Posted by: Kerry Spencer | April 5, 2009

Kerry’s April Newsletter

Greetings friends and family!

While working the various stations in the Day Shelter, we have the opportunity to converse and build relationships with our homeless guests. That’s the goal anyway. Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I don’t want to give my time and energy to delve into their lives and listen to their stories. But sometimes it doesn’t matter what I want to do; folks open up anyway.

Recently, a middle-aged homeless lady, who I didn’t know very well, stopped by the front desk. I asked the polite, yet insincere question, “How you doing?” She replied, “Doing well today. At least I’m not sick. But I will be tomorrow.” I was puzzled by her statement and asked what she meant. I learned that she has cancer and was going to another chemotherapy session the next day. Homeless with cancer – how’s that for a combination? She continued to tell me that she was “ready to go, if He’d just take me” – meaning she was ready to die. We talked briefly about her faith in God and I told her I’d be praying for her.

Another day this week, a young man about my age told me that he was having suicidal thoughts. Besides his grinding homeless lifestyle and his frustrating inability to find a job, he now has a court date looming. He is losing hope. I tried to encourage him with the Gospel, as he is also a believer. I told him, as well, that I’d be praying for him.

As I was typing this up, one of our residents was hanging out in our apartment. At one point he interrupted me to share about his bad day and some issues that were stressing him out. I was again in a position to either show genuine concern or give the minimal response so I could get on with what I really wanted and needed to do.

What I’m getting at by sharing these three snippets is the fact that, probably more than any other time in my life, I’m in a position to respond to people in severe need. So my options are: to not respond at all, to respond robotically, or to respond with genuine care and compassion. This is one of the greatest struggles I have in living, working, and ministering here at Jeff. St.: caring about people.

In a recent prayer service, a pastor reminded us that we should not respond to people’s distressing circumstances with callous indifference. His words, “callous indifference,” have stuck with me. I fear that my time at Jeff. St. is wearing my heart callous and indifferent towards other’s pain.

No matter what our occupation, if we do it for long enough, it can loose its luster. Over time, we can become robotic and mechanical in our activities. If we are working on an assembly line or are doing accounting, that might not be a big problem. But when we are supposed to be ministering to people, particularly hurting and needy people, that’s a big problem.

We’ve been here over six months now, and the honeymoon is long gone. In many ways, what we do is not as easy or enjoyable as it once was. But I must remind myself that I didn’t come here to live a life of ease and enjoyment. More importantly, as Christians, we are not called to a life of ease and enjoyment. Instead, the Christian life is a life of hardship (2 Timothy 2:3) and sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Thus we are called to perseverance and humility. Perseverance: because life’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Humility: because life’s not all about us.

What’s more, our perseverance must be of a particular sort. Our perseverance is not simply a mechanical continuation of the daily tasks that are required of us. Our perseverance must be a constancy of love. So I must love like my Father, whose love endures forever (Psalm 136).

• Please continue to pray for our homeless friends as they endure the harshness of their lifestyle.
• Please pray that the Lord would give us the perseverance, humility, and love that we need to minister to our homeless friends.

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