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.
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.
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