Friday, August 22, 2014

Bus Stop Ministry by guest blogger Noah Hill

My name is Noah Hill.  I am in the process of launching a ministry called Bus Stop Blessings, and I have a challenge for you all today.  But before I reveal this challenge, I want to tell you a story:

He is a short man, stocky of build, with grizzled hair and a beard that hasn't seen a razor in months.  His face and arms are darkened with dirt, his clothing ragged. He walks slowly, eyes down, an empty foam cup gripped in one grubby hand.
Then he looks up, and his face breaks into a wide grin.

I don't know this man's name, but I have spoken with him many times.  He insists on being called Hobo, claiming that there's nobody around to remember his old name, his old life before his homelessness. 

Hobo tells me about his day.  He slept in a nearby alley the night before, despite the rare thunderstorm that had swept across the usually arid city.  He woke up early as always, and scavenged for something to eat.  He was lucky that morning; a patron at the burger joint across the street had thrown away half a bag of food that wasn't to their liking, and it was one of the best meals he'd had in days.  I ask him if he has any prospects for the day.  He tells me that the little general store across the street is having a sale, and if he holds an advertising sign outside for them they'll give him a few dollars at the end of the day.  He's hoping they'll give him enough to buy something to eat and a bottle of whisky.

We talk about my week.  I tell him about my doctor appointments, and about how my wife is working overtime.  I tell him about the new church I'm attending, and the wonderful ways that God is working in my life.  I share some scripture with him that I've been reading.  I ask him if he'd like to come to church on Sunday.
This makes him a little uncomfortable.  He insists that people don't really want someone like him in their church.  He tells me about being run off from a church he tried to go to a couple years ago.  I commiserate with him, and let him know that if he decides to come he will definitely be welcome.

We pray together.  We pray for our health, for his safety, that he can find places to get out of the hot sun, and that God will provide for his needs.  We pray that God will release him from his addiction, and that he will come to know Christ and be overwhelmed with blessings in his life.
As my bus pulls up to the curb, he turns and trots back across the street.  His head is held a little higher, his step seems to have a little more energy.  As I climb onto the bus, he turns and gives me a final wave before entering the store.

Hobo is one of many people that I've had the blessing to come to know while taking the buses here in Phoenix.  God has routinely placed Hobo, and others like him, in my path and given me opportunity to directly share the gospel and provide for their needs.
I feel a personal bond with the homeless.  I have been homeless myself.  I spent several months living in the Gospel mission at one point shortly after leaving high school, several years before I knew Christ.  After I was saved, I spent a period homeless again, living in the Mission, and then in the back of my truck.  The difference was like night and day.

As a non-Christian, every day was a struggle.  I had little support from my family.  I spent my days trying to find a way to eat, sometimes begging all day, sometimes doing odd jobs for a couple dollars.  I was looked down upon, cursed at, chased off.  I was humiliated, told daily that I was homeless because I was worthless.  I was told that I just needed to "get off my butt and find a job," by people who have no concept of how hard job hunting is when you have no phone, no address, and spend 8 hours a day trying to come up with a single meal.  I was told that I was homeless because I was a sinner.  People would angrily tell me that if I just accepted God that my life would magically transform, then they left without telling me what that meant, leaving me resentful and more determined to avoid God at all costs.

As a Christian, when I was homeless, I had the support of my church family.  People cared for my needs.  Someone brought me a camp stove, a mattress for my truck bed.  Someone brought me extra blankets and pillows.  People put gas in my truck, knowing that my part time job didn't provide much income.  When I found a friend with a spare room, the church deacons met and decided they would pay rent to my friend for several months to ensure that I would have a roof over my head.  People came around me, surrounded me with love, prayed for me daily.  I was blessed beyond belief. 

So the purpose of Bus Stop Blessings is twofold:  to meet the needs of those living in despondency, and to change the way that we as Christians approach those same.  I want to bring that same compassion to those who are non-believers that I felt as a homeless Christian, to build relationships with them, to be able to directly share the gospel and to also be a living example of a new creation, to be a light to the world that leaves people yearning for Christ.

My challenge for you today is this:  When you see someone in need, someone living in the streets, someone without a relationship with Christ, I want you to stop what you are doing and pray, not for them first, but for yourself.  Pray that you would be able to look at them with the same compassion that Christ showed for those in need, for the sick, the poor, the homeless.  Pray that you can let go of any judgments you may have.  Pray that you can look at them and see the face of a brother or sister, that you would react the same to their need as you would if you found out someone from your congregation were in their position.

When we can reach the point where we are able to feel that unreserved compassion, we can approach our homeless ministry in a new way, with a new love, a new purpose, and an entirely intentional process.  I hope that you would like to be a part of the way Christ is using me in this ministry, and that you would prayerfully seek His will and respond to that as you are called.  Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this ministry, and God Bless.

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