Meet June

June loves Bill; most times, he’s all she can bear to talk about. And when I say love, I mean the carve your initials into an old oak tree kind of love – innocent, blind and maybe a little bit delusional at times.

When I first met June, she had a thick knit cap pulled low over her eyes, wisps of blond hair poking out from underneath. Rather than walk confidently, she shuffled – eyes downcast and mouth twisted in confusion. In the weeks that followed, I observed her spending much of her time sitting on the curb next to the shelter, her short legs jutted out in front of her. Sometimes, she would get up and wander aimlessly, as if she was searching for Bill, her rescuer that never seemed to come.

“He’s coming for me. Really,” said June, looking directly into my eyes. “He moved back in with his mom to take care of her, and now he’s getting a place ready for me there. He promised.”

But so many earthly promises fall short. Week after week, June paces along the marred concrete, the thick cap pulled low over her eyes. It’s been almost a year since I first met her, and Bill hasn’t come for her. Still, she watches and she waits expectantly.

There is one house, though, that has more than enough room. Room for June and each one of us. In John 14:2-4, Jesus says to his disciples, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way I am going.”

Please join me in praying for June this week.
1. Pray that June knows there is one Home that will always have room for her, that Jesus is always welcoming her into his arms. Pray that she understands the Gospel and accepts it, even if she’s heard it many times before.
2. Pray that she’s kept safe and away from abuse that she may have experienced in the past
3. I get the sense that she really needs a care-taker. Pray that God provides this for her, whether it’s in the form of a group home or any other way that he sees fit.


Meet Shelly

Shelly breeds color. From her different color tunics to her bright eyes, her aura is teeming with life, a life that is robust and purposeful despite the fact that she drifts from address to address each day.

I met Shelly a couple months ago during the latter part of the summer. She sat with her back straight against the fence, both hands resting gently on her lap, her body turned to the woman next to her. The soft lines of Shelly’s torso curved in as she bent over in the chair, laughing. And when she smiled, she showed her teeth – a neat line of champagne-colored headlights.

As I approached the two of them, conversation stopped. Shelly’s companion shifted in her chair before getting up and slowly walking away, her head down. But rather than rise from her seat, she lifted up her hand and invited me forward, motioning to her friend’s vacated seat.

Shelly and I connected within the first five minutes of our conversation. Words built upon sentences, which added up into paragraphs, which gave birth to dreams and history and story – the material, the textile of a human heart. Talking to Shelly that day, I learned about her family. Her passion for cooking and writing and photography. Every word she spoke pointed to the fact that she was independent and driven.

It’s hard for me to write this because Shelly isn’t just another drifting face I met on the street. I prayed that God would lead me to a woman to walk alongside with, to encourage and love and learn from. He gave me Shelly. Over the last few months she’s become a genuine friend. We’ve shared recipes and writing projects. Drank coffee together. She’s shared her excitement with me, but has also told me about times she’s been in danger, times that she’s been hurt.

With Shelly, it all feels too real.

Shelly is an answer to a prayer. Please be an answer to some of hers this week as you think about her:
1. Pray that Shelly might be a light in a dark place. That her faith in Christ might continue to grow and that she continues to tell other people about the Joy that is otherworldly.
2. Pray for her safety. She’s staying at a notoriously dangerous place right now and has been attacked several times.
3. Pray for reconciliation in her family, guidance and direction as to what her next steps need to be.


Meet Jerry

He approached me with his hands deep in his pockets, calloused knuckles spilling out from the ragged denim. “I’ve been down here four days,” Jerry told me, his voice a low timbre. “The first two days it rained and rained. And these last two days, I’ve just been trying to feel dry again.”

Jerry ran his hand down his check and looked at the sidewalk, his knit hat low on his brow. He had moved back to Detroit from Georgia to take care of his mother who had just started chemotherapy. Since then, he’s stayed at shelters, lived in a car and spent the night at his mother’s house occasionally.

He spoke to me about a time before he left for Georgia when Detroit bustled with life. He told me how the street that we were standing on had houses instead of empty lots, how store vendors once lined the streets. Now at sixty years old, he had returned to a different city than the one he had left, and he wasn’t quite sure how to make sense of all the change.

Jerry’s trying to get back in touch with his family now, including a son and daughter who both live in the area. He told me that he knows God is after him, even if he’s unfaithful. He can feel God chasing him.

Jerry asked me to keep him in my prayers this week. Please do the same:
1. Pray that family relationships be restored, especially those with his youngest son and daughter.
2. As he’s reading Hosea this week, a story about God chasing after us even when we’re unfaithful, pray that his eyes are opened to the fact that God loves him no matter what. Pray that he continues seeking God as Lord of his life and that he comes to a point of surrender.
3. Pray that Jerry is able to follow God even when it’s difficult.


Meet Will

A couple weeks ago, I met another William – this time, on the other side of Lake Michigan.

The name William means “determined guardian.” He lives along the chain-link fence that runs parallel to the shelter. When I saw him last, he was rigging a plastic tarp over his weathered chair and crate of belongings, fashioning a make-shift tent to keep out the rain. But Will is more than a guardian of his possessions, creating a home for himself in the midst of broken glass bottles and chalky dirt. Each time that we’ve been down to our corner of the city, he’s watched over us with a careful eye, offering his chair or a drink of his water bottle when one of us stopped to talk. More than that, he always offers a kind word and good-natured smile.

Behind Will’s quiet voice lies a deep recess of introspection. Oftentimes he’s listening to music or reading a book, and I’ve witnessed how his mind is always working, always thinking. In conversations, he’s quick to listen, process his thoughts and then ask insightful questions. I’ve felt challenged by every conversation we’ve had – from family to mysticism and spirituality to the concept of Grace – his questions have always propelled me to think beyond the surface and reach deeply into the core of what I believe.

Will’s gentile spirit coupled with his quest for Truth make him unlike many that I’ve met. Please pray for Will this week. Let your hearts be burdened by his search for God:

1. Pray that his eyes be opened to TRUE spirituality – that he surrenders to the Gospel and not just a watered down version of religion
2. Pray that the Spirit helps him begin to discern the falsehoods that he believes – mysticism and rituals especially
3. Bottom line – pray that his heart is set on fire for Jesus and that he be free from false idols.


Meet John

Up until about a week ago John lived in a gray and yellow tent with his purebred collie, Lacey. After a few weeks of casual observance, they proved to be inseparable. John shared his food with her and made her a bed right next to his own every night. And though she wasn’t a very big dog, though her ribs jutted out just enough to notice, everyone felt protected just having her there.

After his wife passed away, John considered his dog Lacey to be everything to him. No longer did he possess a house or a car or any other belongings. Lacey was the only thing that he had left from his wife.

When I first met John, I asked him how I could pray for him. He was leaning heavily against the oak tree at the back of the lot, his gray eyes scanning the street. Wisps of long gray hair fell in front those eyes, creating a tangible picture of the curtain that he had erected between us. He was slow in answering at first. John wanted what most sought – a job, a house, someplace to call his own.

I probed a little bit further. “What about your heart?” I asked him. “What does your heart need?” He stopped and looked down at the cracked earth before meeting my eyes. “My heart hurts,” he said softly. “My wife is gone, and I’m heartbroken.”

In one form or another, we all understand heartbreak. So standing right in front of his gray and yellow tent with Lacey sitting at John’s feet, we prayed. And as the words came tumbling out, John’s tears came down faster and faster.

In Psalm 147:3 it says that, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I know that as those tears hit the cracked earth below us, Jesus was working in John’s heart to slowly start to bind up his wounds.

John doesn’t live in that gray and yellow tent anymore. I heard that a little over a week ago, one of John’s relatives pulled up in a red pick-up truck and asked him if he wanted a job and a place to live for a few years while he got back on his feet. Not needing to be asked twice, John packed up his belongings and, together with his dog Lacey, made his first transitional steps toward a new life. When I stopped to think about it, I couldn’t help but wonder if this new chance at life is perhaps another way that God is using to bind up John’s old wounds.

Please pray for John as he starts his new life:
1. That he would surrender to the Lord and know that hope and healing is found only through him.
2. That he’s able to transition smoothly as he moves into a new house and job.
3. That he continues to heal from the heartbreak of losing his wife.


The Irony of Conversation: Meet Rod, Darren, & Bernice

I had a conversation in Detroit on Sunday that has been weighing on my heart ever since. The words collided and then dislodged from one another, dead ends and split sentences, paragraphs, thoughts. The conversation was one that brought to light no solution – except one that a miracle of God might bring about – and only harsh realities. But truth is always worth sharing.

Meet Rod and Darren, two men that sit in the back of the lot under the oak tree. It’s quiet back there except for the music floating out of a boxy radio. Rod looks at you in the eye when you speak to him and smiles off to one side. He gets up every morning and goes to work even though he doesn’t have a permanent address to put on his resume. He likes to speak a “good Word” when he sees me and tells me what God has been doing in his life.

We settled down under the tree and I asked them how their week had been. Right away, Darren asked me how I thought their typical week usually went. They’re homeless. How could I even begin to understand something like that from where I came from?

I want to qualify that his question wasn’t said in a malicious way – it was just really honest. I told him that while I didn’t understand what it meant to be homeless, I wanted to know them and understand their life. That I thought about all of them when it was raining or if it was really hot outside. And in defense to my question, I said that I believed that no matter if we’re homeless or not, we can have a good or a bad week. We make a choice.

Darren told me that he understood this completely; he woke up every morning knowing that he was blessed by God. He told me that he’s just waiting for his disability check to come in so that he could move into an apartment. That our prayers are appreciated and that they enjoy having us come down, but that they help take care of themselves as a community as well. Darren has found jobs for some of the people through his connections. They share their food with each other. They watch out for each other.

Honestly, none of this was really a surprise to me; I’ve witnessed it. It was his next comment that really cut my heart.

Darren told me that a lot of the people he knows are going to be ok. They’re waiting for their checks; they’re waiting for a job to come through; they’re being proactive. But he told me that the sad part of it all are the people who won’t ever get off the street, whether because of addiction or laziness or other circumstances. He said that they’re not choosing to see God’s blessings; they’re not choosing to find a way out.

And I’ve always known it. But it hit me that some of our friends will always be homeless. Some of our friends will always be addicted to drugs. Some of our friends will die, alone and cold. Some of our friends will choose to make bad, destructive decisions, and we are called to love them through it anyway. We are called to invest and love, no matter if someone is receptive to it or not.

Yes, we need to encourage people to make their appointments and get work and get off drugs and love Jesus. But the LOVE JESUS part is the most important. Jesus tells us the poor will always be among us. And my mind has shifted to take this in, even though I’ve “known” this on some level for a long time.

After I talked to Rod and Darren, I went over to see another friend. Meet Bernice. She is a 55 year old woman who’s body is ravaged by health problems. I found out that she wasn’t sitting on the curb the Sunday before because she had been rushed to the hospital for complications with her diabetes. This Sunday she was laying on the pavement, weak and surrounded by dirty pigeons picking at the food around her. She could barely talk or support herself enough to sit up on her elbows. But Bernice is also an addict. She wants to get help; she wants to get off the street, but she can’t kick her habit.

And it hit me that Bernice is one of the people that Darren and Rod told me about. Bernice will never make it off the street, unless by a miracle of God.

I don’t know what to do with this realization. Honestly, it breaks my heart. Please pray for Bernice. Every time I think about her I want to cry. She’s told me in the past that all she wants is dignity. She wants to be hopeful again. I told her that she’s only going to find that hope through Jesus, and I want her eyes to be opened to that.

When it comes down to it, what else do we have to offer? We can hand out Aquafina bottles, but only the Living Water is going to do any long-term good.


Meet Ray

Some time back on one of our explorations through Detroit, we noticed a man hunched over on the steps of an old church, his face buried into his lap. The temperature had dropped below 60 degrees, and the summer air blew harsh against the skin. Rain came down in sheets intermittently. His body was only half covered by the eaves, spindly legs in jogging pants poking out onto the sidewalk.

I’ve thought about this man everyday since I saw him on the steps of that empty church.

A couple nights later we drove past the same church and are pretty sure we saw him again, this time huddled on one of the park benches out front. Finally, after days of thinking about this man, I had learned his name.

Meet Ray. Middle-aged and weary, Ray lives outside the walls of a church because he claims it is one of the safest places he can be. He works hard, walking miles several times a week to put in job applications all over the city. Ray is mild-mannered but friendly, generous and considerate. When he heard that we hadn’t eaten at White Castle before, he pulled out two of his hamburgers and tried to share his dinner with us, not knowing when his next meal would come.

We asked Ray what he would choose to do if he could do anything he wanted. He told us that he enjoyed drawing and would love to do something where he could create cartoon strips. Art moved him. In the practical sense, he told us he’d settle for anything. He just wanted a job so that he could get off the streets.

Glimpsing Ray sitting on the park bench outside the church, his arms crossed over his chest and his head nodding in sleep, we were reminded that one of God’s names is El Roi – God Who Sees. El Roi sees our past heartaches, our present struggles and our anxieties about the future; He knew Ray long before we did and has continued taking care of him after our paths separated.

Pray for Ray this week as you think about him:
1. That he might find continue to find sustenance and protection daily
2. That his diligence may pay off and that he may find a job soon
3. For God to continue providing him hope and for his eyes to be open to it

March 2019
« Apr