Posted by: Kerry Spencer | July 5, 2009

Kerry’s July Newsletter

Greetings friends and family!

Occasionally I still stop and think about the fact that I live in a homeless shelter. It’s weird because it’s not weird anymore. I remember about a year ago when I was mulling over the decision to come here. At that time, I could have listed numerous reasons why it would be weird to live in a homeless shelter. And I guess in comparison to some people’s lives, my shelter-dwelling lifestyle is abnormal. But who says being abnormal is a bad thing?

When I made the peculiar decision to move here last summer, it was largely because I knew I wanted and needed to love the poor and needy. The Lord has placed that desire in my heart (and in His word). But I have learned from experience that I’m not very good at demonstrating my love to the poor from a distance. I’m far too easily distracted and not nearly passionate enough. But I didn’t want to be one of those people Mother Teresa was thinking about when she said, “It is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not so fashionable to talk to the poor.”

Recently we HOPE guys were talking with one of our staff members who is the head of one of our resident programs. He told us that, in his opinion, just being here is the best thing we do. He told us how some of the residents talk about us behind our backs (mostly in complementary ways). One guy, he says, is still trying to figure us out: “What are these guys doing here? Bunch of morons.” He’s not a believer and he finds it ridiculous that young guys would stop their education, give up their summer, or in my case, give up unemployment to come live and work at a homeless shelter for very little pay. According to this staff member, this is that particular resident’s way of paying us a compliment. So apparently our mere presence is a witness to our residents.

Pridefully, I’d like to think I’ve done something better than just “being here.” I’d rather be considered a bold evangelist or a humble servant. But when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It is often by just being somewhere, “at the right place at the right time” as we say, that we have the greatest impact.

Just by being here, I get to listen to, council, and pray with residents who knock on our apartment door to share about struggles they’re going through. Just by being here, I get to help guys with small tasks and errands they might struggle to accomplish on their own. Just by being here, I’m able to befriend some people who are considered outcasts by society. Just by being here, I’m able to learn a lot of the names of people who are usually overlooked and passed by on the streets. I could go on.

Now, all this is not meant to guilt you into uprooting and moving into the poorest community you can find. That’s not my point. The challenge is, as martyred missionary Jim Elliott said, “Wherever you are – be all there.” Whoever your neighbors are, be determined to love them practically, not just in theory.

When we look at the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), we see that Jesus defines our “neighbor” as the people we stumble upon as we stroll through life. In this story, we do NOT see love defined as a warm, fuzzy emotion. Instead, love is an inconvenient, messy, sacrificial, hands-on undertaking.

Ultimately, Jesus, not the Good Samaritan, is our example in how to show love. After all, He inconveniently came an infinite distance to get messy and to sacrifice His life out of His great love for us. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Are we going to follow Jesus’ example or not?

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