Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Attackers of the Homeless Charged

This article is found at:

Twin brothers face charges in assaults on homeless
by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian

Saturday December 27, 2008, 6:18 PM

Portland detectives say a transient woman in her 50s was pushed down this staircase leading to Colonel Summers Park, off Southeast 18th Avenue, in mid-November after she stood up to two men. James and Michael Johnson have been arrested on assault charges related to attacking homeless people at the park.
On Portland's streets, police say, James and Michael Johnson are known as the "Twin Towers" because the brawny brothers are always together and the sight of them strikes terror among the homeless.

Police said they have linked the 32-year-old twins to five unprovoked assaults against transients, all at Colonel Summers Park in Southeast Portland, where they've become known for their bullying and beatings.

"They're always picking on people who are older and frailer. There's no fair fights here," Portland Detective Kevin Warren said. "For the most part, it's just a beat-down. They're just beating people up because they're thinking they'll get away with it."

James JohnsonOne man sleeping on a bench near the park's gazebo was pounded with his own bicycle, police said. Another homeless man who yelled at the Johnson twins to stop the bicycle clubbing was then stabbed in the leg, police said.

One of the brothers last month threw a woman in her 50s down a flight of stairs at the park after she started to question why the pair kept hurting the homeless. A witness who tried to intervene was then assaulted.

"They seem to be able to do their acts with impunity," Warren said. "I've never seen a couple of guys doing serial assaults like this with no apparent motivation ... which got us motivated to find and locate other victims."

Michael JohnsonA Multnomah County grand jury has indicted the Johnsons on second-degree and third-degree assault charges. Since their arrests Nov. 16, they've each pleaded not guilty to the charges. Since the brothers were taken into custody, other victims have come forward, encouraged by the knowledge their attackers are locked up, police said.

Detectives continue to reach out to the homeless at local shelters and church kitchens to determine whether others have been assaulted.

Marc Jolin, executive director of JOIN, a nonprofit agency that works to help the homeless into housing, said he learned about some of the beatings from staffers.

"People who are homeless are often victims of violence because they are vulnerable," Jolin said. "They're outside. They don't have a lot of resources, and they're not always comfortable going to the police and asking for help."

In fact, many of those assaulted by the Johnsons never called police, but were found by officers some time after the attacks.

Court records show a lengthy criminal history for the brothers, dating to when they were juveniles, and prior alcohol, anger management and domestic violence problems. They haven't had a steady address and have been described as transient at times. They have bounced among friends, listing addresses in Portland, St. Helens and Gresham over the past several years.

According to police reports, shortly after midnight July19, a man sleeping on a bench near the gazebo in Colonel Summers Park awakened to one of the brothers pounding him with his bicycle. The homeless man, Jeffrey Paul Mason, 55, suffered a bloody nose and lost consciousness.

When a fellow transient, Charles Vaughn, 42, tried to come to Mason's aid, one of the brothers turned on Vaughn and stabbed him in the leg, according to police reports.

Vaughn told police he limped off and watched the man who stabbed him return and continue beating Mason. Vaughn tied something around his leg to stanch the bleeding. When the bleeding didn't stop after an hour, he went to a phone booth at Southeast 11th Avenue and Harrison Street to call an ambulance. Vaughn suffered a 2-inch gash on his right thigh and was treated at OHSU Hospital.

Vaughn told officers he usually spends his nights at the park and has seen the twin brothers assault others. "I can spot those guys from across the park," he told detectives.

By August, detectives distributed a wanted flier to all Portland police precincts, seeking the arrest of the Johnson brothers.

Months passed. It wasn't until Nov. 16 that patrol officers found the twins at Colonel Summers Park, arrested them and took them into custody on warrants stemming from the July beating and stabbing.

By then, investigators said, the twins had struck again.

In fact, a day earlier, police learned, the Johnsons had attacked a homeless woman who stood up for herself and others at the park. Witnesses told police the twins threw her down a steep staircase on the north edge of the park at Southeast 18th Avenue, off Belmont Street. She was found near the park's gazebo the next day by police making routine checks. The officers found she had a warrant on a minor park violation. They drove her to jail but soon realized she had suffered a recent injury and called an ambulance to take her to a hospital.

The woman sustained a serious head injury, including bleeding in her brain, and was in the intensive care unit at OHSU Hospital for about 10 days, Warren said. "She's fortunate to be alive," Warren said.

Another man who witnessed the woman's assault tried to intervene, police said. That's when at least one of the brothers turned on him. The man suffered facial fractures, a broken left wrist and a cut to his forehead.

"None of these victims would be spoiling for a fight, especially against people who are younger and stronger than they are," Warren said. "It's pretty offensive."

A 35-year-old man who lives on the streets and identified himself only as Jack said he's seen the Johnson brothers in the city for several years. He described James Johnson as the more violent of the two. His brother, Michael, whom friends described as a few minutes older than James, always seemed to come to his aid. "One starts it, and the other one backs him up," Jack said. The twins are each described as 5 feet 7 and 215 pounds, according to jail records.

When interviewed by officers, James Johnson denied any involvement in the July 19 beating. "I never beat up anybody," he told police, "and I never stabbed anyone."

James Lee Johnson has faced serious charges in the past, including a 1995 weapons conviction, a 1998 restraining order in an alcohol-induced domestic violence assault, and a 2004 harassment conviction after police say he spit on an officer. In 2004, court records show, James Johnson was ordered to complete counseling for domestic violence and anger management.

-- Maxine Bernstein; maxinebernstein@news.oregonian.com

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Diane on Wikipedia


Daniel Markoya created this from a pic he took when we were dealing with lice in our house. Luckily, a number of the guys staying with us shaved their heads, so we didn't have to examine them.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Just Another Nervous Wreck

Okay, so I'm on vaction. But I still get phone calls. And when I get these calls, I can find out about the crises occuring, usually after the aftermath has already occurred. So it was tonight.

Tonight I decide to check my messages and make the phone calls I need to make.

First I get a call from Rhonda, telling me that the group of boys who was supposed to be helping at the meal tonight wasn't coming. That's disappointing, but the main work would still be done. It'll work out.

The next call is from Janette, telling me that they are there at the church where the meal is happening tonight with 2000 pounds of food, but they can't get in. That's not good, but I'm wondering why they didn't call the cooks for that night, who was supposed to meet them.

The next call is from Richard, Janette's husband, who repeats that they have 2000 pounds of food to drop off at the church, and that they called the cooks who said that they are stuck in the snow and can't come tonight. They want to know what they are supposed to do.

I look at the clock. 8pm. The meal is just supposed to be finishing.

So I am on vaction. I am supposed to be taking a break from Anawim and all the stresses. And what I find is that while I might be taking a break from doing the work of the ministries, the stresses follow after me, pursue me like the Hound of Heaven.

I try to call Mike Desario, who was supposed to be helping tonight, and who has the keys to the church, but he's not answering his phone.

Then I try to call Richard back, got through, so I ask him what happened. He said that he drove over to my house, talked to Mike Desario (whom we call "Hammer") who said he'd help him unload. They open the church and unload the food. Then the two of them concoct a plan to have the meal happen as usual. Richard and Janette get hot dogs and buns and Hammer takes the rest of the food and gets it ready. Richard says that Mike really took charge and responsibility for the evening.

As Richard was driving back to the church with the food, he tells me, he was feeling that they needed to open the meeting with the Lord's prayer. He doesn't remember to say this to anyone. But as Mike opens the meal, he leads with the Lord's prayer. Richard sees this as confirmation that the Lord was really in this time.

Eventually Hammer (remember, this is Mike?) calls me. He is exhausted and exhilarated. He can't believe all that had happened today. He said that Richard and Janette showed up at the house and he just didn't know what to do. So he just did it. One thing led to another, and pretty soon, he realized that he was planning and preparing a meal for up to a hundred hungry people.

So he calls up his friend Jesse and asks him if he and possibly some folks from Jesse's Christian community might come over and help. Jesse immediately drops his plans for the evening, contacts about four of his friends and they come over. They help serve and just talk to many of the homeless and mentally ill individuals who were there that night. Then they swept and mopped the floor as Mike finished up in the kitchen.

God, as usual, comes through. Seventy or so hungry people have been feed and ministerd to. All the Anawim crises always end in the most surprising ways, displaying resources that we didn't know God had available to Him. Sometimes these resources come from reserves within ourselves, sometimes it comes from others who love Him and are prepared by Him to serve.

As for me, I had a very brief heart attack, but I'm doing better now. I'm not sure whether to think that I shouldn't have left on vaction this week, as the meetings seem to be going from one crisis to another, or whether I just shouldn't return at all, and let God do miracle after miracle, letting Him get the glory.

Meanwhile, Mike-- as well as Richard, Janette and Jesse and his friends-- has been tested and proven to be precious metal, not dross. I welcome him to the club of the nervous wrecks.

The Garden by Jeff Strong

Here is a section from a journal by Jeff Stong, a regular volunteer at Anawim. You can see his website, which includes his testimony and his journal at:

There comes a time when one needs to confront situations that one is uncomfortable with for the sake of others. My situation is found in the asking of others for financial support. As Yvan and I become more involved in the lives of the ever increasing number of the homeless, the poor, the Mentally challenged who are cast away by the agencies who were created to care for them , by those who have become captives to various substances that were either prescribed for a specific ailment or were a means of escape from a life that was intolerable, we begin to see the people and not the maladies that afflict them. As we listen to their Life stories, their dreams, their hopes, they leave the confines of the box that society has designated for them and they become Family.

They become our older brothers and sisters and in some instances they become our Children. They all have unique and special needs. They know their situations and they have no desire to remain in them. Our Government has spent millions of dollars in projects that deal with the outward or visible part of the problem but not deal with the root which is the spirit.

People are like gardens. Some times their lives get over run with weeds or the ground becomes sterile from pollutants. To make the garden healthy and vibrant you need to clear the weeds and amend the soil and tend to it. That is what Yvan and I are doing, we are weeding the garden and amending the soil. It is a full time job but we have begun to see some fruit for our labors and we have a hope to turn the one or two fruits into a bushel basket of fruit.

Street Musicians

Recently a filmmaker named Mary Ann Benner has done a documentary on street musicians in Portland called "In Plain Sight."

When talking about street people, we need to include the musicians. They are also panhandling, but in a way that is acceptable to our culture. Nevertheless, they have a hard row to hoe, as they do not know whether they will have a good day or a bad one, a good month or a bad one. Will they be able to pay their rent, buy their food? It is all up to the generosity of strangers.

This documentary has one of the long-term Anawim folks as a featured performer. His name is Kevin Wayne (whose secret birth name is Kevin McFall-- don't tell him I told you!), and he has been leading worship in Anawim and at Peace Mennonite Church in Portland since 1999. He is a fantasic musician, and he still plays every first friday of the month at Sunnyside Methodist (SE 35th and Yamhill).

Anyway, it's great that Kevin got this opportunity.

Do you want to see and hear him? Although the recording of him isn't the best-- he usually sounds MUCH better-- the second clip is really good. Check it out at:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Giving Tip #13--Give to Caring Organizations

It is good to give through an organization. There are many organizations out there that really care about the people they serve and really give them hope. However, there are just as many organizations that see serving the needy as just a prospect for making money. Some organizations began well, but ran out of steam. Other organizations do not encourage their volunteers to be kind or loving. Don’t assume that because the organization sounds good on paper that it is good. You have to see it in action, or interview someone who has received benefits from the organization. Again, this takes time. But giving in love requires time, if nothing else.

This doesn't go against the previous tip, to give to people personally. Both are important. To give to a shelter may provide warmth to the person who you gave a nutrition bar to earlier in the day.

Giving Tip #12-- Don't Give Toward Others' Destruction

Giving sugar to a diabetic would not be an act of love, but of apathy or hatred. Even so, giving money so someone can continue a drinking or drug binge isn’t compassion, but hatred. Don’t give to people in a way that would cause them to destroy themselves or others.

In following this principle, I have made it a policy to very rarely give money to people. I found—with myself as with others—that cash is too easily diverted to what is wanted in the immediate rather than what is needed. If someone needs help with their rent—pay the landlord. If someone needs food—give them food, not cash. To those holding signs by an onramp, I have a supply of nutrition bars that I can hand them. If someone is panhandling, I will often ask them what they need and try to provide the need, rather than cash. In this way, we can be meeting the need that we know, not supplying the destructive habit that we don’t know.

Giving Tips #11: Give Out of Concern, Not Self-Interest

Give because you care for the person. Giving is not something we should do in order to gain our own brownie points. We give because the other person has a need. We shouldn’t give because we want them to think well of us. We shouldn’t give because we want a tax write-off. We shouldn’t give because we can’t stand to have them ask. We should give because they need. We should give because we have compassion for them.

Also, let's not give out of guilt. That is one of the best ways for us to give wrongly. That's the time we hand money to someone who shouldn't have it, or just "give in" to whatever demands are being made on us. If we give out of guilt, we haven't considered what is the most loving action to do for them.

On the other hand, we should not fail to give simply because we don’t have the right “feelings” toward a person. Yes, our motivation is very important, but in the end, the person’s need is more important. It is better to give to those in need with wrong motivation, that to stand before the Lord, trying to explain why we never gave at all.

Giving Tip #10-- Give To A Person's Need

Just because someone is socially bound to us—such as a family member or a friend—that doesn’t mean that we are responsible to give every time they ask. Just because a person looks down and out doesn’t mean that they need spare change. We need to find out what the person really needs and then determine what the best way to meet that need. To do this, we have to follow the complicated process of asking questions and receiving honest answers. Sometimes this is easy to do, sometimes this is difficult. No matter what, it is almost never quick. Interview the person you want to give to, and find out what they really need.

On the other hand, just because a person has taken advantage of your generosity before, or because they are in trouble because of their sin, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be helped this time. We must evaluate the person’s need—not our feelings about them, or our judgements about them. If they are in need, we are responsible to give.

I notice, especially around Christmas time, that people love to give to children. I understand-- there is joy in giving to children and you feel even better if you give to children who are poor. They don't get toys as other children do.

But often the purpose of giving to children is to make us feel good about ourselves, or to help the children "keep up with the Joneses".

But it disturbed me this year and last that people were so generous to my children, going out of their way to generously giving a lot of unnecessary toys to my kids, when there were homeless people on the edge of death because they had no warmth.

The last couple weeks it was difficult to get churches involved in granting the homeless shelter, hand warmers, gloves, coats, etc. But giving unnecessary gifts to kids who already have their needs met was easy.

It just disturbs me.

Giving Tip #9: Take Time to Think

Giving in love often requires some preparation ahead of time. Don’t allow anyone to rush you into giving without you thinking about it first. Take time to consider what you are going to do. If you meet people on the street asking for change, you might want to have energy bars available on your person. If you want to give a large amount for an organization, take time to find out more about the organization. Just like we shouldn’t impulse buy, we also shouldn’t impulse give. Take your time and consider what the best thing to do is—not the quickest.

Be Compassionately Wise!

Reverse Economics

The media has been coming out in droves, lately. The Portland Mercury did a short piece on Anawim and then a longer one on Diver, one of our folks. NPR interviewed Jeff Strong on "Day to Day". And now the Oregonian is doing a piece on Anawim. It's time for our 15 mintues, I guess.

But one of the more popular questions we've been asked is how the recession has effected us as a ministry. Has it been harder to get donations? Has our economic outlook been bleaker since the recession?

First of all, officially, the U.S. has been in a recession for a year, according to official channels in Washington D.C. See here: http://www.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUSTRE4B05YX20081201
So we would have to be talking about our economics over the last year, not just the last few months. And I would say that in general, ministries to the homeless and the working poor have really been struggling, somewhat over the last year, and certainly now. I just heard about a homeless shelter who lost a large grant due to the economic downturn, and we will see a lot more of that. I note that the government bailouts are all going for the big industries, but not to the homeowners losing their homes. Charity begins at the executive level, I guess.

But the fact is, Anawim has been doing really well this year. We called for more donations in order to rent a large facility two days a week, and people have responded. God has stirred people's hearts to grant money to us so we could (just barely) pay the 500 dollars a month so hundreds of people a week could have a meal and a warm place to worship God and learn about God's word. We've been getting more people this year-- a LOT more people. But we've been able to meet all these needs without care. Every week, we have just enough food and space to meet all the needs.

This can be attributed to two things:
First of all, God's amazing provision. Because we depend on God for our supply, He knows what we need and provides it. No doubt that Matthew 6:25-33 is alive and well, if we would just rely on Him.

But there is another aspect as well.

You see, Anawim isn't a ministry to the homeless and the mentally ill. Rather, we are a community OF the homeless and mentally ill. In any community, we share resources, and assist each other. And, as in all communities, the greater the base of those sharing resources, the more resources are available for all. Thus, we are doing well because more people are ending up on the street. The more people who feel that they really are Anawim-- those desperate for God to grant them provision-- and that they are really a part of the community of the poor who has responsibility not only to recieve but to give, the more resources we have to share to all.

Nope, none of us individually have very much. We are all poor. But the community of the poor is a sharing, giving community. Thus, the more poor there are, the better off the community of the poor is.

Blessed are you who are poor, says Jesus, for yours is the kingdom of God. And the economics of that kingdom is visited upon earth among the poor who follow Jesus' principles of giving to the poor.

Excellent Photo of Diver

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Discussion on Diver

Posted by el cubano on December 12, 2008 at 1:11 PM

I just wanted to share something- while this might be hard to talk about, I wanted to ensure that it's not impossible. I'm 25 years old and I'm a year away from graduating at PSU- when I was younger, I had an addiction to drugs that lasted a few years and was homeless for a while as well- couch-surfing and whatnot if not sleeping out of my own car while I was trying to get a job that would scrounge up enough money to be able to afford rent in the L.A. area.

I was lucky enough that I had some family support, although I had to move all the way across the country to Miami to be there to get it. I had heart palpitations and was having all sorts of health issues, including trying to quit smoking to be completely clean. While I'm certainly not perfect now, I've definitely turned my life around and I know that I can stay clean, healthy, and happy- but the will definitely has to lie with the individual and they absolutely, positively have to leave whatever life they had behind in order to move on to a better one.

It's a shame, but it doesn't look like Diver has gotten the support he's needed to be able to do that, since he apparently felt a connection to those people in Gresham in that lifestyle again. It hurts to not have family support, and to not have good friends who are willing to help you through those dark times and won't bring you down. I hope he can pull it together and make it, and as for you Sarah- believe me, it's possible!

Posted by Steve Kimes:

Sarah, first of all, I really want to thank you for your article, and for your update of Diver here. It must be hard to correct a good story, even if you didn't write anything wrong. Ankles and I give you an honorary "breakfast pie" piece for your excellent effort.

But also to respond to El Cubano above. Diver has all the support he wants, if he wants it. Either from his mother, or from our community, which is a strong family, complete with arguments. We all want him to succeed in being clean and in living a positive life.

But there is another community that pulls at him. A community that encourages him to endulge, not really understanding that it means his death and it cripples him spiritually. And he's lived in that community for as long as you, El, have been alive. It's hard to surrender a whole life and begin a new one. We who have done it keep going back to the old life until we are really ready to surrender it.

The road to freedom is different for different people. The reasons for addiction are complex and the solutions can be even more complicated. Chronic homelessness is even more complex still. There just isn't a single answer-- sometimes not even for one person.

But I am confident of this. Diver has left before and returned. When it is time, he will return.

Sarah Mirk's Update on Diver

Holy Diver Update
Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Dec 11 at 2:39 PM

The subject of the feature in the paper this week is a guy named Holy Diver who I met riding his bike up Alberta a few months ago. I've been working on the story for a while and it's strange to see it in print now because the situation has changed a lot since I began reporting. When I was hanging out with Diver in November, he was living at a Christian commune in North Portland run by a progressive pastor named Steve who wanted to provide some of his parishioners a place to sleep besides the street. More than that, Steve's house was trying to be a supportive, clean, liberal community to help homeless people get off drugs and alcohol. Creating a strong community of clean friends is key to helping guys like Diver. Here's a quote that didn't make it into the final article:

Cleaning up and turning Christian hasn't been easy. It meant leaving behind a tight-knit community of like-minded vagrants, who still live in camps in Gresham where cops are less likely to move them along. "Out there, I'm like a celebrity, kind of," Diver laments, "There's that sense of love and camaraderie I never had growing up until I became part of this homeless community."

So during the time I spent with him, Diver was genuinely excited about his clean-living lifestyle, his new found faith in God and the luxurious availability of showers and an indoor bathroom at the house. He was linked up to email, helped care for friends with the items he found in dumpsters and and even took up commenting on our site. When I stopped by the house in late November to take some more photos, Pastor Steve answered the door and said Diver hadn't been back since he last went out riding around town with me. That meant Diver was back into the addiction cycle, back out in Gresham and back to the homeless life. I was afraid he'd dropped off the face of the known world but, lo and behold, Matt and I ran into Diver while attending Pastor Steve's shower ministry in Gresham a few weeks later. He's physically fine, but, yes, back into the life he was once enthusiastic about leaving behind.

To me, reporting this story really hit home that real life addiction stories are not the uplifting stuff of Lifetime specials. Getting out of a lifestyle built around addiction is complicated, rarely goes according to plan and remains hard for peoples' entire lives — even if they have God on their side. I'm pulling for Diver and people like him to have the kind of life they want but, honestly, reporting this story has made me I question if thats sometimes just impossible.

Diver Makes News!

Diver is one of our Anawim folks, and you get a little bit of insight on the community house as well.

Posted in the Portland Mercury Blog:


Dumpstering for Christ
The Holy Diver Digs for a Living—and Meaning—in Portland's Trash
by Sarah Mirk

Monday morning as the sun rises; Hammer, Ankles, Pastor Steve, and Holy Diver are sitting on sofas in their North Portland living room, eating a concoction called breakfast pie and discussing the Bible. Breakfast pie includes bacon Diver found in a dumpster weeks ago and stashed in the freezer. Diver is a lifelong dumpster diver and on-again-off-again drug addict. His current drug of choice is Christianity.

After the Bible discussion (which is short, frank, and pleasant—Pastor Steve, who doesn't wear shoes, is a minister to the homeless), Diver gets his bike in order and then, while the rest of Portland is just waking up, makes his daily dumpster rounds. He's been scrounging a living from Portland's trashcans for 20 years. But unlike most people who have lingered in Portland's back alleys for that long, Diver is still mentally sharp enough to explain all that he's seen.

"There are three things I've never found in a dumpster," says Diver, now 41 with a weathered face, short gray hair, and bright eyes. "A crying baby, a dead body, or a working handgun."

Diver's bike trailer rattles behind him as he pulls onto N Williams—he welded the trailer together himself and now it's loaded dangerously high with about 300 glass bottles and cans. "Dime!" he says, swooping down into the gutter (a car veers out of the way) to scoop up two old beer cans.

The first stop of the day is a North Portland assisted-living facility, where Diver delivers a hard-boiled egg to a schizophrenic friend. The friend doesn't eat much unless someone stops by to encourage him and the whole egg-delivery routine is part of Diver's new Christian approach to life.

"I want to help other people, I feel like I have a gift, through God, to provide for other people," says Diver. Digging through Stumptown garbage, Diver finds food and clothes for Pastor Steve's entire little homeless ministry commune, where Diver, Ankles, and the others sleep rent free as long as they stay off drugs.

"If it's all about just me then I don't really have a lot of ambition. I'm happy with a book, a sleeping bag, something to eat, a clean pair of socks. But there's nothing better than finding something that someone else threw away and saying, 'Hey, I know exactly who this is for.'"

The egg hand-off goes well. During the rattling ride from North Portland to the Lloyd Center, Diver explains that before he got saved and all that, he dumpstered for meth money. It was a completely different rhythm. He rode fast and dug desperately through trash, staked out territory and sold whatever he could find.

"There's lots of illegal things in dumpsters. I've found enough marijuana to fill a MAX train," he says.

Diver crosses NE Weidler and rolls down into the vacant, grimly fluorescent parking lot under the Lloyd Center Safeway. This is where the can redemption machines live. They're big metal boxes that crunch aluminum and shatter glass, creating a ruckus before they print out a tiny receipt Diver can turn in for cash.

"It smells like a kegger gone bad," Diver laughs, sorting his trailer trash as he launches into a string of numbers that defined his life for many years.

"It takes 400 cans and bottles to buy a $20 bag of speed. And it turns into a monster at that point, because you do a $20 bag of meth and get high and your whole mission is to find 400 more cans to get another bag of speed, etc., etc. It's vicious," he says. "It's rough. It's a rough life. I'm so glad that's not part of my equation anymore."

Diver's parents were addicts, too, he says. They moved around a lot, settling early on in a cheap Los Angeles apartment complex surrounded by a cinderblock wall.

"I was an introverted kid, I spent a lot of time by myself. I used to walk around that wall, just daydream or whatever, and it looked down on this huge dumpster. One day I looked down and it was full of cool stuff—Vietnam memorabilia, a chemistry set. I brought that stuff home and was hooked ever since."

He moved to Portland when he was 20, and for a couple years he got clean and made good money as an unlicensed electrician, owning a five-bedroom house and a Cadillac.

"Before my name was Diver, it was Caddy," he says over the roar of shattering glass.

For a while after that, he slept out in Gresham with a tight-knit community of homeless people and was a "Satanic crackhead" before getting into a rehab program at Central City Concern. He wound up at Pastor Steve's after relapsing.

"To say that I have 100 percent faith in what the Bible says and that Christ is my savior—I would have never ever thought that. I've been through the whole gamut of being atheist, Satanist, drug-addled. But I consider myself an intelligent mammal and I think I've evaluated all the information correctly."

The Safeway machines won't accept all his cans, so Diver heads inside, claims his $5 or so, and then rides out again toward the Hollywood Fred Meyer. He stops at some dumpsters on the way. Some are "nickel dumpsters"—ones that usually just have cans—while others are known for their occasional gems.

"Let's check this goodie box right here," he says, pulling into the parking lot of a convenience store that shall remain nameless. "I found six pounds of weed in this dumpster once!" Diver reaches in, pushing aside last week's tabloids. No drugs today, but he seems elated at what he does find: "A perfectly good cup of soup!" he shouts, victoriously waving a chicken-flavored Cup-O-Noodle.

Diver prefers the low-income areas of town to the affluent suburbs, even though the Southwest has the best dumpster loot. Among the richer communities, his trash picking garners at best indifference—and sometimes hostility. In North and Northeast Portland, he says, café workers on smoke breaks will point him toward the best bags. Like Freegans—anti-consumerists who salvage food—and others who occasionally pick through trashed Whole Foods produce or old Hotlips pizza piles, Holy Diver sees his dumpstering as a political act.

"If I recycle or renew this much stuff in one day, I think that's amazing... I'm doing a service to humanity whether they like it or not," he says. "It would hurt capitalism if everybody just waited until the FDA-regulated date came up, the food had to be thrown away, and everybody just got it for free."

Fred Meyer takes most of Diver's remaining bottle load—his trailer is empty and ready to be filled with food and assorted treasures. He climbs up a tall cargo dumpster in the grocery store parking. On the right days, this dumpster is filled with flowers. Today it's empty, except for a few light cords he eyeballs at being worth $20 to metal scrappers.

"That's a hit of speed right there," he says, shaking his head and climbing down.

Behind the bar Club 21 on NE Sandy, Diver finally hits a goldmine: giant bags of pasta sauce and nacho cheese, expensive organic cranberry juice, piles of canned food, and, inexplicably, two "build your own gingerbread house" cookie kits. It's enough food to supply the next homeless ministry movie night. He gleefully loads the goods into his trailer, smokes a cigarette and turns around to ride home again. It's 11 am and he's done working for the day.

Biking the wrong way up the sidewalk on NE MLK, Diver says, "I don't believe in working for someone else, making minimum wage. I don't believe in paying rent my whole life. In fact, I could do without money completely."

He pauses for a moment, and then adds with a sheepish grin, "...If I didn't smoke cigarettes."

Special Needs, Special Rules

First posted in MennoDiscuss in response to a discussion on the question: "Should we have lower expectations of obedience for those with special needs?"

Now I'm going to throw a wrench in the whole works.

My congregation is perhaps 75% mentally ill. I don't know what that says about me as a pastor, but I do know that we are a lot more flexible than other churches. For instance, I allow people to talk back to be during the sermon. This is partly because the folks get interested enough that they can't help but respond. So that's okay. But, at the same time, no matter how mentally ill someone is, I don't allow the conversation to be a free-for-all, where people are talking over each other.

Nor do I allow arguments. However, should there be an argument, I hold the more mature (read: mentally capable) brother to be responsible to back down. If they persist in the argument, then I ask the more mature brother to leave, even if they didn't begin the argument.

The church is also for the homeless, who are uncomfortable with a church where people dress well, because they can't match it. So the rule is casual dress in our church. Thus, if someone shows up in a tie, I politely ask him to take it off for the sake of the brothers.

The church runs well, although considerably different than one's run of the mill congregation. But since we are a congregation of the homeless and mentally ill, it SHOULD run different. And I will say that while the middle class isn't very comfortable in our church, for the homeless and mentally ill, they are able to develop community and call it home.

Thus, I guess, I create a different context for those unable to follow the rules, and then make everyone follow the new rules.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Honestly, we at Anawim don't usually get into shelter that much.

Shelter is expensive, requires staff and requires rules that we don't usually want to get into.

But this week, we got permission to open up a warming shelter in Gresham for a few nights. It was necessary because the weather in Portland was in the teens (a number of degrees below zero). This may not seem a big deal to most of you guys, but here in Portland, such weather is unique, and no one is prepared for it, even the homeless. So we need to provide shelter for people or they will die.

I found someone who died of hypothermia. It's not pretty.

Anyway, so we opened up a shelter for the first few nights of the crazy weather Portland is still having. I guess a local tv station interviewed someone we were able to help and he said we saved his life.

On the first night, someone snuck up to the excluded part of the church and took a crow bar to the office. He didn't get in, but that's not the point. It was difficult for us to get the church because of the fears some of the church leaders had about the homeless. And now we might question that we might be able to use the church for this again.

But I know two things about this kind of situation:
1. Just because we help people, we can't require them to be grateful or respectful. The point is, we need to save lives, even if they stab us in the back. That's what Jesus was about, so that's what we need to be about.

2. We can't paint all poor people, or all homeless or anyone with the same brush. Most of the people we helped those nights were grateful and helpful and polite. One person who is hateful and hurtful shouldn't stop anyone from helping. Nor should it give us an idea of what all homeless people are like. To do so is to participate in the very worst kind of prejudice.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Giving Tip #8: Consider The Receiver

The best gift in love is the gift where the giver considers specifically the person they are giving to. We know that our gift is well received when the person responds, “How did you know?” It shows our care and respect for the other person when a gift is specifically suited to their needs and wants.

This is the same for the poor. If a person is homeless, you want to think about their situation and give something that is suited for their situation. A pair of socks is more welcome for most people on the street than a four person tent (where in the city would someone put up a four person tent?). A mentally ill person might appreciate a video rather than a book of crosswords (although, I know a couple mentally ill people who love crosswords, so you don’t always know). A street person wouldn’t have anywhere to plug in an electric razor, but they could really use a nice blade razor with a pack of fresh blades.

We just need to think ahead and make the gift suitable for the person’s situation and need. This is why it is often good to ask before we give, if it is possible.

Giving Tip #7: Don't Put Rules on the Gift

The fact of the matter is, when you give something, it isn’t yours anymore. We all recognize this, so when we receive a gift, we will use it in accord to our best interest. This is why when Aunt Rachel gives us another orange knitted sweater, we try to find some unsuspecting person to pass it on to. It isn’t Aunt Rachel’s anymore, and what we do with it is our business.

This is the same with our gifts. When we give to someone else, it’s theirs to do with as they please. If they want to sell it, that’s their option. If we give them money and they do something with the money we don’t find appropriate, that’s their business.

But we do find ourselves being offended if a person uses our gift in a way that we would dislike. So we might be tempted to put a rule on the gift: “Don’t do this with it”, we might say in passing. Please don’t. It insults the person you are giving to, as if the worst case scenario was what they had in mind all along. And if they do use it that way, then they would feel bad if you saw them again.

The time to consider what a person would do with a gift is BEFORE you give it, not as you gift it.

Giving Tip #6: Make Small Talk

As you give,take time to chat with the poor. Talk about the weather, ask them how they are doing, offer them luck or a prayer. Just by being positive and hopeful, you can improve a person’s life and make the well-being of everyone better.

How is this so? One of the greatest difficulties of poverty is isolation, feeling left out of society. A homeless person, a person with AIDS, a jobless person, a mentally ill person often feels that they are no longer a part of "normal people", that they have been left behind. They feel that they aren't as "worthy" as the people they see driving their cars.

To have a normal conversation with someone who has felt outcast makes them feel a part of humanity again, as if they belong. Again, this may seem like a small thing, but it can change the attitudes of the poor. And if the attitudes of the poor change, especially toward "normal" society, then they act different and eventually attitudes toward them will change as well.

Giving Tip #5: Small Gifts That Make An Impact

Carry in your car items that you can give to the homeless that will make a small, but significant improvement in a homeless person’s life:
o Hand warmers
o Socks
o Bags of granola
o Nutrition bars
o Water bottles
You can give these instead of money to those who hold signs or beg and know that your gift is going to meet a need.

To have more examples of this, check out Anawim's website:

Sisters of the Road by Casey Neill

This is a great song by Portland local, Casey Neill. Although his songs travel around the world, speaking out the stories of those who wouldn't otherwise be heard, he wrote this one about the situation of many street folks here in Portland. Sisters of the Road is a cafe for the street, where you can pay a buck or so for a meal, or you can wipe down some tables for it. The song can be purchased on iTunes or other online spots. Here are the lyrics, but you really need to hear it to get the full impact:

Rain falls relentless on these streets, chill you to the very bone
it's coming down tonight in Portland town and folks are warm inside their homes
Trina she came from Missouri, after her mother passed on
to get away from her old man who needed someone to take it out on.
So she took up with the crusty boys in their fingerless gloves
her in the Oregon streets she found a family again to love
and they dumpstered their food, snuck into the shows, took what
shelter they could find
never once did she regret leaving the life she left behind
your friends become your family and lighten a heavy load
with Abbey and DC Louise she was a sister of the road

Trina fell for a punk named Silver from Southern Illinois
who'd been living on the streets of the West COast since he was a 13
year old boy
he knew every free meal in Stumptown, every dry place to keep warm
and he'd take her to 'em when the darkness fell and they'd lie in each
others arms
Silver hustled now and again in the backs of drunk mens cars
scars ran up and down his arms like the tracks in the railyards
when he'd offer it to her, you know she never once took it
beneath the I-5 viaduct his teeth clenched to a tourniquet
one day the cops found his body by the train tracks where he'd hop the
line to Frisco
But for the last year of his life, he loved a sister of the road...

Trina found her way up off the streets and works in a clinic downtown
all the kids she used to know well she never sees them around
but there are more where they came from cast aside and left behind
walking down a lonely street and strung out on the line
for the old hoboes, the migrant laborers, the lost and wayward teens
there's a place where a buck twenty five will get you a plate of eggs and beans
and there is nothing like a cup of coffee when the winter winds blow cold
you can find them down in old town on 6th, the Sisters of the Road...

The Working Poor

I was asked on a survey about my experiences with the working poor. This was my response:

How much space do you have?

I have been working poor since 1997 when I quit my job and started living on donations. However, my children have never gone hungry, even one meal, nor have they had to sleep on the street. God has provided for us, and now even a house and our daily food, although we often eat food from dumpsters-- but not filthy food.

I have seen people who don't want to beg and so they look for cans to recycle. They may make 30 dollars a day for working five hours in independent recycling.

I know of some people who work for phone sales. They get hired in one place, work for a few weeks or months, get laid off and then they have to look for work again. They never get enough to get an apartment.

I know of others who are on disability at about 500 or so dollars a month. They try to work as often as they can, but their physical or mental disabilities don't allow them to work for long, so they soon have to quit or they get fired. Eventually they find another job.

People who live on the street all want to work. Everyone is looking for work to do. But they have mental or physical or social limitations that don't allow them to work as long as they would like. I know of some people who look for work, but then they have an attack from their mental illness, and they are unable to work for two days to a week after that. They can't hold down a job like that.

What people on the street and some folks on disability need is work that will be flexible with their situation. Work that will allow them to take off and who will help them to fill out the necessary paperwork. Not just a day labor place, but a social assistance project that gives people work as they are able to work so they can make more income than they currently get-- even if they don't have enough for an apartment.

A Bad Week for Jerry

Jerry is a regular at Anawim, on the street, riding his bike with a trailer in the back to make it easy to collect recylable cans for his daily income. Last week he had a stroke and ended up at a local hospital "up on the hill". They checked him out and told him that he needed surgery for his condition. However, because of his lack of insurance and lack of home they wouldn't offer him that surgery. So they sent him on his way, limping with half his body moblie but injured, unable to ride his bike, many miles away from his camp. He was so angry at them he didn't bother to ask for a bus ticket, so he started down the dangerous route down the hill, where there are no sidewalks. Finally, someone had mercy on him and put him on a bus for free.

He had his friends help him get around, do some recylcing for bus tickets and he visited about four different hospitials until one finally agreed to do the surgery necessary for him to live-- Providence Hospital in Portland, if you care to know. We prayed hard for Jerry that he would make it through okay with God's help.

They did the six hour surgery last night and Jerry is doing fine. Praise God, and thank God for the compassion of some.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rev. Jeff Strong of Anawim

NPR, on their show Day to Day, just broadcast yesterday an interview with Jeff Strong. Much to my surprise, this reputable news organization announced that the Rev. Jeff Strong was running Anawim Christian Community in Portland, OR!

Of course, I was glad to hear this, so I immediately wrote Jeff to let him know of the things that he needed to do as the new head of Anawim-- including finding a number of volunteers for some meals coming up. And I also wrote him, "If you wanted my job, all you needed to do is ask!"

It is a good interview, dispite the one minor error in reporting and you can hear it here:


By the way, this NPR broadcast was also refered to by Christianity Today's News Feed.

Ah, this would be so great for my humility, if only I could stop laughing about it!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Giving Tip #4-- Don't Ask Where The Homeless Live

If you’ve got homeless folk, they may not be able to trust you thoroughly, or just not be sure. So one of the rules is just not to ask where they live. If they tell you where they camp, that’s fine, but don’t ask. It is technically illegal to be without a house in almost all urban areas, so it’s a difficult thing to answer.

Giving Tip #3-- Be Generous

No, the person does not deserve our gift, that is true. None of us DESERVE gifts, or else it isn’t really giving, it is paying back. So if we are going to give, we might as well go “whole-hog” and give in a generous way. Heck, if we’ve got it, then we should share it!

To be generous is not just to encourage someone to be gluttonous or a freeloader. Generosity meets an entire need, if possible, and isn’t stingy. It communicates a care for the person in need more than the process of meeting the need. Generosity also provides the best available to give, not just the lowest quality.

The Scripture says that God is generous, and we see this in His providing us all food, sometimes richly granting our need beyond what we can ask or think. We should be like God in our generosity to others. If God has been generous to us, we should act in the same manner to those in need.

Giving Tip #2-- Be Friendly

Even if we were giving a million dollars to someone, it is ruined if we treat the person we are giving it without respect. We should be friendly to those we give to and so make the gift fully charitable. No matter how the giving meets a need, a grudging, unfriendly gift is never welcome. But to be kind to a stranger, not just giving, shows that we love them.

Portland Mercury Article

One of the edgiest of the "Village Voice" newspapers in Portland, The Portland Mercury has written an article on Steve and the Anawim meeting in Gresham on Saturday. Here it is, in all it's glory. If you want to see the original, with the pic the author took of Steve, check it out here:


In the Shadows
Socks, Showers, and God
by Matt Davis

Steve Kimes is not your typical minister. When we first met last Saturday, November 29, with his fulsome beard and his casual felt hat, I almost mistook him for one of his congregation—90 percent of whom are homeless or mentally ill. No offense intended.

Kimes, along with his wife Diane, started the Anawim Christian Community in 1995, listening to the stories of the poor and disenfranchised in Portland and Gresham. They now run regular services at Anawim and at the Peace Mennonite Church on NE 196th and Glisan. And on Saturday mornings in Gresham, they run "shower ministry." I was in attendance on recent Saturday where roughly 30 people had shown up at 11 am for hot Spam, chicken soup, and pasta, a chance to exchange their dirty clothes for clean ones, and a free shower. Later, they would also pray—but we'll come to that.

One of the odder effects of a free clothing exchange is that people tend to wear things that fit them—not clothes that necessarily reflect their personalities or passions. The results can be disconcerting.

"I'm not a gun man at all," says Danno, a gentle old fellow wearing a Smith & Wesson T-shirt featuring a cobra coiled around a shotgun.

I see a man walk past in a Broncos hooded top, and someone else emerges from the shower wearing an Epcot Center jersey. I decide against football and Disney World as introductory topics of conversation.

"You're not a cop, are you?" asks Jimmy, who approaches with wary menace, wearing a baseball cap with the Confederate flag on it, and the word "Rebel" embroidered on the brim. Rather than ask Jimmy whether it's true or not, I decide to take his cap at its word and tread carefully.

"I'm a journalist," I say. "Here's my card."

After taking it to a far-off table and considering the card for a minute, Jimmy returns to shake my hand and apologize.

"I just feel wary about anybody sitting in the corner, taking notes," he says.

It's not surprising. From talking to others in the congregation, the general consensus seems to be that the cops in Gresham are less tolerant of the homeless than those in Portland. Jimmy estimates he's been "moved along" more than 100 times over the years, and says he's been told to go "anywhere on the other side of 162nd"— meaning, toward Portland—by a cop.

Apart from different attitudes toward law enforcement, there also seemed to be more of a sense of family, community, and self-sufficiency among the homeless I met in this unlikely church, east of the I-205, compared to the atmosphere at many of the homeless service providers I've been to in Portland. Kimes has undoubtedly worked hard on fostering this feeling.

"Jesus," I say, when Kimes tells me how many homeless people in recovery he's currently got living in his house. (Answer: More than a few, but Kimes would rather the total not wind up in print.) Then I realize I've blasphemed in his presence and apologize profusely, because the guy is dead serious about his God.

As I leave, Kimes is booming out a hymn called "Holy Is the Lord" with a heady baritone and no musical accompaniment, apart from the enthusiastic voices of his assorted congregation. Having admitted to me earlier that the work can involve battles with depression—Kimes has officiated a funeral for each of his 13 years, but only one wedding—I can't help but be impressed by his ability to continue with it, no matter what the motivation. And I'm not normally one for religious fervor, either—but in Kimes' case, it appears to be working.

Perhaps there's a Christian T-shirt in his exchange box, somewhere, for me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Hobo Museum

Found in Mental Floss:

If you’re bumming around but looking for a good time, be sure to take a load off in Britt, Iowa, at The Hobo Museum, which details the history and culture of tramps. Bear in mind, though, that the museum kind of, well, slacks on hours and is only open to the public during the annual Hobo Convention. Luckily, tours can be arranged by appointment any time of year. Of course, if you’re interested in the Hobo Convention, lodging is available all over the area, but it’s a safe bet that most of your compatriots will be resting their floppy hats at the “hobo jungle,” located by the railroad tracks. Both the event and the museum are operated by the Hobo Foundation, which—incidentally—also oversees the nearby Hobo Cemetery, where those who have “caught the westbound” are laid to rest.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Most Important Ingredient

The main characteristic of a successful worker with the needy is endurance. For the most part, helping the needy is a much longer, more complicated process than most people would ever think necessary in our fast-paced, direct society. There aren’t twelve steps to escape homelessness nor five easy lessons to learn how to help people on the street. So if our friend isn’t making the progress we thought they should, we could show this frustration and our friend could feel blamed by us that they aren’t where we think they should be. If it seems like the need never ends, just get comfortable and enjoy the ride.

One thing that might help is to remember that the goal of our friendship is not to make our friend middle class, but to help them follow Jesus with whatever resources is available to us. So we are not here to create change in people’s lives, but to be available for when God needs someone He can use. So let’s not measure our success in ministry by how many people got off the street or who came to the Lord. Rather, we need to measure it by how much we see God using us in other people’s lives. Our ministry is as much a transformation of ourselves as well as others.

You've Got A Friend: Christian Ministry To The Homeless

What exactly is involved in being a friend to the homeless? Am I being asked to surrender all my possessions? Will I have to give up my privacy and security? No, not at all (at least, not much). Being a friend to the homeless isn’t all that different from having any other friend who might have more needs than most. Perhaps you won’t gain a lot of support from your friend. At the same time, however, you might be surprised at how insightful your friend is!

Christian ministry to the homeless:
is about building trust. We want to develop a positive, trusting relationship with our street friend, despite all the obstacles which hinder that trust.

involves learning. Our street friends have a different way of life and a different way of thinking about life. We need to be in a position to learn their thinking rather than criticize it. If we learn the way our street friend thinks, we will be in a better position to help them.

requires listening. The most important thing we can do is help our street friend know that they are important -- enough for us to hear their trials, difficulties and emotions.

is supportive. When our friends on the street are down, we want to encourage them. When they are in crisis, we want to give suggestions for solutions; many times they don’t know what to do.

makes connections. We want to let our friends on the street know about those who might help them. Some of them will give them survival support, while others will supply counsel or wisdom. We also need to keep in regular contact with our street friends, and go out to do things with them, such as eating together, doing something helpful together or just having fun.

provides opportunities. We need to provide opportunities for change or help so that our street friends know what the possibilities are and how they can take advantage of them.

offers mediation. We can offer to communicate between our street friend and others who might be trying to understand them, but with difficulty. If we have listened well, we might understand our street friend better than the social workers or doctors who have been assigned to them. Sometimes we have to explain what our street friend means, in a language the workers can understand.

is empowering. Our support and listening, in fact, all that we do, is geared toward helping our street friend do what they need to do themselves. We don’t want to be doing things for them, as if they were a child, but give them the opportunity to help themselves be who God wants them to be.

involves prayer. We must pray for our street friend regularly, allowing God to hear the needs and cries of one for whom no one else is praying.

The Christian minister to the homeless is not:

a mentor. To be a “mentor”, many people believe, is to assume that we are running our own lives perfectly and, thus, we are helping “the helpless” get their lives straightened out. We need to be humble, recognizing our own failings and our own position as a peer, not a leader.

a parent. We cannot be a replacement mother or father for our street friend. We are not there to command or to provide for them. We are there to support, not to be an authority.

a police officer. It is not our task to punish or judge our street friend if they do something self destructive or illegal. We should certainly encourage them not to go on a path of self destruction, but we want to be the agent of God’s grace, not judgment.

a housing supervisor. We are not to tell our street friend how to live, how to keep their house or who they let stay with them. We can, however, make suggestions, give our own opinions, and then pray, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to them.

a policy provider. We are not there to make rules for our street friend. But we may encourage them to establish their own rules that make sense to them.

a judge. If someone thinks differently than we do, it is not our job to determine what their relationship to God is. We allow God to speak to them and just encourage our friend to seek God.

an enabler. We do not want to provide the means for our street friend to do something against God or against those they know. If we provide money thoughtlessly or help our friend destroy themselves, then we are not being a minister, but a destructive agent, even if it feels that we are “helping” them.

Jesus. We cannot save our street friend, or determine the means by which they must be saved. Jesus is the only One who saves, and the Spirit is His representative to all people. We must allow the Spirit to do His work, while we provide support for what the Spirit is doing in our street friend’s life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tip #1: Don't Give Junk

What many do, when giving to the poor, is think, “What have I got that I can’t use? I’ll just give that to the poor.” Thus, giving to the needy ends up looking like a rummage sale. And you know how you go to a garage sale and a lot of the stuff you think to yourself, “Why did they ever think this would sell?” Frankly, there’s a lot of stuff that shouldn’t even be given away. Go to any organization and they will tell you about the laughable stuff people have “donated” probably because they didn’t have enough room in their garbage can.

We at Anawim have been given stale bread, a mildew-y mattress, socks and clothes with huge holes in them, a backpack with the bottom blown out of it, sexy used lingerie (THAT will keep the homeless warm this winter!), and a notebook for a class on small business management (complete with hand-written notes on each page!).
Look, I’m a dumpster diver, so I know about finding gems amidst what others might call junk. But I also know just junk when I see it. And when I receive junk, then I know that it means that the giver was just getting rid of their excess, but they weren’t concerned about who would receive it. Again, we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes—how would we feel if we were given stale bread or clothes with holes in them? Honestly, we would feel that we were only junk to the people who gave them.

Here is my suggestion: Reuse. That’s great. Don’t waste unless you have to. Great for the environment, etc. But when you give to the poor, be generous in your giving. Give the best you have to give.

Here’s the reasoning behind it. Jesus said that if we are giving to the poor, we are actually putting money into our heavenly savings account (Luke 12:33-34). So we are only going to receive in heaven that which we give. So unless we want to live in heaven with holey socks (not “holy”), then we had best be careful about our giving to the needy on earth.

Giving to the Poor Etiquette

Giving isn’t easy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Everyone has a number of social rules about giving. And when you cross social lines—such as class or cultural lines—then the situation is just plain uncomfortable. So many people prefer to give through organizations, so they don’t have to deal with people face to face. And for some people, who might end up insulting the people they are trying to help, that might be best.

But in most situations it is best to give to people face-to-face. Can you imagine, if you just got kicked out of your house and needed a friend to give you some money for a bus ticket to live with some family in the next town and they responded, “I just give to the local mission”? How comforting would that be? How much love would you feel?

As believers in Jesus, we are to love those in need. Check out the parable of the Good Samaritan, if you doubt. Thus, if we see people in need, our obligation is to love—to feel compassion for them and to try to meet their need. No one can scream at you, “Love them or else you’ll be punished!” Love just doesn’t work that way. Love is something we develop over time so we can feel the emotion, not just do the action. But in order to feel love, we first have to do love.

So this week we will discuss some tips to get started. They are basic etiquette to helping the needy face to face. It isn’t a step by step guide—sorry, but you’ve got to figure that out yourself. But there are some guidelines here so we can remember that this is an exercise in compassion and meeting needs, not just charity.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How Jesus Christ Superstar Changed My Life

Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
By Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice

I grew up in a house that didn’t talk about Jesus. When my friends asked me if I was Protestant or Catholic, I had no clue what they were talking about. My parents didn’t talk at all about religion in my early years, to my recollection. I suppose they might want to correct me on that, but I can’t remember a single thing they taught me about Jesus or God. It just wasn’t important.

But my mom did influence me in one way. In grade school, she took me to a neighbor’s house, put headphones on my head and played for me a portion of Jesus Christ Superstar, with the original vocals with Ian Gillian. That album has haunted me for the rest of my life. The vocals are so piercing and dramatic. Sometimes the music is simplistic, but this is what a grade school kid needed.

My parents purchased the two-record set and after I got my own record player…. Yeah, so I listened to records, so what? Does that show how old I am? Well, just wait until your children finds out that you actually liked Brittney Spears before she turned herself into the latest Michael Jackson! Anyway, where was I?.... After I got my own record player, I took the album to my room and it was never seen again. I played those records, all four sides, until the grooves ran so deep that you could rest a nickel in them. I had all the lyrics memorized by the time I was in high school and I would sing the songs through from “Heaven on Their Minds” to the climatic “Jesus Christ Superstar” and I would meditate silently on the crucifixion as my mind played through the final, agonizing instrumentals.

In my early years, this was the only gospel I knew, preparing me for the real Jesus, when I finally met him. And while it wasn’t very accurate with the written gospels, it was certainly written based on it. It helped me see that the church in general doesn’t always see Jesus with a clear vision. The song “Poor Jerusalem” introduced me to the basic paradox of Jesus’ teaching, that to live and to succeed, one must die. For Jesus, this was taken painfully literally, as was made plain in Pilate’s final words to Jesus:
“Don’t let me stop your great self-destruction—
Die, if you want to, you miserable martyr.
I wash my hands of your demolition—
Die, if you want to, you innocent puppet!”

In Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate isn’t the unjust dupe of the priests as portrayed in the gospels. Rather, he is the only one who see what is actually going on—Jesus has set himself up, manipulating the Jewish and Roman justice systems in order to have himself crucified so that he might change the world. While this is only part of the truth, Tim Rice captures one of the basic insights of the gospels: the answer to the question “Who Crucified Jesus” is Jesus himself.

The Jesus portrayed in the musical is not altogether unlike the portrayal given Jesus by the evangelist Mark. Jesus is the suffering servant, unable to meet his own needs because he is too active serving others and doing God’s will. Jesus wears himself out healing mobs of people. He deals with dissention and open arguments among his disciples. The high priests are in open opposition against him. And all throughout no one understands Jesus’ purpose of his life. He is going to suffer and die. He won’t be conquering the Romans as Simon the Zealot wants him to. He won’t be living the normal life of a teacher, as Judas wants him to. And he won’t live to appreciate his fame as the other disciples want to do. This Jesus is all about his death, which no one seems to appreciate or understand.

Finally, it comes to the final night, the appointed time of Jesus’ death. The disciples have fallen asleep in a drunken stupor after the Last Supper, Judas had an open argument with him and left to betray him (with Jesus’ sarcastic approval) and even Jesus’ best friends—Peter, James and John—have forsaken him. Then comes the most heart-felt, heart-wrenching song of the suffering man, “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say).”

The song is not completely accurate with Jesus. It tries to express doubts of God in general that Jesus never had. But it does demonstrate one difference between Jesus and the trumphalistic Christian martyrs of later centuries—Jesus didn’t want to suffer this way. He didn’t want to die this death.
“I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don’t want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me…”

This Jesus, as well as the Jesus of the synoptic gospels, understands the suffering that is in store for him, and he frankly doesn’t want it. The “glory set before him” is shadowed by human frailty and emotional weakness. He doubts that this is the right path to take:
“I have changed
I’m not as sure as when we started….
But if I die
See the saga through and do the things you ask of me…
I want to know my God…
Why I should die?
Would I be more noticed than I ever was before
Would the things I’ve said and done matter anymore?
If I die what will be my reward?...
Can you show me now that I will not be killed in vain?”

It just doesn’t seem as clear as it had in the past. Why give up the ministry, which seems so successful? Why not just live a normal life? Why bear all the suffering? Is it really worth it all? As to all humans, the future is clouded, and the promised blessings seem unsure. Will Jesus obtain everything that seemed so clear in the time of prayer?

But the faith of Jesus in this prayer is found not in bold statements of certainly, but in simple obedience, although regretted, although agonized through. Weber’s Jesus screams to God:
“Alright, I’ll die!
Just watch me die!
See how I die!”
And the music pounds, not with a gentle surrender into that dark night, but with a sorrowful, screaming, even regretful obedience to the One who knows better for all, even if we understand nothing. One can hear Jesus pounding the ground in terrible anger over the injustice against himself he is being asked to perform.

Finally, the music quiets as Jesus quits, exhausted. He reflects on his years of agony, that the crucifixion is only the climax of:
“Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired.
After all, I’ve tried for three years
Seems like ninety…
Why then am I scared to finish
What I started?”

Perhaps the crucifixion isn’t an agony after all. Perhaps it is a release. It is a rest. All the years of sorrow and suffering and service are about to cease. And in this, Jesus fully surrenders to God:
“God, Thy will is hard
But You hold every card
I will drink Your cup of poison
Nail me to Your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me, kill me…”

The anger is still there, but so is the surrender. And this is all that God expects

Again, this prayer doesn’t fully express Jesus’ thoughts before the cross. There is no twentieth century doubt of God’s existence. But it does express the regret that Jesus himself felt. And it ends with Jesus’ willing obedience, if reluctant. In four minutes we can experience the doubts and regrets and faith of Jesus in his all night prayer.

And the way I see it, this is not Jesus’ prayer at all. It is mine. It is expressing my surrender to the life of suffering God has required of me, of my family. Sometime I regret the all-nighters of prayer and worry. Sometimes I sorrow over the deaths of those dear to me. Sometimes I fear that the difficulties I put my family through will be required at my hand.

I am not as confident of being right as everyone thinks I am. Privately, I agonize and cry out to God, wondering why things are the way they are. Why won’t people just obey Him? Why do people turn to death every day? Why does a man have to surrender everything in order to offer an opportunity to salvation of others? Why does God’s offer of mercy require a willing sacrifice?

Just as in the musical prayer, however, there are no answers to the questions. We could give platitudes, but that doesn’t help anyone actually give up their lives to God’s purpose. Rather, it is simple faith and surrender.

It has been longer than three years for me. It has been ten, perhaps more depending on when you start counting. But I feel the thirty, the ninety years, just as Rice’s Jesus does. I agonize with him. Because perhaps this wasn’t precisely Jesus’ prayer. But it is mine. When I am agonizing over my ministry. When I want to just give up and live a normal life. When I am struggling to get out of bed so I can meet more people, and give what few words of comfort I have for them. When I have little for myself, then I pray with this artificial Jesus:
“Then, I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired.
Listen, surly I’ve exceeded expectations…
Could You ask as much from any other man?”

And when I come full circle, offering my complaint, but still recognizing God’s sovereignty, God’s superior knowledge and love, even for me in my weakness, then I can offer myself to Him, even as Jesus himself offered himself for me. But this does not exhaust my anger at the injustice of being drained of all my energy for others and not having anything for myself. And so I cry in my mind the last line of Jesus’ prayer:
"Take me now, before I change my mind…”

Or perhaps, in my more gentle moments, I might reflect on Mother Teresa’s statement, reflecting on the same truth without being so testosterone-driven:
“God says that He would only give me as much as I can handle.
I wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Homeless Kids

Elle asked: "Are you working with homeless kids? Are there programs connected with you that are working with homeless kids?"

I'm not sure what you mean by "kids". If you mean youth (14-21) then there are a lot of homeless kids in Portland, and a great ministy working with them is Home PDX, run by Ken Loyd. I could get you his wife's phone number, if you like. Outside In, of course, has also got a great street youth work.

But if you're talking about young kids, under 14, those are few and far between. Families who are homeless either: get off the street really quickly or the kids are taken from the parents quickly by AFS. So young kids don't stay on the street very long, with, of course, the rare exception.

There was a famous example here in Portland of a father and his young daughter (10? 11?) who were discovered by the police living in Forest Park. He would provide for them and teach her through a set of encyclopedias and other school books he'd pick up. After the police found them, they made front page news for about a week. They were offered a lot of services. Then after two weeks, they disappeared again. I assume they went back to their former life. But this kind of example is pretty rare and if they were caught again, the daughter would be taken from her father because he refused to live in a house with electricity. (It is considered child abuse to have one's children live without electricity in Oregon).

God Comes Through Again

In Southeast Portland, the facility we rent is shared with a couple other churches, who also rent the building. Last week, a computer was stolen from one of the other congregations while we were in the building. Of course, because the homeless have such a reputation for being theives, it is assumed that it was one of our folks that did it, and we were asked to not meet in the building until they locked the section where the other church met.

I fumed, I raged (to myself and to a couple people in the house), I wrote many emails. It didn't help that I was really ill this last week with bronchitis. But the manager didn't budge. He didn't want us in. He insisted that he wasn't punishing us, and I know he was trying not to be unfair. But the fact is, if we didn't meet, then people would go hungry and some would not hear the word of God that was necessary for them. And why should the many be lacking because of the evil of one-- one who we do not know the identity.

Last Sunday, we met and I decided to preach about the sitution-- "How To Respond When Falsely Accused." But the most important thing we did was pray. Not that I didn't pray before, but we prayed as a congregation for the situation to get resolved.

It wasn't five minutes after the service ended that the owner of the building walked in. He is an old revivalist preacher and missionary to Russia who loves the work we're doing. I hadn't seen him in three months and he knew nothing about the situation I'd been struggling with all week. He came in innocently and asked first thing, "How is everything with the building?" So, hesitatingly, I told him. He said, "Oh, I'll talk to my son about that" and spent the next twenty minutes telling me about revivals from the 1880s to the present day.

A couple days later, his son, the manager, said we could meet in the building. We took extra precautions, but it was a great meeting. We talked about Revelation 3 and hypocrisy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

God Provides... Again

Last week we weren’t able to pay our bills—two of them overdue. Actually, my cell phone got cut off. I prayed to the Lord about getting us money for our bills. He responded immediately by having one of our accounts go under with a 30 dollar fee. Later that week, He provided us with 400 dollars in the pushka.

However, this happens pretty frequently. Last year the house was out of groceries, and I was praying pretty hard for God to provide immediately. Diver goes out that morning for his daily dumpster run, and senses that he needs to go north instead of east, his usual direction. He ends up at a Fred Meyers, where the dumpster was full of boxed frozen food, just dumped that morning. He filled up his bike trailer and filled our freezers.
Then I received a call from a brother I hadn’t heard from for a year. He said that he needed to see me that day. We met a couple hours later where he gave me $200 cash. If he had given me a check we wouldn’t have been able to get groceries for two days, as it was a Saturday. As it was, I was able to go out that afternoon and fill our fridges and cupboards.
Of course, the groceries only lasted less than a week. Darn those teenage boys!

Another time last year, earlier in the year, we needed two hundred dollars—a hundred and eleven to pay our electricity bill—we were already past due to be shut off— and the rest to pay our phone bill. I told our need to our homeless and disability-dependent congregation. An unorganized offering was taken and we received exactly a hundred and eleven dollars. We were able to just avoid having our electricity being shut off. Later that week, we received another gift to cover the phone bill.

These are just relatively recent occurrences. This is pretty regular. We pray, and usually without us letting anyone know, God provides by nudging people by His Spirit.

So, if you ever thought about having a ministry to the poor, but didn’t have a means to take care of your basic needs—don’t worry, God will care for you. Just pray and depend on Him.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Praying for the Poor

One of the main pushes of the Micah Project is to pray for those in
poverty throughout the world. This stirred my thinking-- I pray a lot
for those in my community in need, but rarely for those around the
world unless a specific group catches my attention.

This month, my family and I have been praying for different groups in
poverty-- one each night. Some of the groups we prayed for were:

The needy in Bangaldesh, who are at the forefront of being wiped out
if the sea levels rise.
The suffering in Columbia, who stand up against oppressors and drug
The needy in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Palestinians.
The homeless and mentally ill in North America.
Those suffering from AIDS in Africa.
Today, we will be praying for those who have suffered through the
earthquake in Pakistan.

Something to think about!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fun and Ministry

A week ago Tuesday, Anawim had Johnny Cash night. We played Johnny Cash music, and showed the movie, Walk the Line. It was awesome. We had our largest attendance—70 people. And it was a blast.

Pleasure is one of the basic needs of humanity. Without a sense of pleasure, we move into deep depression, have no motivation for life and could possibly commit suicide.

God is all for having a good time. I often talk about the tithe of Deuteronomy 14, where the landowners are to take ten percent of all they earned that year (all grain, livestock, money, etc), and spend it on one huge party before the Lord, that all the poor and the community is invited to. God COMMANDS his people to have a good time and to blow a wad of cash. That’s cool.

Jesus’ ministry was to go from one town to another, preaching the gospel. What’s rarely spoken of, though, is that everywhere Jesus went there was a party, in which he was the guest of honor. Jesus was the original party animal. This is how come Jesus was called a “glutton” by his enemies.

It is not only okay to have a party, but God requires us to.

For this reason, it is important in Anawim to have humor and enjoyment in as much of our lives as we can. If we were as somber as our calling, we would fail our calling.

And it isn’t enough for us to just crack a joke at a beginning of a sermon. Fun should be woven into the fabric of all that we do. If we don’t enjoy it, no one else will, either. We need to seek the pleasure, so we can share it.

It is depressing enough to be homeless. We should make coming to church a bright spot in a poor person’s day.

Related to this, Anawim is trying to raise some money so we can provide art supplies for the folks on the street so they can worship God through paint, drawing and collage. If you’d like to help us in this, let us know.

Reverse Prejudice

We just had a guest speaker a few weeks ago. And frankly, I didn’t like what he said, and especially how he said it. It was just so “Christianese” – lingo that has long since become cliché. He made a couple good points, and they were good, important, even. He was sincere, and lived out what he was teaching. But the form made it difficult for me to listen to.

I spoke to a new guy on the scene—he’s pretty young—and he told me what I thought: that the message wasn’t very good, that it was in a form he couldn’t hear. Then I was debating within myself as to whether I should let him back to speak again.

But God spoke to me and said, “It takes all types to minister to different people.” So I asked more folks about their opinion of our guest. The folks on the street really appreciated his message and thought it was great. It really ministered the gospel to them. I was shocked, and I realized my own limitation.

Many of us in “on the edge” ministries have a reverse prejudice. We feel the prejudice against the outcast so readily, that we often forget that there’s nothing wrong with mainstream ministry as well. It’s all style, all culture. The question is not right or wrong—it is whether people are communicating the gospel.

I have had people so limited by one denomination or one style of ministry that they think that ministry cannot be done in any other way. I am often decrying that. But I have to warn myself against the same attitude. I cannot reject any ministry based on cultural presuppositions. Jesus crosses all culture. And—dare I say it—Jesus can even be found in stereotypical Christian lingo.

God save me from my unknown prejudices.

Some Lessons I Learned From The Homeless

1. God will provide to anyone who asks Him for help

2. Money isn’t necessary, meeting our needs are—and these two things are almost never the same

3. We all have mental weaknesses, and to be a benefit to others, we have to recognize those weaknesses and find ways to sidestep them.

4. We ignore social rules when we feel we need something. Thus, it is better to determine to lessen our list of “needs”

5. When we are too busy, we don’t have time to do what God wants of us

6. Our society requires too much of us for basic necessities. On minimum wage, 40 hours of work a week isn’t enough for a place to live, food and toiletries. For some, it is better to live on the street rather than be enslaved to impoverished employment.

7. There are basic needs we should provide for everyone, no matter how bad they are: food, water, clothing, basic hygiene, a place to go to the bathroom, basic shelter, protection from extreme weather. If we have the ability to provide these needs, yet fail in this, whether the one in need is good or evil, lazy or hard-working, crazy or sane, loving or bitter, then we, who are in authority, are the worst people who have ever lived.

8. We can make excuses to torture people, if we think they are “bad” enough. We will think it is okay to steal people’s possessions, to take away their sleep, to starve them, to take away their meager shelter, to deprive them of their sanity, to make them fear for their lives, simply because they live a lifestyle that we consider inappropriate.

9. An authoritative moral cop with the ability to punish is bad for any society. They end up punishing not only criminals, but anyone who is feared, even if there is nothing to fear.

10. No one is an island—we all need others. Those without others go insane.

11. Everyone works to meet their needs. Some work in a job. Some recycle cans. Some walk long distances and stand in lines for disability or a free meal. Some hold a sign in poor weather conditions for handouts. The real question is: what work does God have in store for us?

12. Shelter or food or clothing is not the most basic need. Faithful companionship is.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Justice III

Lord, it seems that I, too, am an oppressor.
Can it be? Am I not your child?
Yet in the ways I oppress, I am not like you.
For you, O God are gracious.
For you, O God are compassionate.
For you, O God are slow to anger.
For you, O God are abounding in love.

But I, I still
manipulate and control and act aggressively toward those under me
from my children to my employees.
I abuse the vast resources you have given me
and thus steal from my poor brokers.
I support oppressors of the poor and underprivileged
by buying their products.
I close off my home, my money and my time
from the poor you have told me to give to.

Dear Lord, forgive me.
Cleanse me of my sin.
I open myself up to you.
Reveal to me my evil ways.
Show me, Lord, how to change them.
Through your Spirit, enliven your righteousness within me.
Teach me living justice;
Teach me holy walking;
Train me in the ways of your kingdom:
the ways of peace
the ways of mercy
the ways of justice
the ways of forgiveness
Lest I, too, O Lord, am judged by you.

Take away the disgrace I dread.
Take away the acts of tyranny.
And replace my old ways with the ways of your Son.

Your Kingdom come, O God
Your glorious light shine
Come quickly now

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's Not Forget...

Anawim (and Steve Kimes) has a new website.

It has a new look.

It has new content, especially a section about the dehumanization of the homeless.

It has a section completely devoted to what Jesus says about the outcast.

Check it out!


That's "No Where To Lay His Head Dot Org"

Movie Review: The Man Without A Past

"The Man Without A Past" by Aki Kaurismäki

Okay, subtitles and foriegn films may not be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who want to understand the homeless and some of the issues they deal with, this movie is essential.

It is played for the deadest of deadpan humor, but it is brilliantly conceived, and it communicates the sense of a homeless community, both those on the street struggling for survival, and those who assist them.

It doesn't flinch from difficult realities, such as gang attacks, the difficulties of not having id and divorce. Yet it is punctuated by moments of humor when one least expects it.

Highly recommended. The humor gets 3 stars out of 5. The depiction of a homeless community gets 5 stars out of 5.

Find out more: http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/movies/review/2003/04/04/man_without/index.html

If The Housed Were Treated Like The Homeless

I have known about the surveys of the homeless to discover their needs for a while now. People are hired to interview the homeless, and ask them what services they would like the city (or the state) to provide for them. I think the idea is wonderful, for then service providers aren’t just assuming themselves what the homeless need, but they are asking directly those with the needs.

But today, I discovered a new angle on this survey: There are teams of three that go out asking questions: a social worker, a medical provider and… well, some other professional type person, I don’t remember who. And the team of three goes out very early in the morning, so they can make sure to find the homeless folks, and they wake them up to ask them the questions. (It’s always good to wake up the sleep deprived to see what services they need…)

Maybe you aren’t as stunned (read: appalled) as I am about this, but perhaps this Pythonesque skit will give you the sense:

Scene: A small, suburban bedroom. There is a large bed in the middle, with George sleeping on one side and Carol on the other. George is wearing striped pajamas, while Carol is wearing a short nightgown, but both are covered by a comforter. A dresser with a filthy mirror is on one side of the bed, with clothes scattered about the floor. The remains of a hurried dinner rests on the dresser as well as a digital alarm clock. The two are in restful slumber, when suddenly there is a knock on the window, on George’s side of the bed.

Mr. Pierce: (Peering in) Hello? (Opens the window and sticks his head in.) Hello?

George: (Groggy) Huh? What… who?

Mr Pierce proceeds to climb in through the window and then falls. He is a tall, professional-looking man with a brown suit coat and a red tie. He holds a clipboard and a pen.

Carol: (Waking suddenly, then screaming, pulling the bedclothes around her) George, who is this?

Mr Pierce stands up and begins to brush himself off.

George: (Angry for Carol’s sake) Well, there, hey! What do you think you’re doing? Get out of my house!

Mr. Pierce: (Standing formally, with a clipboard, addresses himself to George) Hello, there, sir. Sorry to disturb you at this early hour…

George: (Looking at the clock on the dresser) Oh, my… It’s 4am! Who in the hell do you think you are? What are you doing in my house?

Mr. Pierce: As I said, I AM sorry to disturb you, but I am taking a survey of the neighborhood to discover what kind of services you might need.

George stares for a moment, stunned.

Carol: (Still in a panic) Who are these people, George? Is this your idea of a joke?

George: (Upset, but a bit of a pansy) I still don’t understand what you are doing in my house.

Mr. Pierce: As I said, I’m taking a survey of the neighborhood and just need to ask you a few questions.

George: Why didn’t you just knock on the door?

Mr. Pierce: I’m sure you wouldn’t have answered the door this early, Mr. … excuse me, what is your name?

George: Mr. Thomson. George Thomson.

Mr. Pierce: (Writing on his clipboard) Thomson… George. Fine.

Carol: (Upset, poking George) George, why don’t you get rid of these people!

George: See here. Why don’t you just come back during the day, not at this ungodly hour?

Mr. Pierce: Mr. Thomson, surely you understand our position. Do you not work during the day?

George: Well, of course.

Mr. Pierce: Well, then, we couldn’t really come during the day, could we?

George: (Pacified) Oh, I suppose not.

Carol: Well, then, why couldn’t they come see you at work?

George: Yes, why couldn’t you see me at work?

Mr. Pierce: Then we wouldn’t be sure you lived here.

George: Oh, I see. But it IS rather inconvenient…

Mr. Pierce: I appreciate your position, Mr. Thomson, but you see, it’s the only way.

George: (Pacified again) Well, if nothing could be done about it…

Carol: Yes, something could be done about it, you could throw them out!

Mr. Pierce: Are you disturbed, ma’am?

Carol: Yes, I am.

Mr. Pierce: Of course, you don’t have to participate in the survey. You may leave, if you like.

Carol: Leave! I can’t leave! I’m not even dressed!

Mr. Pierce: I would be happy to avert my eyes…

Carol: Get out!

Mr. Pierce: Just as soon as I finish the survey. Now then… (looking at clipboard) Mr. Thomson, how old are you?

George: 35.

Mr. Pierce: (Writing on clip board) Fine. And what is your ID number?

George: 491…

Carol: Don’t you think that’s a bit personal?

Mr. Pierce: It is just a basic question, ma’am. Sir?

George: 491, 327, 45, 49

Mr. Pierce: And could I see your ID, please?

George: Actually, I lost it last week.

Mr. Pierce: Oh, did you? That’s fine. We can help you with that. (Calls out the window) Officer MacDonnal? Could you please come in? (A police officer in full uniform climbs in. He wears dark glasses, speaks in a “Sgt. Friday” voice, and has a pair of handcuffs at his hip.) This is Officer MacDonnal and he’ll help you with your ID issue.

Officer: (Takes out notebook) Sir, ma’am. I just have a few questions to ask you.

Carol: And who let you in? What right do you have? Who said you could come into our bedroom?

Officer: Well, Mr. Pierce did, ma’am.

Carol: And who let Mr. Pierce in?

Officer: It’s all official business, ma’am. We are just here to help.

Carol: What kind of officials are you?

Mr. Pierce: This is all according to city policy, ma’am. Now, while Officer MacDonnel assists Mr. Thomson with the forms, would it be alright if I asked you some questions?

Carol: Why not? Might as well. Not going to get any sleep anyway.

Mr. Pierce: Fine, then. (He flips a page on his clipboard) Could I have your name, then, please?

Carol: Carol Drew.

Mr. Pierce: And your last name is spelled?

Carol: D-R-E-W.

Mr. Pierce: And are you a Miss or a Mrs?

Carol: A Miss.

Mr. Pierce: (Looking up from his clipboard, with eyebrow raised) So you are not married to Mr. Thomson, then?

Carol: (Voice raising) No. And what business is it of yours?

Mr. Pierce: I’m not judging, ma’am, just saying. But this kind of situation might require a health professional. You wouldn’t mind having a doctor ask you a few questions, do you?

Carol: I suppose not. It would be better if the doctor came over at the daytime, however.

Mr. Pierce: No need. (Calling out the window) Dr. Zook, could you please come in? (A woman in a white doctor’s coat with a stethoscope hanging out of the pocket climbs in through the window) Dr. Zook, it seems that we have an issue here.

Dr. Zook: (Looking at Carol) What seems to be the problem?

Carol: There’s no problem! Except I am having trouble sleeping!

Mr. Pierce: Well, you see, Mr. Thomson and Miss Drew…

Dr. Zook: (Nodding) Ah, I see. (Pulls out a clipboard) Miss Drew, if I could ask you a few questions…

Carol: (Flustered) I don’t think so…

Dr. Zook: Please, it will only take a few moments.

Carol: I suppose.

Dr. Zook: First of all, please tell me if you have ever experienced the following: Herpes?

Carol: Which kind? I mean, sometimes I have cold sores…

Dr. Zook: Mm hmm. (writing on clipboard) Positive. What about genital herpes?

Carol: I don’t think so…

Dr. Zook: Have you ever been tested for it?

Carol: No…

Dr. Zook: Well, we can work on that later. What about gonorrhea?

Carol: No.

Dr. Zook: (Looking at the clipboard) Ever been tested for it?

Carol: No.

Dr. Zook: Unknown. Have you ever been raped?

Carol: No!

Dr. Zook: Fine. What about date rape?

Carol: What do you mean?

Dr. Zook: I mean, has ANYONE (she glances at George still speaking to Officer) ever put you in a position where you felt you were sexually compromised?

Carol: I… I don’t think so.

Dr. Zook: Let’s be careful about this, now. Are you sure? I mean, for instance, has Mr. Thomson ever asked you to do something sexually you weren’t comfortable with?

Carol: Well, like what?

Dr. Zook: Anything.

Carol: Well, he brought out this book tonight and wanted me to try these positions and I wasn’t comfortable….

Dr. Zook: Did you tell him you were uncomfortable?

Carol: Well, yes, but…

Dr. Zook: And did he make you perform anyway?

Carol: Well, he didn’t MAKE me…

Dr. Zook: Did you feel coerced?

Carol: Perhaps a bit manipulated…

Dr. Zook
Officer: (together) I think we have a problem.

Mr. Pierce: Officer MacDonnal, you first, please.

Officer: We just discovered that Mr. Thomson is living in this dwelling under false pretenses.

George: That’s not true! I told you, I am staying here while my Uncle is at the coast. He invited me to stay here.

Officer: So this isn’t your house?

George: Right, I told you that. But I have permission.

Officer: I’m not sure about that. I just called your “uncle” and we couldn’t get an answer.

George: Of course not—it’s 4 in the morning!

Officer: That is no excuse under the law. The fact is: you are in a house that doesn’t belong to you. Let me ask you, do you have any place to live?

George: I moved out of my apartment in Maryland. I have moved into town just last week. My uncle is giving me a hand until I settle in.

Officer: So you are a homeless transient, eh? I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave immediately.

George: What do you mean? All my stuff is here!

Officer: What stuff is that?

George: Well, the dresser, the bed… all the furniture in the house.

Officer: Uh huh. Okay, just a second. (Calls out the window) Joe! Yeah, go ahead and get the dump truck over here. We’ll have to trash the whole place.

Joe: (Outside the window) Right away!

Officer: Mr. Thomson, I’m afraid you will have to vacate the premises…

Dr. Zook: Um, officer. I’m afraid there’s another issue…. (Dr. Zook goes over and whispers in the officer’s ear).

Officer: (Facial expression becomes angry and eyes grow large) Is that right? (He walks over to George and throws him against the dresser, knees him in the kidneys, and spins him around. He pulls off the handcuffs off of his hip and cuffs George) You have the right to remain silent, you…

George: (Voice groaning a bit from the pain) Wait! What am I being arrested for?

Officer: Sexual assault 3.

George: Carol, what did you tell them?

Carol: (To Mr. Pierce) Of course, I don’t live here. He seemed so nice at first. I actually live with my parents on the other side of town.

Mr. Pierce: You need to take care who your friends are in the future. Could I arrange a ride for you back to your parents?

Carol: Oh, that would be wonderful.

Mr. Pierce: Here, let me get you a coat to cover you. (He goes to the closet and takes out one of George’s coats and wraps it around Carol) There you are.

Carol: Thank you. I don’t even know what I saw in him really…

Dr. Zook: I was thinking that we could give you a pelvic exam right here in the living room. I have a rape kit right here…

(Dr. Zook leads Carol out of the room)

Officer: Come with me, Thomson. I’ve got a lot of paperwork to fill out now because of you…

George and officer walk out of the room.

Mr. Pierce: (Writing in notebook, reading his text) We found Mr. Thomson city-sponsored housing and Miss Drew received rape counseling and a physical exam. (Looks up from his clipboard) Hmm. I didn’t arrange for Miss Drew to get tested for her sleep disorder. Ah, well, we can’t help everything…