Posted by: Matt Norton | February 24, 2009

Street Count

Last week, we had the Street Count.  It’s the annual event to count all the homeless of Louisville.  It’s set during a cold part of the year hoping to attract swarms of people to a warm building and free stuff.  From 6:00 to 8:00 pm all the shelters and then a few other designated places count the homeless, give them blankets along with other winter, food, and hygiene items, and have them fill out two questionnaires.

First of all, before the Street Count an amicable middle-aged deaf man that comes into the shelter on occasion slipped into the building with the volunteers.  He made his way toward me and started telling me a poignant story about his past.  Though long and complicated it can be summed up as this.  He has been homeless for many years, which is in part due to him being deaf.  In that time he has had many experiences with social workers and shelters.  Some experiences have been positive, but most have not.  Since he has been homeless he has been made to feel less than human.  He said that he feels like a statistic, a number, a pawn to help get grants.  He mentioned that in all his years being homeless there is only one caseworker who visits him.  He finds him on the street and spends time with him.  He said to me with tears in his eyes, “why would anyone want to visit someone like me.  I’m nobody.”  That set my mind spinning and praying.  I have gotten so used to my homeless friends coming and spending time with us in the Day Shelter with smiles on their faces and an abundance of kind words that I often forget their predicament.  My friend’s story reminded me of what the homeless go through.

As I continued to help at the Street Count thoughts and prayers for my friend lingered.  I kept on with my duties, which meant asking our residents questions so I could fill out a questionnaire for them.  That too reminded me of how dehumanizing and impersonal it must be to be homeless.  The questionnaire was asking things such as, “how many times have you been homeless in the past 3 years?”
“Have you tested positive for HIV?”
“Have you been diagnosed with any mental illness?”
“Are you currently working?”
“What is your income?”
“What sort of aid do you receive?”

As I asked these questions I cringed.  I do not feel as if I have the authority or right to ask such personal questions.  I just wanted to tell them, “no matter what you say Jesus still loves you and so do I.”  I wanted to scream, “It makes no difference if you have a disease or have no income that does not add or detract from the value that you have in Christ Jesus!”  Often I am discouraged when I see what the world tells us should be important in our lives.  It says that our salary is more important than family and friends.  It says that if we aren’t beautiful on the outside that we aren’t worth anything to others.  I am encouraged though when I read the Word and see what God says is important.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the pure in heart…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matt 5:3-11)

Value as defined in the Kingdom of God is quite counter-cultural.  We find our value in Christ alone and allow Him to transform us into one who is blessed through all the traits from the Sermon on the Mount. We are not called to fame and fortune, which the world sees as a blessing, but to a life intimately connected with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As I live here amongst the poor and homeless of Louisville I pray that the Lord uses me and other believers to show non-believers where value is found in the Kingdom.

Continue to pray that God works through the Hope team this year.  Pray specifically that others may see that followers of Christ don’t seek value as the world seeks, but that we abide in Christ Jesus our All in All.

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Responses

  1. good thoughts friend..enjoyed reading them

  2. Matt, your words are such an inspiration to me and to others! I’m so proud to be a small part of what God is doing in you as He makes you into what He wants you to be, the very image of His Son, Yeshua, whom we call by His nickname, Jesus. What an awesome God we serve that He knew before you were born that you would be serving Him by ministering to the homeless in Louisville at such a young age. The path that He has set you on will, no doubt, lead through many dark valleys and painful situations, but the LORD will always be with you, giving you the strength to accomplish His purpose as He blesses you with His divine love! It’s a privilege to know you!

  3. In a way that gentleman was right…we are all nobody-which makes it so much more amazing that the Lord sent His Son to pay our debt so we can spend eternity with Him. How amazing that you have the chance to tell people that the God of the universe wants love us “nobodies” and desires to hear our worship of Him forever. Praise God that we can recognize ourselves before a Holy God and AT THE SAME TIME be filled up with the Love of God and made into somebody for His kingdom. I pray that you see that man again and can continue to show hm Christ’s love and mercy.


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