Something that happened last night might help people understand some of the difficulties of having large groups of the mentally ill or socially weak together.
Julie and Jim (pseudonyms being used here!) are a mixed race couple who have come to Gresham a number of times. I met them for a first time when we allowed people to stay overnight when the weather was so terrible. They were nice enough, good people, never causing any trouble. Julie was definately more friendly than Jim-- he definatly had a tough repuation to keep up, and we were a little different for him. At one point a rapper friend of mine-- Jesse-- showed up and he spent the whole time talking to Jim about rap music and various musical things. That was great for both of them.
So Julie and Jim showed up last night, ate, hang out during the movie, and they went out to smoke. No problem. Well, maybe a bit, because what they wanted to smoke was weed. In Anawim, we have a no drugs policy, and I want to make sure that we don't get in trouble for people having illegal substances. The last thing I want is the police around.
This is where John comes in. I really like John (what is it with these "j" names in this story? I guess it's just the way it is...), but he can be a real hothead sometimes. I've had trouble with him in the past with his anger, but it's always worked out. Lately he's really been seeking the Lord, realizing that God can really help him with his problems. He's been listening to the Spirit and receiving counsel from believers. There's been a huge amount of growth in him over the last few months.
Well, John was outside and saw Jim with his joint. John went up to him and said, in his slightly manic manner, "Hey, this is a church, and you shouldn't be doing that because it's disrespectful." Jim promply ignored him. So John continued, "You know that I'm trying to get clean and I don't need that kind of stuff around me." Julie's response is, "So, go somewhere else."
John gets pretty upset, so he comes in to me, whispering under the movie, "You know that there's these guys smoking weed over behind the church." I couldn't hear him well, but I caught at least that much, and I thought he was talking about a different guy, who has a medical marijuana card. I knew I'd have to approach him about it, but I also knew John. I knew that if I came right out, they'd feel judged. So give it some time and I'll talk to them next time. I told John, "Okay, thanks. I'll deal with it." And sat back down next to my daughter.
Well, that wasn't quick enough for John. So he went straight back out.
About ten minutes later, John comes back to me and says, clearly enflamed, "You know, you should listen to what I tell you. I had to go out there and deal with it myself and bitch slap that guy."
"What!?" I said (still kinda quietly, because of the movie. I walked out of the church and went to the back.
"They aren't there, now." Jeff says.
"What do you think you're doing? I'm trying to get this guy to follow Jesus, and you're going to use violence? That's a great way to bring someone to the Lord! I was going to bring it up to him gradually, so that we could have a peaceful situation-- but you just couldn't wait! You just need to let me deal with it!"
"Look, he was blowing smoke in my face, there wasn't anything I could do. So I yelled at them. I didn't touch them, or anything."
"So... when you said you 'bitch slapped' him, you were lying to me?"
I turned away, disgusted. Now I had a situation. I have some folks who may not want to come back because they might think that I sent Jeff out there to yell at them. And I've just yelled at John, and that might trigger his anger and he'll want to take it out on me. Great.
When I got home, Diver (finally, not a "j" name!) told me that he talked to the people involved, away from the church and explained that John just went off a bit. Diver said that they were okay. John called me today, and apologized for his overreaction. So I guess it's all okay.
I still have to deal with the weed issue, and I will. But at least I have a chance to do it, now, without losing folks who might be damaged by feeling judged for something they think is perfectly fine. Everything in Anawim is step by step, no huge leaps here.