services to help them break their addictions, and that is good. But without telling them about the only cure to their spiritual state of poverty, I haven’t helped them very much.

I am still learning these and many things, and will continue to for the rest of my life. I want to thank those of you who have been praying for me and supporting me financially and in other ways this summer. Without your help and God’s, I could not have served, learned from, and loved homeless folks this summer. Even though I am almost done with the HOPE program, Jefferson Street’s ministry to the homeless men and women of Louisville does not end when I leave. I really encourage you to consider giving financially to help the next HOPE folks and staff of Jeff Street serve the homeless in the months and years to come. Thank you all for reading my letters, praying, and loving me throughout this summer.

Sincerely,

Cameron Raulston

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Responses

  1. Cameron,
    Thanks so much for sharing these words. I truly needed to hear them today in dealing with a difficult situation. You are right about MERCY triumphs over JUDGEMENT.You were right about everything you said. Sounds like you have had a great time. Looking forward to seeing you.
    Love,
    Theresa


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