Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 12, 2010

February Newsletter

February Newsletter

Dear Family & Friends,

I just realized that my year long mission here at Jeff St. is half way through its course and that’s pretty difficult for me to comprehend. Still this year, as well as this past summer, would not have been possible without your prayers and support. Thank you all so much for all the love and encouragement you have bestowed to me and to the ministry at Jeff St. I look forward to what the Lord has in store for this ministry here while the 2009-2010 yearlong HOPE Team continues its service, so please keep us all in your prayers!

Earlier this morning I was working the front desk when one of our day shelter guests, Mark, stopped by to speak with me. Mark is very polite; he keeps to himself and is always moving around in the day shelter. When asked why he never stays in one place for very long, Mark tells me that he has to keep on the move to retain his sanity. At first I heard that and just agreed with him somewhat, but then he told me, “No. Seriously, I’m diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.” He then shared with me that crowds make him nervous and that he can’t stand the noise collective.

Mark doesn’t only spend his days by himself; he also camps out by himself. Last night was one of the coldest nights of the year thus far and Mark told me that he spent the night out in his tent underneath a bridge over in the West end of town. I asked him if he ever considered going to one of the overnight or emergency shelters in town and he told me that he tries to avoid those at all cost. “The chaos in my head and the chaos of the crowds are not a good mix,” he said, “and making four bucks for two days worth of collecting can ain’t cutting it either.” It was obvious that the bitter cold and my friend’s condition were taking a great toll on his mind, body, and soul.

Most of my conversations with Mark have been surface level at best. I’ve never really asked him how he ended up in Louisville nor have I asked him how he became homeless, until today. Eventually I began to ask him about his life on the streets and where he grew up. He went on to tell me that he came to Kentucky looking for work and that he has family in Central Indiana, whom he has not spoken to in years. When I asked him why that was so, he paused and then looked at me and said, “I was in prison from 1988 to 2001.” Respectfully I asked if he wouldn’t mind sharing with me his reason for his imprisonment; he quickly, but somberly said, “murder.”

I didn’t really know what to say, I just kept listening intently and made sure that our conversation didn’t end on such a depressing note. “Not a day goes by when I don’t regret what I did,” Mark said, “I mean…look where it got me.” Mark scratched the scruff on his face and wiped his nose on his worn camouflage jacket before he took a sip of his coffee; he then paused and said, “sometimes I just want to die.” Concerned for my friend’s well being, I told him that there is reason that he is still with us. I told him that I appreciate our conversations and that the example that he sets inside the day shelter is something that people notice. And that’s so true, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while being at Jeff St. it’s that everyone here has one thing in common, other than being sinners in need of God’s Salvation, and that is we’re all people watchers. In an environment where it’s so easy to get caught up in all the drama of others, Mark scans the room and keeps to himself; he speaks if spoken to and I’ve yet to see him be rude to either the Jeff St. staff or the other day shelter guests.
Mark left the front desk to go get another cup of coffee, I prayed for Mark right then and there for his heart to open up to the Gospel and for God to grant me the wisdom to speak Truth into his life. I prayed that Mark would get connected with people in his life that care for him and would be able to help him find a way out of his poverty. Whether it be some long lost relative or a would-be employer; I prayed that Mark’s time here would not be such a burden and that someone would step into his life and help him out.

Not too long after he left the front desk, Mark returned to continue our dialogue. I quickly asked him if he had a bible, to which he replied, “Yea I have two of them, I try to read it every night before I go to bed.” I then followed up by handing him a strip of paper with “Psalm 27” written on it, I asked him to keep this in mind when he’s feeling miserable and just has no hope. He appreciated the consideration and advice very much and folded the strip of paper and placed it in his wallet. Soon after that, Mark left the front desk and headed out for the rest of his day.

Please keep Mark in your prayers. Pray that he would recognize and believe that God loves him and that His Saving Grace is for murderers just as much as it is for people who cheat on their taxes. Pray that we, as God’s people, would step up in our communities and shine for Jesus Christ and that our deeds would be rooted in His Word. Also keep Jeff St. in your prayers. Pray for the staff, the volunteers, the day shelter guests, the residents, and my fellow HOPE Team members. Pray that God would continue to provide and that we would continue to submit and humbly follow Him. Again thanks so much for all your love, prayers, and support!

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

-Psalm 27:5
Take care & God Bless.

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

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