By Seth Thomas, Senior Pastor
I used to think homelessness was a pretty black-and-white issue until I moved to Burien. In Arizona, where I was born and raised, homelessness is not as upfront and personal as here. My perspective was somewhat detached and frank — if people want to get off the street, they can get any one of the jobs I see posted in almost every restaurant window or small business these days. If not, that’s their choice, and the government shouldn’t enable them.
That perspective softens when you begin to understand some of the horrific stories of different people in the homeless community. Sure, some live on the street because they simply don’t want the responsibility of everyday life; that’s not who I’m referring to. It’s harder to see the situation as black and white when you realize that there are women on the street who experienced ‘home’ as being pimped out as children by male family members; or men who were abused and neglected from a young age. If that’s ‘home,’ I wouldn’t want it either.
One morning last week, I was walking around downtown Burien and saw a homeless man sitting on a bench. I felt the nudge to sit and talk with him and hear his story. Simply put, I didn’t want to. (Yes, pastors sometimes don’t want to engage with people too.) I kept walking and sat on a bench by myself down the road. I got myself together and began walking back towards the man. I was still reluctant and didn’t know if I’d actually stop this time, but at least I was walking in his direction, right? Sure enough, I took a seat and began talking with him. His name is Andrew. He lost his job and his car. Then, he was beaten up in downtown Seattle, leaving him with a broken arm that required surgery he couldn’t afford. So there he sat outside Grand Central Bakery.
After listening to his story, I asked him if I could pray for his arm. I told him I’d seen people healed of things before. I said a short prayer, and we kept talking. He gave me permission to pray for it again, so I did. After asking how it felt, he moved his wrist around in the brace to see if the popping was still there. When it wasn’t there, he repositioned his wrist to have more range of motion as if to try and ‘find’ it again. I began to tell him that Jesus cares about him and has incredible plans for his life. He continued contorting his wrist unsuccessfully, trying to find the popping. Seemingly unsure how to respond, he said, “I have to just rest it for a day and check it again tomorrow.” I hope to see Andrew again sometime to ask him about his arm.
What if we stopped expecting the government to fix all the homeless issues in our city, and we, as a community, decided to help restore trust with those who have been brutally abused and estranged from the idea of ‘home’ being a safe place?