“We know that authentic, loving relationships must be at the heart of every lasting transformation.”
What are some ways that we can walk with those in poverty? We must first recognize that it is messy – to enter into someone’s traumatic experiences can be scary. As we learned in the previous post, it is important to discern visible poverty and invisible poverty. By addressing the invisible poverty of relationships, we should strive to walk side by side with the homeless seeking to provide a caring relationship. Instead of approaching the homeless thinking we are people with our lives together here to fix broken people, we should seek a heart to heart connection with them. We must approach ministry to the impoverished and homeless from a place of brokenness, knowing that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that leads to long lasting hope for restoration and recovery.
We know that authentic, loving relationships must be at the heart of every lasting transformation. As we walk alongside, we must take time to listen to their story. Each story is sacred to them. We must listen and seek to understand the pain and hurt that they have suffered – always in the context of the hope of the gospel. We must listen and take caution not to hear their stories as a “case” but as a person uniquely created in the image of God.
We must recognize that hurting people often hurt people. Therefore we must be ready to seemingly fail. We cannot save anyone from either homelessness or from their sin. Sadly, many people we seek to help will walk away, many will take advantage, and some will leave worse off than when we began coming alongside them. We must be ready for the emotional toll it brings, but also be aware that it is the Holy Spirit at work.
Every person is important to God. Therefore, we want each person to know that they are recognized and appreciated, that they have not been forgotten.
There are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome when recognizing the intensity in which we must prevail while walking hand in hand with the poverty stricken and homeless. Trauma, addiction, lies, idolatry, depression, loss of identity, darkness, mental illness, abuse, abandonment, and loss are all devastating culprits in the lives of the broken. Trauma often overwhelms the body and the heart and it creates deep and varied wounds, which call for a compassionate response. Scripture shows us how stories of trauma or embedded into the larger story of redemption. These accounts are never erased or treated as insignificant. God remembers every tear.
Diane Langberg who is recognized not only for her work with trauma victims but also as one who believes in the power of Christ to restore. She shares these lessons for those walking hand in hand with those who have had traumatic experiences:
– It is not nice – we think it has to do with caring, which it does. However, it is also “indescribable suffering, inarticulate moaning, impenetrable darkness, inconceivable deception, cruelty, brutality, and evil. To enter this arena is to invite garbage into your life.”
– We will be doing God’s work with Him – Caring for brothers is not our work, it is God’s work that we have been called to assist with.
– We can only do God’s work through Him, as he does His work in us. We cannot do the work of the Redeemer unless he first does his work in us.
– The “stuff” we encounter is contagious. We cannot sit around depression, abuse, strife, and fear without being impacted.
– The gift of this work is the cross. Our Lord is there – bearing everything we encounter. He is the treasure amid the darkness.
As we walk hand in hand with the homeless striving to overcome the effects of trauma, we must point them back to the foundational truths we find within scripture and the hope of the gospel.
The bottom line is that only the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ can resolve the deeper invisible poverty by restoring relationships, instilling identity, and providing hope in the dark and depressing world of homelessness. Therefore, it is imperative that as we walk hand in hand with the homeless, we intentionally share the truth of the gospel. These relationships are imperative to true life change in Christ.
“The Mission program and staff provided a safe, supportive environment for the transitional period of my life when needed most. The experience has provided hope, confidence, gratitude, and motivation.” – Men’s Pathway Program Graduate
John Flowers and Karen Vannoy, Not Just a One-Night Stand: Ministry with the Homeless (Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 2009), 85
Diane Langberg, Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2015), 110.
Scott Klingberg – DIrector of Ministry Operations – Interim, Gateway Mission