Thursday, May 29, 2008

Street Preacher

Read about a man who became homeless to minister to the homeless. From the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Should Your Church Cancel Their Worship?

Ekklesia reports that the campaign "Faith in Action" begun by World
Vision is recommending that churches cancel some worship services for
the purpose of serving the poor.

Is this really the best response?

Should we cancel church services in order to serve the poor? If we do
this, in my opinion, then we are perpetuating the cycle of the poor.

The major problem of the poor is the seperation, isolation and
dehumanization that takes place when the middle class connect with the
poor. As long as we react to the poor with pity (often labeled
"compassion") and with service from one's arm's length, then the cycle
of poverty will continue. As long as we see the poor as the "other"
that we have to reach out to, then we will never see the poor as
"us." If we do not see the poor as "us" then the divide between the
ruling middle class and the poor will never be breached.

Rather than cancel our services, we need to have a reformation of our
services. We need to make our services less focused on the middle
class and their values and instead make them reflective of the values
of the working poor. We need to stop having offerings at the center
of our services. We need to find ways to welcome the poor. We need
to teach in our sermons not to use language or to have attitudes that
disrespect the poor.

James said that we are not following the law of Jesus if we disrespect
the poor. But in focusing on the middle class values and dreams in
our worship and sermons, we are asking the "rich man" to sit in the
best place and telling the "poor man" to "sit at my feet."

Our churches have disrespected the poor. How can our worship better
welcome the lower classes?

Steve K

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This I Believe Recommendations

A couple good segments from the series, This I Believe:

Sister Helen Prejean talks about walking one's faith:

Sara Miles on the spirituality of welcoming strangers:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Conversation in the Anawim House

A conversation that happened this morning in the Anawim community house:

Diver: I learn a lot of new words from Boggle on computer. For instance, I learned that “Ted” is a word.

Steve: What does it mean?

Diver: “Making rows of hay” or something. Here, I’ll look it up.

Steve: I’ve got a meeting this morning with a guy named Ted.

Diver: (Looking in the dictionary) Who is this ‘Ted’?

Steve: Um… he’s a guy.

Diver: What kind of guy?

Steve: He’s a mediator.

Diver: And what are you seeing him about?

Steve: Ummm, I can’t tell you.

Diver: (Under his breath) It’s hard to follow you on my bike… (Aloud) Oh, here it is! Ted is “a person or machine that makes piles of manure” You ought to mention this at the beginning of your meeting!

Steve: Sure, if I wanted to have the mediator against me right off the bat. “Hey, did you know what ‘ted’ means? It reminds me of you.”

Diver: “You are such a ted”

Steve: “Oh, hi, this is a ted, isn’t it?”

Diver: “The Tedinator”

At this point, the conversation stops because Steve has ceased from breathing from laughing so hard.

Diver: Oh, you really CAN die laughing, can’t you?

Steve: Yeah, my wife will get up and I’ll say “Ted almost killed me this morning.” And she’ll say, “Over the phone?”

Diver: You know, there is no way that you’ll be able to talk to this guy without breaking out in laughter, don’t you?

Steve: It’s okay. I’ll check my email first. That always depresses me.

May 6, 2008

History of Anawim, part 3

30. Becoming mentally ill
Because of the stressful living situation, and also perhaps because of the increased workload, my wife and I began to experience burnout. We found ourselves with a short temper and we struggle with many health difficulties. But through this we also learned what many of our people experience on a day-to-day basis. Rather than cut back on our work, we learned to deal with our issues and to be more sympathetic to those dealing with mental health issues.

31. Working with the State
I became a “community contact” for some of our folks who were committed by the State. For many of the mental health workers and court workers, we became a model of how a church can work with the mentally ill, assisting them to live in the community without having to return to the hospital. This only encourages people in the State to see the church as a positive force in the world. I learned that the State is willing to listen to religious people if they see that the church really helps people in need.

32. Leadership
One of the great difficulties we had was developing indigenous leadership. At one point we appointed some people as “stewards” of the church and gave them some responsibility. But this proved problematic for various reasons, most of them having to do with the social weaknesses of the mentally ill. True leadership, however, arose within the church at almost every meeting by the time we had the meetings for four years. Some would just do the work without having to be asked and take responsibility on themselves. They would be there to serve others and to provide direction. Although they were a long time in coming, they came and are now the backbone of the church. We learned that leadership among our community requires a lot of patience.

33. Middle class outreach
Last year, now that we are confident that our church among the homeless and mentally ill is stable and having its own character, we began a new service on Sunday afternoons in a church. This service was to welcome both the lower and middle classes, so they could worship and fellowship together. It is a discipleship-oriented service and it has a meal after the service, although others in the community are welcome to just share in the meal if they like. It has started small but is growing steadily but slowly.

34. Finances
In our newest service, we have a box for people to put their offerings in. At first we had only a few dollars. But now people are offering hundreds of dollars a week! We still don’t take an offering, but we make the box known and so people are beginning to share their finances with us in an extremely generous way.

35. “Street Level”
At this same time, the Luis Palau team asked me to write a book about how to minister to the homeless. I wrote two versions of it—one as a Christian introduction to the homeless and another as a manual of how a middle class church can minister to the homeless. The Luis Palau team decided to go a different direction and so no longer needs the book. But I know that the Lord has something else in mind for it.

36. Meal in partnership with middle class churches
Later this month, we will begin our latest outreach—a large meal once a week with a spiritual component. We will have a movie once a month, and I will teach the book of Revelation at least two times a month. We hope this will draw a different group of people to our SE church where we hold our Sunday service, especially some of the lower income folks in that neighborhood.

37. Dehumanization of the Homeless advertisement
In Gresham, the acts of dehumanization against the homeless there have caused us to act in a different way. We will be having a banner in Gresham announcing “The Homeless are people” and a website. The website will have information about dehumanization, how the homeless are dehumanized and how we can change this. We will also hand out flyers in Gresham, encouraging people to treat the homeless as equal humans as themselves. We hope that this will increase exposure to the church, encouraging some who are concerned about the homeless to come and hear about Christ.

38. “Anawim Christian Community”
We call ourselves “Anawim” after the Hebrew word which means “the poor who seek the Lord for deliverance.” Thus, every time someone looks at us strangely and asks “what does that mean?” we give the gospel to. And it communicates the fact that we are a community made up of the poor—we aren’t looking for a handout, we are seeking God. We have “Christian” in the title to let people know that we aren’t some new age cult. It is a brief way to communicate both our goal as a community and God’s desire for the poor.

This history covers the years from 2004-May 2008

Myths and Truth About the Homeless

Although a large percent of the U.S. population are homeless every year (about 1 percent of the general population), the pocket of people who become homeless are almost all in the lower or working classes. Thus the majority of the people in the U.S.—those who are middle or upper class—have almost no contact with the homeless.
One of the main ways in which the homeless remain dehumanized is by misunderstanding the homeless and making assumptions as to the causes and implications of homelessness. To humanize the homeless, we first have to understand who, statistically, the homeless really are without our cultural biases.

Myth: The homeless are an insignificant percent of the population of the United States
Approximately ten percent of all the people in the United States are under the poverty line. And a full ten percent of those will spend some time in the next year on the street. This means that approximately one percent of the population of the U.S.—about 3 million people—will be homeless in any given year. This is not insignificant. This is a huge mass of population, an economic failure, and an indication that the U.S. is more concerned with solving the world’s problems than its own.

Myth: Most homeless are vagrants
Seventy five percent of those who become homeless remain in the city in which they became homeless. And a large percentage of these find themselves homeless in the town they were raised in. For the most part, homeless folks move less frequently (by choice) than suburbanites.

Myth: Most homeless remain so for years
More than 70 percent of the homeless remain so for less than two years. For most people, homelessness is a very brief phase in their lives. Only a minority actually remain chronically homeless.

Myth: The homeless are lawbreakers
Statistics have shown that while a larger majority of homeless are addicts than the general population, any one homeless person is not any more likely to be a criminal than a housed person, with one legal exception: camping ordinances. It is true that the homeless are as much as a hundred percent more likely to break a camping ordinance than a housed person. But, of course, they break that law just by being a homeless person, whether they desired to break that law or not. In most cities in the United States, it is a criminal act to be a homeless person in the city in which one has been raised and lives. But in the area of violent crime, such as rape, murder, burglary or mugging, a homeless person is less likely to perpetuate such a crime than a housed person.

Myth: Most homeless people are addicts
It is estimated that 25-40 percent of all homeless are addicted to a substance. If we are only including the chronic homeless, that statistic is higher. But even if we are only including that population, we must ask the question of what situation caused which. Was it the addiction that caused homelessness or the homelessness that caused the addiction? It depends on the person. But many people find that once they are off the street (and on anti-depression medication) they no longer find that they need or desire to continue with their addiction.

Myth: Most homeless people are mentally ill
It is estimated that from 15-25 percent of all homeless are mentally ill, far below “most.” However, since in the general population of the United States up to 40 percent of all people are diagnosed with a mental illness sometime in their lives, it must be seen that there is something amiss with these statistics. From what I have found, the lower statistic for homeless people indicate those who are diagnosed with a mental illness. But since more than half of all homeless people are without any heath care insurance, then most would not have been able to be diagnosed, and even of those who were diagnosed, many of them deny the diagnosis. Thus, we should amend the statistic to say that the amount of homeless that are mentally ill is unknown, but the number might reach as much as half.

Myth: Most homeless people are campers
The majority of people who are homeless live in cars or trucks. Others sleep temporarily in people’s living rooms or garages. Less than 25 percent of those who are homeless camp, although this population is the most persecuted by society.

Myth: Most homeless people choose homelessness
Homelessness is almost no one’s choice. In one estimate, approximately 6% of the homeless chose that as a lifestyle. But the point of fact is that it is not so much that people choose homelessness, as some refuse the demands made upon them to maintain a house or apartment. To live in a house or an apartment requires on to work for 40 or more hours a week at minimum wage, just to pay for housing, food and utilities. Those who are excellent at keeping a budget might be able to also afford a car. But most of those on the street suffer from some kind of limitation on their ability to do that kind of labor. It could be mental illness or addiction, or it could be a social limitation, or it could be an inherent refusal to do that much work for so little gained.
Most people who become homeless are willing to do whatever they can to return back into the standard economic requirements of our society. It is the chronic homeless who have difficulties entering back into that work force.

Myth: Homeless people are lazy
Homeless people typically work harder for the little they receive than we do for any equal economic benefit. For a single meal, they may walk miles. For five dollars a day they will walk a five mile route, climb in dumpsters along the way, collect the recyclables, walk them another mile to the nearest store and place each container in the machine for which they receive pennies per item. Other homeless hold signs at a busy intersection or freeway onramp, receiving as many insults as they do donations. Although estimates greatly vary, most homeless folks have at least part time work. Most homeless are looking for steady work, but find that it is difficult to come by for one who does not have an address or a daily shower.

Myth: There are ample services for the homeless
It depends on the city as to what services are available. In my local city, the Portland OR area, there are many meals, but not enough shelters, either at night or during the day, for but a small percentage of the homeless population. And there is not a single city in the United States that has sufficient facilities for emergency shelter for their homeless populations. Part of what services are available depend upon one’s goals. If one is only seeking to give homeless the least amount of nutrition to survive, then perhaps there are enough services. But if one is hoping to see the homeless get past their social difficulties and become an economically viable member of society, the United States doesn’t even have a fraction of the resources to meet the needs of the homeless.

Myth: The homeless need to just help themselves
Every homeless person on the street have tried to help themselves and found it to be very difficult. 40 percent of people who have experienced homelessness get off the street in less than six months. The rest of people who find themselves homeless for years tried to get off the street, but found it impossible. The chronic homeless are those who have tried and have given up. It is now up to someone else who can assist the homeless to step in and to give them a step up.
It is true, homeless people need to help themselves. No one can force anyone to accept help they do not want. But the majority of the homeless are seeking help, there just aren’t enough people to do so. They need others to help them to help themselves.

Just the Facts

Statistics About Homelessness and Related Subjects

The number of people in the U.S. who were in poverty in 2005:

The percentage of those people who were children:

The estimated number of people in the U.S. who are homeless for any period of time in a given year:
3.5 million

The number of people who were homeless in a night in October 1996:

The number of people who were homeless in a night in February 1996:

Percentage of homeless that have been homeless for less than two years:

Percentage of homeless that have been homeless for less than six months:

Percentage of homeless that live in vehicles:

That live in makeshift housing (tents, cardboard boxes, etc):

Percentage of homeless that live in the same city in which they became homeless:

Percentage of homeless people that are employed:

Estimated percentage of homeless diagnosed with a mental illness:

Percentage of the overall U.S. population diagnosed with a mental illness sometime in their lives:

Estimated percentage of homeless that are substance abusers:

Percentage of homeless men that are veterans:

Percentage of U.S. cities whose estimated homeless population is much greater than number of beds in emergency shelters:

Percentage of homeless who are single men:

Families with children:

Single women:

Likelihood to have a personal or property crime committed by a homeless person than by a housed person:
10% less likely

Percentage of homeless people that receive Social Security or General Assistance (food stamps):

Percentage of homeless that report having no health insurance:

Percentage of the general U.S. population that reports having no health insurance:

Average amount a homeless person receives in income a month:
300 dollars

Resources: The National Coalition for the Homeless; National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Homelessness in the United States, Wikipedia.

A History of Anawim, part 2

13. Meeting in Gresham Vineyard
After SA had us leave, Gresham Vineyard allowed us to use their facility. Because of the extra setup for our service and for theirs, it required more work, but the congregation helped us do the clean up. We were not required to pay any rent. After a year and a half, the Vineyard church was forced to move and we had to find a new place.

14. Spiritual warfare
During this period I began leading some of our congregation through warfare prayer. This was to free them from demonic attacks that came as a result of addiction or mental illness. This warfare prayer was in the context of counseling sessions and was very effective. People were getting freed from the things that were attacking them, although it rarely freed people from the drive toward addictions. We learned that spiritual warfare is often the missing component in freeing people from addiction and mental illness.

15. Tracts
In every meeting I began to develop a tract for the Scripture reading and a tract for the sermon. Some people would take them, others would leave them. But they could be collected and then given to others in other contexts. After a period of years, after most people stopped taking the tracts, I didn’t make so many of the ones for the sermons, only about ten or so for those who wanted to study it more. I learned that in a semi-literate culture, the written word isn’t very significant, except in an oral context.

16. Meeting in Park
After leaving the Gresham Vineyard building at the beginning of winter we met outside in the park. By the time we got the food to the park, it was sometimes cold. And it was cold enough that few people wanted to stay for a service. During the meal we would have a few songs sung, and then we prayed for people’s requests. We learned that to do our ministry fully, we really needed a building.

17. “Solid State” meeting
Through a contact of one of our church members, we found a building right near downtown Portland, about twenty miles away from where we were currently meeting. On the one hand, we were able to meet there both Saturdays and Sundays (our meetings were only on Saturdays up to this point), but the majority of those who participated in the meal only were in Gresham and it was too difficult for them to come on their own. I would drive our large van out to Gresham on Saturdays and pick up 8 to 10 people and then bring them to Portland for the afternoon. The new facilities allowed us to really expand the people we were ministering to, as we were so much closer to many more homeless folks and more housing for the mentally ill. We would have thirty people a day participate in our services, and more than that come for our meals. The facility itself was problematic, having very little lighting and the sewer would back up. But we were able to be there for two years before the owners closed us down. We learned that we needed more than one meeting place.

18. Picking up people from State hospital
Early on, we had one person coming from the State mental health hospital. He invited a friend to come and soon many people were calling to come to church from the State hospital. The hospital chaplains didn’t want us doing this, for they felt that we were undermining their ministry (which we had no intention of doing). As long as people called, we picked them up. This continued for five years until the word of mouth gave out. Most of those we picked up were either moved out of the area, or we still have contact with them.

19. Prayer and fasting for the Holy Spirit
While in the Solid State building, I took a season of Lent and encouraged the congregation to pray and to fast for the Holy Spirit. I knew that we needed a powerful move of the Holy Spirit to help us be healed from our mental health issues and from addiction. However, only a couple of people took this step with me, and we didn’t experience a strong move of the Holy Spirit. Yet.

20. Community House
While at the Solid State building, my family was losing our housing. We had an apartment in Gresham that many of the homeless there visited. The new owner of the building, who was trying to revitalize the apartments, gave us a 30 day notice. Without any deposit or hope of finding another apartment large enough for us all for the same rent, I sent out an urgent prayer request over email to two people. In two days, we received a phone call from an individual who wanted to purchase us a house. Within two months we were in a house near downtown Portland with six bedrooms, fully paid for.

21. Addiction help
Years before, we had already taken in one individual to live with us who was struggling with addiction. If we sent him out on the street, he would certainly have returned to drugs, so we took him in and dealt with numerous issues (too many to list here). When our house opened, we took in a few other people who were also in recovery from drug addiction. While we had some success in helping people deal with their addictions, the toll on myself and my wife was very high as far as stress and trying to teach people how to live in community.

22. Mentally ill in house
We also took in some folks who had serious mental health issues, but were trying to be believers. Again, we felt it was a discipleship necessity to bring them in. But everyone who lived with us longer than a week we would have them serve the church and the house for a total of ten hours a week, in lieu of rent. The Lord also allowed us to provide food for all of these folks. Again, dealing with the variety of issues was positive for the people living with us, but difficult on Diane and I. On the other hand, the community house became the basis for Anawim being a church run by the homeless and mentally ill

23. Four meetings at once
We were having to move every year or so to different buildings. And we were having problems keeping 30 or so mentally ill folks calm and focused for an hour. So I decided that we would have four meetings a week in different places around Portland, thus becoming a cell church, and so naturally keeping the meetings down to about 15 to 20 people per meeting. This cell group structure proved to be very beneficial for our community, causing it to grow to twice or three times the size I imagined. We meet in North Portland (at our new home), downtown Portland, SE Portland and again in Gresham.

24. Church in basement/garage
One of the meetings was in our home. This meeting was made up of mostly the people we would pick up from the State hospital. At first we met in our basement and then we met in our renovated garage. One of the difficulties was that the State hospital wouldn’t allow some of the men to come to our house if they were labeled as sexual preditors because we had children in our house. After the folks from the hospital stopped calling after a couple years, others also stopped coming for different reasons, one of which is that the garage was too compact. So we held the Sunday meeting on hiatus for a while until we could find another meeting place.

25. Meeting in day shelter
Another opportunity arose when I was asked at this same time to have a Bible study at a day shelter in downtown Portland. This facility is right across the street from a mental health housing complex. We give a hot meal for a half hour, had the Bible study for an hour and then offer more food for another half hour. The meeting had many new people and grew from 10 to 50 people. However, this meeting never really became a community, as the others had. People would come and go over time. However, because of our initial ministry in this place, two other ministers have come to the day shelter, providing Christian community. Our meeting in this place will cease in another month so we may begin a new ministry.

26. Retreat
In connection with this day shelter, I began offering leadership at their annual spiritual retreat for the homeless in downtown Portland. This provides some homeless with an opportunity to get out of the city and to focus on the Lord in a way they can’t in a stressful urban setting. This has proved a good time for some of our folks to get baptized as well.

27. Gresham meeting
The second meeting we began at this time was a regrouping of our Gresham meeting that we had begun with. I went back to Peace Mennonite who agreed to have us return to them after many years gone. Because they saw that our ministry really was successful, they decided to have us come back. So we meet in Peace Mennonite every Saturday afternoon, offering a meal, showers and clothes to those in need, as well as counsel, basic health care and a worship service. We have up to 50 people a week.

28. Barbeque
Peace Mennonite had a BBQ every year, which they graciously invited Anawim to participate in. While considered an outreach event, it was really an event to allow people in Anawim and those in Peace to interact and to fellowship. It has been an excellent experience for the two churches to connect.

29. Sunnyside meeting
I was invited by another meal to hold a Bible study at their meal. I would open the meal with a short Bible teaching and prayer and then we would have a longer Bible study during the meal in an adjoining room. The Bible study has minimal attendance—perhaps 5 to 10 people a week—but up to a hundred participate in the “mini service” we have at the opening of the meal. For many people, it is the only experience of God they will have all week. We also have a lot of opportunity to pray for people’s needs and see healings and deliverances happen there.

This part covers Anawim history from 2000-2004

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Homeless Woman Vindicated

Yesterday, Mary MacQuire, a homeless woman in Gresham (and a
participant in Anawim) won a case against the city of Gresham and a
Gresham police officer against brutality.

Two years ago, Mary was beaten by a police officer twice her size and
tazed four times in succession by a tazer that has been declared
illegal in many countries and cities in the United States. This was
done without any charge being given against her and without any
being posed to the police officer.

The jury, finding that Mary was brutalized simply because she was
homeless, awarded her with 80 thousand dollars.

Please pray for Mary that she would use the money wisely, to get her
and her mother and sister into secure housing.

Pray for the police officer that he would learn the compassion of
Jesus for those in need.

And pray for Gresham, that they would realize that homeless people
people and need to be treated the same as everyone else.