3:10 a.m.: the glow of my iPhone filled the dark room. I had awoken again for the 7th or 8th time. I tried to swallow, but couldn’t. My throat was raw and dry as I lay on the top bunk. Cold air from a vent blew down on me. I was freezing, but what really freaked me out was that my mind would not shut off. I was exhausted and could not sleep. Was this what it was like if you were in jail or prison? Snoring filled the air. I wanted to just take a shower. I felt dirty, hungry, tired, and I had to pee. I was living in a mission. A mission that other men around me wanted to live in, or, sadly, needed to. Men and women who are broken but battling with all they have to rebuild their lives and find purpose. They are seeking Jesus here. Becoming disciples and using resources to find work, study, and to be in programs to get them back into society. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Phil 4:13
What really scared me was seeing and living this reality. The reality that I could be here – any of us could. What if something really bad happened? What if I lost everything? These haunting questions would not let me rest. Many of the men and women living in this mission, from the outside, looked like normal, everyday folks out in the world. What really kept poking me was that under the shell something massively wrong happened to them. Some living hell I couldn’t even imagine. Something so bad that they had lost everything. In the men’s facility, over 70 souls filled this place on this night. This scared the hell out of me.
This last weekend, I told the SEND team, “As we enter the facility, try and pretend you are homeless. You have nowhere to go. This is your new home.” Well, now, that exercise was driving me crazy. I tried to close my eyes and sleep, but couldn’t. It was now 3:24 a.m. Trying to get my thoughts on something positive, I turned to Scripture and started to think of Paul. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4.) Um, yeah, Paul. Rejoice! You are in jail and find joy in suffering!! What is my problem? I can’t even sleep one freaking night in a mission? The man underneath me then started shaking and was whispering “no…noo…no…” The frame of the bunk was moving. He was having a nightmare. He awoke and said out loud: “no…son of a biscuit!” And, yes, he said “biscuit.” No cursing aloud in this mission.
It felt like at least an hour and half went by as I lay there thinking and staring at the ceiling. I did a quick check on my phone and it was only 3:46 a.m. I wondered about something called the witching hour. I thought about how this awesome, postcard-like town could have this many living in this facility. Then, out of nowhere, I thought of my wife and baby boy. I felt immense sadness and began to miss them terribly. I wanted to be home so badly. I started realizing how precious life was. How grateful I was to have a wife, a roof over my head, a job, and a little boy who has the greatest smile you have ever seen. Thank you Lord! Thank you Lord! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. Have mercy on me a sinner. Repeat 30 times. Lord, if you were in this town, is this where you would be? Is this who you would be serving, who you would be sharing your love with? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I then couldn’t stop thinking of a man sleeping in a chair all afternoon and evening in the community room. This verse was above him on the wall.
Someone just asked me, “How do you do mission?” Well, go out into the world and ask, “Where would Jesus be working?” Then join Him. In doing a mission excursion, one of the most powerful things we are learning in SEND is just doing life with people, ministry, or organizations. I wanted to really see, feel, hear, and smell what it was like to work with a homeless shelter. Well, let’s live in one for the weekend. Let’s see how God moves through the staff. Let’s build relationships. Let’s play a game of chess or watch t.v. with them. Let’s serve in any way. Let’s listen to someone’s story or testimony. Let’s love our brothers and sisters.
When I arrived home late on Sunday afternoon, I took a long hot shower. I could not wash the mission off of me. It was now a part of me and burned into my soul. After doing this ministry, I will always look at the homeless or someone living in a mission with different eyes. May the warriors working to serve and assist in these places be blessed. We thank you.
As we give thanks on Thursday, let us take a moment and pause. Listen and give thanks for how precious our lives are in so many different ways. Let us get out of our comfort zones and get out into the world. There is much work to be done. Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you Jesus!