Double-edged 真理報雙語版

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A bilingual and bicultural Christian young adults blog //////////////// 青年華裔基督徒的博客

Reality of the Homeless

Iris

As the New Year rolls in, we all sigh with relief – the Christmas tree has been put away, presents have been bought and given, and all those family dinners are behind us. Sitting in your warm house, you smile as you imagine the happiness that your $25 donation to the local charity must have been substantial to those who have very little. But is this really fulfilling what Jesus taught in Matthew 25 when He told us to feed the hungry?

It is estimated there are 10,500 homeless people in the province of BC, with up to 8,000 people in parts of the Lower Mainland (Georgia Straight, April 10, 2008). The issue of homelessness in Vancouver seems to arise only during Christmas and Thanksgiving time, when charity groups are working actively to raise funds for meals. Yet people need to realize that homelessness is a year-round issue and that helping the needy is not a seasonal activity.

In Mike Yankoski’s book Under the Overpass: a Journey of Faith on the Streets of America, he recounts his experience, when he, at 20 years old, decided to live on the streets for 5 months. His goal was to gain a better understanding of the life of the homeless and see firsthand how the church is responding to their needs. He and Sam, a fellow Christian who joined him on this trip, lived in alleyways and panhandled by playing their guitars. Within a week they became smelly and dirty men, indistinguishable from the other homeless people. Both men were shocked at how people treated them, pretending they were invisible.

In Washington, D.C., Mike had bought a coffee and was sitting and writing his journal in the shop when an employee came up and asked him to leave. When Mike showed him he had bought a coffee there, the employee told him that they had a 45-minute drinking policy. When Sam came back from his walk, the employee told him to leave because they also do not allow backpacks in their store. The employee was very angry that these two homeless men even dared to step into the store. He shouted at them to leave, even admitting that the policies were made on the spot to get rid of them.

We may shake our heads at this blatant discrimination, but the church is not exempt from such negative behavior. In a church in San Francisco, when Sam asked for help, the pastor told the two men that the church was a place of worship and not a rescue mission or a soup kitchen, but the two of them were allowed to stay for worship. Afterwards, a group of church members walked up to them to make conversation. Mike’s flip-flops were falling apart and his foot was bleeding badly. And both of them were, as always, very hungry (only one girl treated them to a meal in the whole five months they were on the streets). However, these Christian men continued standing and staring at Sam and Mike and then, patting them on the back, told them that they would pray for them and walked away. Mike and Sam were absolutely astonished at how this church had completely ignored their plea for help!

Despite a lack of generosity from most people, there were some who truly lived out Jesus’ call. A young school boy raising money for his baseball team actually gave money to Mike and Sam. In Mike’s words: “Nearly every time he came by, he’d try to drop something in our [guitar] case – sometimes a dollar, sometimes a dime. If we turned down his offer, he would look confused. If we accepted, he looked satisfied and confident – like he’d just wrapped up the best business deal of the night.” At a gathering in People’s Park, San Francisco, members of a local church gave a simple message to the homeless and handed out sack lunches. One speaker was only 17-years old. These people went the extra mile in buying groceries and bus tickets for Mike and Sam. A Christian homeless fellow told the men that “This is where church should be! It’s where the gospel meets the world, because this is where we are! Jesus came for us, too. It’s a shame when churches kick us out.”

I could probably go on and on about all the stories that have inspired me from Mike’s book – but I’ll leave that for you to read, as it would not be doing his book justice to paraphrase the stories. Drawing us back to Vancouver, what are some things we can do in our everyday life? Perhaps we can start by giving smiles to those on the streets or even offering a friendly “Hello” or “How are you?” There are many homeless and poor people collecting cans around our local university campuses, and the majority of them is harmless and friendly. We can act out God’s love by buying some food or coffee (especially for cold days!) and sit down and have a conversation with somebody who needs help. Or you can volunteer your time at the Union Gospel Mission. Feel free to check out Mike Yankoski’s website at www.undertheoverpass.com for more ideas on what you can do! That being said, be careful who you approach (especially in the Downtown Eastside), and try not to give out money. And yet, do not make these into excuses for giving and blessing others. Mike closes his book with these words: “The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action. Nothing happens or changes in this world unless, by faith, we actually do something.”

One day when we come face to face with our Saviour, will He say to you this: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me” (Matthew 25:34b-36a).

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Welcome

"Double-edged"is bilingual blog in affiliation with Truth Monthly, a Chinese Christian monthly print publication based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

This blog features mostly original writings as well as comics, poetry, and other works of art by local Christian young adults.

For more information or to submit your own writing, please email tm.double.edged@gmail.com

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