Bro. Denny’s Trip to South Dakota-Full Report

Hey everyone!

If you read our most recent Ministry Update than you saw that Bro. Denny Mitchell took a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota, to meet with Pastor Eric Schafnitz to bring help and hope to the homeless.

The missionaries already there

Pastor Eric and Sister Dawn and their family are missionaries called to the Native American reservations. Just this September, Pastor Eric led the very first service of 1st Nations Baptist Church, their brand new church plant.

The work that was done 

Bro. Denny spent the week working hard to assist Pastor Eric searching the streets for those who are unsheltered and in need. They went out Tuesday through Saturday of that week finding people who were cold and hungry. They gave away items such as blankets, toboggans, coats, hygiene kits, and care packages filled with snacks and water. They invited people to church on Sunday and witnessed to everyone they met about Jesus Christ. They even ended up leading a woman to the Lord while she was on her break from work.

Bro. Denny noticed a difference from the homeless community in Rapid City compared to the others he has served in. For example, he and Bro. Eric could not find any homeless camps in the area like are common in most places he goes. He learned that the homeless there tend to stay mobile, traveling back and forth from the two reservations that Rapid City is located between. And if they should stay the night there, they will leave no trace by cleaning up all their trash.

Something else that Bro. Denny was not familiar with is the severe opposition from the gangs there. In other cities where Bro. Denny has gone, the local gangs recognize and even appreciate it when people are giving help to their people. But in Rapid City it is nearly the opposite, to the point that there have been threats against Bro. Eric and his family.

The growing church

For their mid-week service and their regular Sunday services, Bro. Denny was given the privilege to preach. Thursday night after Sister Dawn and the children sang and Bro. Denny preached, two Native Americans recognized their need for Jesus and were saved!

That Sunday marked the 10th service for 1st Nations Baptist Church and it experienced great blessings also. After taking the time that week to care for people and to invite them to church, they had a record attendance of 17 people come in to worship and be refreshed by hearing from God’s Word. Praise the Lord!

 We are very grateful and happy that God has allowed us to partner with them and be a help as they have a burden to reach the homeless in that community of Rapid City.

Special Opportunities to Give!

 
The Gift Catalog
 
If you have looked on our website or follow us on Facebook I am sure that you have seen us mention our brand new Gift Catalog. It tells of many different ways you can give to help others! It also gives you good information about each UI ministry highlighted in the catalog.
 

If you haven’t already seen or received a Gift Catalog you can click here and go straight to our online version.

Children Christmas Fund

We are very excited for our big Christmas Party for our meal center children in the Philippines! It’s going to be so much fun for these kids and a great blessing for their families with the gifts we are planning to give.

The total funds for this event is $5,000.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore The Homeless by Travis Sharpe

What is your first thought when you see a homeless person on the street? Do you wonder what their story is? Do you ask yourself how you might be able to help? Sadly, all too many people have negative thoughts that go something like this: they are bums who should “get a job.” “If they really wanted to work, they would go to job interviews.” Or better yet, “I have to work for a living, I sure ain’t giving them nothing.”

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The truth is, everyone has probably thought along those lines at one time or another. Should people work? Absolutely. Should we be lazy and take the easy way out by simply begging for money? Absolutely not. If those two things are true, why isn’t it a good practice to just ignore people who are are homeless? Why not just drive on by?

I want to give you five things to consider the next time you drive past someone and grumble under your breath about how lazy they are.

1. They could be on the verge

Last week, while in a local restaurant, I met a homeless man named Robbie. Robbie has been around our area for a while and I have helped him out before. As we chatted in the restaurant, he told me about meeting Karla, a lady who attends our church. He told me that Karla had “saved his life” a few weeks earlier.

I was curious about that so I asked him to explain. She had noticed him sitting on the sidewalk by a convenient store and, perceiving that he was homeless, stopped to talk with him. Karla spent about an hour talking, encouraging, crying and praying with him. She had no idea that Robbie had been sitting there contemplating walking out into traffic to take his own life. He was severely depressed and Karla’s visit made the difference for this man who was on the verge of committing suicide.

She gave him hope for tomorrow, a reason to keep trying. Now, we are working on getting him into permanent, supportive housing.

2. They could have a crippling disability

It’s strange how that when we have a physical problem it’s real, but when someone else has one, they need to suck it up and go to work. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 40% of homeless people are disabled. Couple these disabilities with other factors such as low education, mental illness, and so on, and you have some people who cannot make it on their own, no matter how hard they work.

I know plenty of people who are homeless and disabled who are decent people. Some of them are doing anything they can (including working) to make ends meet. Imagine starting from the bottom, alone, with a physical disability. You may be a strong, able-bodied person today, but please remember that could change at any moment.

3. They could be severely mentally ill

At any given point in time, about 45% of homeless people report having mental health issues. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, about 25% report a serious mental illness. Among the chronic homeless population, (those who have been homeless for more than a year or experience repeated homelessness), the rates are much higher.

Because of a very broken mental health system, and the effects of severe illness such as schizophrenia, clinical depression and bi-polar disorder, many people we see on the streets are silently suffering. They are victims of diseases that they cannot cure and that they cannot understand. They bounce from job to job, from place to place and from opportunity to opportunity. Things go well for a while but their sickness always catches up to them and causes difficulties beyond their capacity to control. They suffer as they fight an enemy much stronger than themselves.

Many panhandlers and other “visible” homeless people are merely existing on the fringes of our society. They are some of the most vulnerable among us and to ignore them would be to turn our backs on people who are genuinely in trouble whether they realize it or not.

4. We have a Biblical command

Several passages in the Bible command us to not ignore the poor among us. Passages such as Proverbs 28:27 which says “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.” There are also numerous New Testament passages such as James 2:15-16, Luke 10:25-37, and Luke 16:19-31.

Other verses, such as Proverbs 14:20-21, 19:4, and James 2:2 tell us that most people despise the poor around them. It is an unfortunate human characteristic to not appreciate someone who cannot help you, and evidently, God has a real issue when we act that out by ignoring the homeless.

I could go on and on with Bible verses that speak of helping the poor. The Bible is loaded with them. There is little doubt that the homeless population qualifies as the “poor among us” in most cases. Many people argue that they are poor by choice, and, although that is certainly be true in some cases, it isn’t true of the group as a whole because of underlying factors (see #2 and #3.)

5. You really don’t know them

People will always abuse things. Like the way you take home supplies from your job to use for personal stuff or like the way you didn’t tell the whole truth on your taxes last year. There will always be an element in any society who abuses systems and generosity. These abuses (that become public) make for great ammunition in the guns of people who despise the poor. It’s their golden pass to simply ignore the homeless, the panhandlers and the others around them who may have a need.

But the fact is, we don’t really know who that person standing on the street corner is. We are not friends with them and we don’t know their story, much less their challenges in life. They could be suffering from a severe back injury like a bulging or herniated disc. They might have cancer or they could be so mentally ill that they can’t function well enough to hold down employment.

Until we know someone and have a good reason not to be compassionate toward them, we should display a humble and compassionate attitude toward them. Who knows, they could be an angel in disguise.

 

Question: What is your first response when you see someone who is homeless?
In the photo: Missionary Denny Mitchell stopped to talk with a gentleman who was holding a sign in TN.

3 Must Read Books For Anyone Helping The Homeless

I guess you could call this a book review if you wanted to but it’s more of an effort to help you better understand some of the people you are trying to help. I do a fair amount of reading and these three books made a real impact on me. Two of these books deal with mental illness and the other one deals with setting personal boundaries.

While I do not think that everyone who is homeless is mentally ill, I am also not naive enough to pretend that mental illness isn’t a big factor in the homeless population, especially for the chronically homeless. I think these books will really help you to see people with illnesses in a much different light. The third book will help you to see yourself in a different light!

Here are the books and how to get them.

Crazy: A father’s search through America’s mental health madness

 

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Publishers summary

Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor’s house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.

This is the Earley family’s compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the “revolving doors” between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago. Earley takes us directly into that experience-and into that of a father and award-winning journalist trying to fight for a better way.

My summary

In this fascinating book, Pete Earley speaks a lot about homelessness. I have always know that mental illness plays a big role in the lives of many people who are chronically homeless, but I never knew the reasons they shuffled back and forth from jails to shelters to the streets. This book really connects the dots of those vicious cycles.

Since Earley approaches this from the viewpoint of an investigative journalist, I really believe this book to be an unbiased “look” into several moving parts of a very broken system. Furthermore, since he weaves the story of his own families struggle throughout the book, it has a very personal feel that keeps you turning the page.

I like to listen to most books through my Audible app on my phone. I have listened to several audio books and the narrator of this one is by far the very best I have ever listened to. He has a way of keeping you engaged and it’s a great listen.

I think you should read this book to understand the difficulty that a family goes through as they try to help a mentally ill family member. It puts all of that into a new light. This book will also give you a more compassionate heart because you will realize that the mentally ill homeless population is truly one of the most vulnerable people groups in our society.

A few of the things you will learn in this book are:

  • Why family members of the mentally ill are limited in how they can help
  • How the mentally ill are really treated in jails and prisons
  • Why many severally mentally ill persons wind up homeless
  • Why jail is not the best place for the mentally ill who commit crimes
  • What it’s really like on the streets for a severely mentally ill person
  • Why some mentally ill persons also abuse illegal drugs
  • Why so many homeless people also spend time in jails

 

A word of caution

Since the author used a recording device and conducted many interviews, throughout the book he gives many direct quotes. Many of these quotes include severe profanity. The author himself never uses profanity in his own writing of this book, but the quotes are numerous and some are very bad.

Also, he describes in detail everything he observed in the Miami-Dade county jail. Some of those descriptions are sexual in nature and are absolutely not appropriate for young people. I almost refrained from recommending this book because of these two issues, however, I cannot refrain because it is the cold truth and sometimes we need to hear the realities of a given situation in order to gain an understanding. I believe that to be the case with this book.

Get the book

Click here for the Amazon link to Crazy

 

 

American Psychosis: How the federal government destroyed the mentally illness treatment system

 

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Publishers summary

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic speech on mental illness and retardation. He described sweeping new programs to replace “the shabby treatment of the many millions of the mentally disabled in custodial institutions” with treatment in community mental health centers. This movement, later referred to as “deinstitutionalization,” continues to impact mental health care. Though he never publicly acknowledged it, the program was a tribute to Kennedy’s sister Rosemary, who was born mildly retarded and developed a schizophrenia-like illness. Terrified she’d become pregnant, Joseph Kennedy arranged for his daughter to receive a lobotomy, which was a disaster and left her severely retarded.

Fifty years after Kennedy’s speech, E. Fuller Torrey’s book provides an inside perspective on the birth of the federal mental health program. On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation. As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public. Torrey examines the Kennedys’ involvement in the policy, the role of major players, the responsibility of the state versus the federal government in caring for the mentally ill, the political maneuverings required to pass the legislation, and how closing institutions resulted not in better care – as was the aim – but in underfunded programs, neglect, and higher rates of community violence. Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective. At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.

My summary

This book starts off a little slow because of the great detail that the author goes into with the Kennedy family and the fact that Rosemary Kennedy suffered with a mental illness. At first, It seemed to me that all the information might not be necessary, but it really helped to put the history of mental illness here in America into context. Overall, this is an awesome book.

American Psychosis really unlocks the door of understanding why the mental health system is the way it is today. The research and history in this book are extremely eye-opening and revealing. You will gain an understanding that will help you shape how you feel about helping the homeless people who are also mentally ill. You will come to realize that your efforts might be the only thing that helps someone to survive another day.

Personally, the information in this book has helped me to understand that people who are mentally ill face very real challenges in getting treatment, most of which are not their fault. I have come to the conclusion that not all people are capable of getting help for themselves and we have a system that also prevents others from getting help for the helpless. This book will connect the dots like no other when it comes to understanding why some homeless people seem to simply exist on the streets even though they are obviously in need of help.

A few of the things you will learn in this book are:

  • The exact reasons why a severely mentally ill homeless person can stay on the streets if they choose to do so
  • Why we are sometimes powerless to help someone even if we want to
  • The complete history of the mental health system in America (and how it is flawed)
  • How a real medical condition keeps some mentally ill persons from believing they need medicines
  • The holes in the mental health system that cause the patients to be the ones who lose
  • How money and politics played key roles in shaping the mental health system

Get the book

Click here for the Amazon link to American Psychosis

Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life

 

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Publishers summary

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others — Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator — Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries, they ask:

  •  Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  •  How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
  •  Aren’t boundaries selfish?
  •  Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

My summary

Boundaries is a classic book that needs to be read by everyone, everywhere. I had this one on my “to read” list for a long time but only completed it late last year. I’m sure glad I went ahead and took the time to read this one. (Actually, I listened to it on my Audible app while I was driving and that made it easier since it’s such a long one.)

This book will teach you exactly what is says it will teach you. You will learn some incredible things from the authors who are very studied in their respective fields, as well as in the Bible itself. They give a Biblical foundation for everything they set forth in the book.

Many people who work with the homeless on a regular basis get burned out quickly. There are lots of frustrations and people are always pulling at you. In Boundaries, you will learn that it’s okay to say no. You will also learn why some people never say no and why others are so intrusive. I believe reading this book will help you to have a more fruitful and longer-lasting ministry because you will learn how to respond to the never ending demands of others.

A few of the things you will learn in this book are:

Just read the publishers summary above, it pretty much covers the basics.

Get the book

Click here for the Amazon link to Boundaries

 

Of course, there are many other great books that I think to be helpful and I will list them in the future. These three however, I believe will have a great impact on how we treat others and ourselves so I wanted to share them with you now. Happy reading!

 

P.S. Have you gotten your FREE copy of my new ebook, 50 Practical Ways You Can Help The Homeless? To receive your free copy, simply sign up for our weekly emails here.

4 Tips To Help You Help Others by Travis Sharpe

If I have learned anything about homeless ministry, it’s that opportunities come at inopportune times.No one really plans an exact time that they will be in dire need. I have never had a homeless person call me to schedule a time to talk  under an overpass. Nobody has ever called at three pm  to let me know they would be calling back with an emergency at 2 am!

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I have however, “happened” upon thousands of people in all kinds of weird situations. (Like the time I met a man making a bouquet of flowers in a dumpster I drove by, which I later bought and gave to my wife!) So what do you do when you “happen” upon someone in need? What do you do when the phone rings unexpectedly in the night?

I pray that the following four “tips” will help you to always be ready to be a blessing to someone in need.

1. Pre-think a few scenarios. Although you might not know when or what, you can still be prepared for the when and what. Take some time and write down some possible ministry scenarios or opportunities. You can even base them on events that have already happened in the past.  Next, write out what you would do if those scenarios happened.

You might be surprised at how you will then be able to “think on your feet” weeks or months later when the scenario happens in real life.

2. Be prepared. There are certain things that we can always be prepared for. For example, keep care packages in your vehicle all the time in case you come across someone on the side of the road that you never thought would be there. Have some McDonald’s gift cards in your wallet in case you meet someone who needs a meal.

Know what motels are available in your area and the room price with all taxes included for when you need to put someone up for a night in an emergency situation. Plan for the unplanned!

3. Know who can do what you cannot do. If you cannot do a certain thing, it’s a good idea to know who can. That way you can give a solid referral. For example, you might be a single lady and not  able to give a ride to a man who needs to get to the local shelter. You could however have a list of two or three men in your church, Sunday school class or small group, who would be glad to help.

If you were prepared like that, then all of a sudden, you become valuable to someone that otherwise you would have sent away empty.

4. Be aware of available resources. In every town there are  resources for people in need. Things like soup kitchens, food pantry’s, temp services, day shelters, and all sorts of other programs can be invaluable.  But these resources are of no value if the people in need don’t know about them.

Take some time to get to know your community. Write down places, days and times that churches or ministries open their doors to offer help. When you are armed with this kind of information, you can help bridge the gap between what is available and the person in need.

What other ideas do you have for being ready for the unexpected? What would you add?

Vulnerable by Travis Sharpe

One afternoon last week while on our way to the city dump site to take some medicine to a 9 month old baby, we saw something quite disturbing.

As we drove down the busiest four-lane street in the city, we notice traffic stopped  and something going on in the road. Then, seemingly out of no where, we saw him. A filthy dirty man in a small pair of shorts was scooting across the street on his rear end.

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He was not walking or even attempting to walk. As we were stopped in the traffic, he scooted right by our vehicle using his hands and legs to propel his weak body. He had a cast on one leg and every once in a while he would stop and reach into his shorts to scratch himself.

It was one of the saddest situations I have ever seen and it was immediately obvious that he had more problems than the physical ones that I could see as he crossed the road.

I immediately stopped the van and Kinly and Genevieve jumped out to meet him. (I normally let the Filipino’s who work with me make the first contact. We have found that it works better than when a foreigner who can’t even speak the language approaches them).

They discovered four things right off the bat.

1. He could not, (or maybe would not), speak.

2. He could not walk.

3. He was filthy and obviously hadn’t bathed in days or maybe even weeks.

4. He seemed completely disoriented.

The week before that, we met another man as we were going up and down the streets making visits. This man was sleeping on the shoulder of a city street. It was an awkward place to see someone sleeping so we stopped to investigate.

Once again, what we found was disturbing.

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It was about 6 am when we saw him so we knew he had most likely slept right there throughout the night. We immediately made the following three observations.

1. He was sleeping in a place that you just never see people sleeping. It was in a lane where vehicles pass.

2. He had no cardboard or blanket or anything else for sleeping. It seemed as if he had just stopped right there and curled up to sleep with no thought about it at all.

3. He was filthy dirty and had no shoes, not even flip flops.

There was yet another man that we met last week who was in similar condition. We found him curled up on a concrete porch of a bank sleeping underneath the ATM.

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This man was also extremely filthy, had no flip flops, nothing to sleep on and he looked much worse than the average homeless person you would see on the streets in Bacolod City.

He would not look at us or even act like he was awake. We tried and tried to get him to speak. We asked him if he was hungry and what his name was but we received no reply.

Finally, after 15 minutes of trying to interact with him, we sat a hot cup of soup and some bread down beside him. We drove away, went around the block and drove back by to see if he was up. We found him leaning over eating the soup and bread.

What is vulnerability?

The word vulnerable simply means “capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as with a weapon”.

There a different types of vulnerability. For example, one person could be vulnerable to physical abuse or physical harm while another could be vulnerable to thieves who attempt to steal by trickery or deception.

When someone is vulnerable, they are at a higher risk of some type of harm by others or harm by circumstances, such as extreme weather.

Who is vulnerable?

You don’t have to be homeless to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can be found in many places  A senior citizen can be taken advantage of by a crooked contractor or a child can be sexually abused by a relative.

There is no greater picture of vulnerability than that of an unborn child. Sadly, in our world, people who need the most care, are often the targets of the most wrong.

The three people I described in the beginning of this article are definitely vulnerable.

1. Because they were so filthy and had no shoes, they are very likely to be much sicker than the average person living on the streets.

In that shape, bacteria breeds easily and worms easily invade the stomach. They are more than likely very, very sick individuals and they probably don’t even realize it. Because of their limited mental capacity and their poverty, it is doubtful if they ever visit the doctor or get much needed medications.

With no treatment and no medications, simple health issues grow into major medical problems. Sadly, preventable diseases spread easily and can even result in death.

2. Sleeping in the roadway and crossing a busy street on your rear end obviously puts the first two men at risk for physical harm.

After four visits, we have finally learned that the man crossing the street is named Tom. He does not communicate well at all, in fact, he barely speaks. But we did put pieces of words together and, to the best of our understanding, he was run over by a car and that’s why he has the cast on his leg.

3. Each of the men we contacted could not speak well. They might have been afraid, they might have been under the influence of a substance, or, they might have been unable due to a mental or physical handicap.

Either way, they are out in the elements living on the unforgiving city streets where there are people are ready to take advantage of them.

According to the American Psychological Association, homeless persons are two times more likely to suffer with a severe mental illness than the average person. Simply put, there are thousands of people living on the streets of our cities that are not capable of personal responsibility.

They suffer in silence and filth as life passes them by.

Our response to vulnerable people

In the eyes of some, the most vulnerable people of our society are a pestilence. They are viewed as non-contributors and therefore, of no true value.

But in the eyes of God, they have as much value as any other human. God does not weigh the value of a soul based upon their contributions to society but rather on the fact that he created them in his own image.

God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of the weak and a healer of the sick. He is always rooting for the underdog.

Our response to the most vulnerable among us should be based upon God’s view of them, not society’s view.

Because God values all life, we should seek to preserve life. That means things like fighting abortion, healing the wounded, supporting widows, defending little children and sheltering the homeless.

My prayer is that God helps all of us to respond to the needs around us based upon his heartbeat and not our own desires.

P.S. I would love to have you as a subscriber to my email list. To receive my weekly emails straight to your inbox, sign up here!

Behind The Scenes: The Steps We Took To Help A Mom and Daughter Facing Homelessness

Last week we were able to help a Mother and her 14 year old daughter who were facing homelessness and were in desperate need of housing.

Today I want to pull back the curtain and show you the steps we took to make that happen.
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Because I am always  concerned about people’s dignity, for this article, I’ll call her Sue. I was first made aware of Sue and her need when our church secretary called me on Tuesday. The secretary relayed the basic information to me that Sue and her daughter were basically homeless and needed help.

The church was already full with applications of people who were waiting for assistance and the secretary  was not sure when they would be able to help her. Many times churches are overwhelmed with needs like this. That’s why I created the Good Samaritan Plan. This plan helps churches to have a plan in place to meet these kind of needs.

What our assessment revealed

Since this was a lady, I called Karla who is one of our volunteers. Karla is great when it comes to helping ladies who are facing homelessness because she herself has been in that same situation before. A couple of hours later, Karla and sat I sat down with Sue at the church and did an initial assessment of her needs.

Special note: need help making an assessment? I wrote a three-part series about that and you can see them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

During our assessment time we learned several things about Sue. We learned that she has some very serious physical problems like emphysema and C.O.P.D.. She should be on oxygen but because of her housing situation she hasn’t had that in a while.

Her daughter also suffers with some difficulties that have rendered her disabled. We learned that Sue does have an income from disability but she spent the majority of her income this month to purchase a van so she could have transportation (and somewhere to sleep when she lost her home).

She could no longer afford the place where they had been living because the situation with her abusive husband had finally come to a head. Things were really bad and Sue and her daughter were left with all the bills. After a couple of months on their own, they were now facing eviction.

When I asked why she came to our church for help I found out that she had actually attended the morning worship service that Sunday. She had been invited by a church member who also happened to be a long time friend of hers. Plus, Sue’s adult son had been attending for a few weeks.

She had a lead on a new place to rent but it was only the 9th and her disability wouldn’t be there until the first of next month.

The situation with Sue and her daughter was bad. It was truly heartbreaking. but at least they had a car and some monthly income. With those two things, I knew what to do next.

What we did

Karla and I spoke together after the assessment to think through how to best help Sue. We wanted to help her in the best way that we could with the resources that we had. Sue had to run an errand so we asked her to meet us back at the church when she was done. This gave Karla and I some time to pause, pray and think.

Since it was already after 5 pm, we decided to rent a motel room for them that night. This would keep them from sleeping in their car and it would buy us another day to come up with a more permanent solution. We were thinking that we could help her with rent and a deposit on the new place if it was still available.

At this point we did not promise her help with rent on the new place. We had a little homework to do first. Before we spend much money on a person, we try to do some “due diligence” and verify their story.

During the assessment Sue provided us with some contacts. We had phone numbers for her attorney, (she had been in an awful wreck a few years ago), her DHR case worker, and the number of the church member who was her long time friend.

While Sue and her daughter went to the motel for a good night of rest, Karla and I made the calls. We were able to speak to her attorney who verified the story about the wreck. But the best information came from her friend who went to our church. They were able to verify about the husband and the illnesses. They believed that Sue was in need of help.

It is important to verify these things when possible because week after week people come to churches with made up stories about illnesses and problems that are simply not true.

Since she had some monthly income and a vehicle, we knew that if she found a place to live that had cheap rent, she had a good shot at making it. The next day we found out that the first place had already been rented so it was off the table.

At this point, there were a few things we could do. We could help her with gas for her car. We could pay for more nights in the motel. We could buy her food or help with medical issues.

Knowing that our funds to help her were limited, we decided to focus on helping her pay for a permanent place to live. We told her that we could give $350 towards rent and deposit if she found a place. We were willing to pay some more but for some reason that’s the number that I felt led to give her.

On Tuesday night we posted about her need on face book. That night, someone donated $100 and the next night someone else gave another $100.

The outcome

Before the day was over, Sue called to tell us that she had found a possible place to live. Someone she knew had an efficiency apartment built onto their house and they were looking to rent it for $200 per month with a $150 deposit.

Once again it was time to do our homework. We wanted to make sure that this was a legitimate deal so Karla called the landlord. Everything checked out to the best of our knowledge and that night Sue moved into the little apartment and I went the next day and payed the $350 for the rent and deposit.

So Sue and her daughter stayed in the motel on Tuesday and moved into their apartment on Wednesday. The rent should be low enough for them to be able to pay everything each month. I’m sure that they will still have many, many challenges over the next few weeks and months but at least they are safe and warm in a home.

We have already been in touch with them again and hopefully they will continue to attend church and grow in the Lord and build new and healthy relationships.

Please keep this family in your prayers.

How To Pray For The Homeless During The Holiday Season

Most of us love the holidays. I know I do. I love the weather. I love the spirit. I love the time I get to spend with family and friends. I love almost every aspect of this time of year.

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It starts around Thanksgiving when we count our many blessings and gather with loved ones to give thanks and enjoy grand meals. Then, all the way up to Christmas time, we are thinking of the birth of Christ, the gifts we intend to give, the parties we have been invited to attend and the general busyness of the season.

This is a great time of the year! It’s a time to reflect and rejoice. It’s a time to give and receive.

But there is a very dark side to this time of year as well. (No, I’m not talking about the crazy consumerism that has clouded the true meaning of the holidays, although I could). For many, this time of the year is very hard. Depression comes to a head now and suicide rates rise.

For the more than 600,000 people who call the streets their home, the holidays are even more stressful and difficult. Some will spend the holidays all alone. Others will be surrounded by crowds in shelters, and yet feel all alone on the inside.

I believe that there is no greater time of the year to pray for the homeless than right now. They need the strength and help that only prayer can bring.

Here is how I am praying for the homeless during this holiday season.

1. I am praying for reconciliation 

The term reconciliation simply means to be brought back together again. It means to renew a relationship and once again be a peace.

I am, of course, praying for reconciliation with God. And that is not specific to the homeless population. Every person that has ever been born was born separated from God because of sin. We all need to be reconciled to God and that only happens through a relationship with his Son, Jesus.

But I am also praying for reconciliation with family and friends. You see, many homeless people have lost the relationships that are most important in their lives. It is not uncommon for me to meet someone who has had no contact with their family for several years. Bridges have been burned and years have been lost.

Therefore I am praying for them to be reconciled to God if they are not and I am praying for their family relationships to bloom once again.

2. I am praying for provision

When you get involved in homeless ministry you quickly discover that needs abound. Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed with the thought of all the needs. If you have never dove in head first trying to rescue someone then this may be foreign to you. But there are mountains to be climbed. Steep ones.

Food, clothing, health care, rent, electricity, deposits, fines, licenses, documents, education, employment, and the list goes on and on.

I have learned that I cannot meet all of the needs of a person. As a matter of fact, that’s not even how God designed it. We are instructed in the Lord’s prayer to pray for provision. Give us this day our daily bread. God is our provider. He alone has everything we will ever stand in need of and He is well able to meet them.

This is without a doubt a prayer that we can pray for the homeless. We can pray for God to provide everything that they need on a daily basis. We can pray that each person looks to God first and finds their every need met in Him.

3. I am praying for encouragement

As I stated in the introduction, the holidays are tough for many of our homeless friends. Loneliness is very common and depression and discouragement is one of Satan’s number one tactics.

One of the reasons for this is the overwhelming sense of loss. While everyone else gathers with their spouses, children, and family, it’s hard not to feel the deep pain of personal loss. If you have lost a loved one, this is the hardest time of year. Holidays are like mile-markers on life’s road.

But I also know that it is very possible for people to be encouraged during the holidays. Over the years I have witnessed many people who thought the end was imminent. They saw no hope in sight. But somehow, someway, the Lord brought encouragement to their hearts.

It is possible to have very little worldly goods but to have encouragement down in your heart! So I am praying that God would bring a spirit of encouragement and an understanding that true joy comes from God and God alone.

4. I am praying for a special blessing

 
I don’t care who you are, we all need a special blessing every once in a while. Remember that unexpected note you received from a friend? What about that unexpected gift from an unlikely source that you enjoyed so much?

If a special unexpected blessing meant so much to you, just imagine the impact it might have on someone who is struggling through life.

I am praying that each and every person who is homeless would receive a special blessing of some sort during the holiday season.

One more thought

As you are praying for the homeless, be sure and listen. You might just hear the voice of the Lord whisper to your heart. He may want YOU to be the answer to one of these prayers.

Question: What prayer would you add to this list? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

How To Make Snack Packs and Hygiene Kits For the Homeless by Travis Sharpe

Have you ever wanted to give something to someone who was homeless but just weren’t sure what?

Have you ever been frustrated because you had the opportunity to speak to someone but you didn’t know how to “break the ice”?

If so, then maybe snack packs or hygiene kits are the answer!

Snack pack

These are awesome little packages that you can put together and keep in your car so that you can be armed and ready the very next time that you have an opportunity to be a blessing to someone in need.

Goodie bag

I want to give you some suggestions here on how to put together these two different bags of blessings. But to be honest, just about anything you can dream up to put in the bags would more than likely be awesome.

It has been my experience that most people I meet seem to like and appreciate the snack packs the most. I guess that’s because we all enjoy a good snack!

Most of all, have fun and be a blessing.

Suggested list of items for your snack packs

Peanuts
Granola bar
Individually wrapped peanut butter
Bottle of water
Vienna Sausage
Slim Jim
Individually wrapped candy
Chewing gum
Crackers
Fruit cup
Hand sanitizer
Gospel tract

Pocket size New Testament

You can add anything you want to add just be sure that you don’t include chocolate or other snacks that might melt or go bad.

Suggested list of items for your hygiene kits

Hand sanitizer
Deodorant
Wet wipes
Wash cloth
Band aids
Bottle of water
Razors
Individually wrapped candy
Lip balm
Small bottle of shampoo
Body wash or soap
Gum
Socks
Gloves
Cough drops
Toothpaste
Gospel tract

Pocket size New Testament

Other Tips

We like to use one gallon Ziploc brand bags as they just seem to hold up better than other brands.

Use small sandwich size bags to put the individually wrapped candy and cough drops in. This will help to safeguard against them melting and messing up the whole bag.

Avoid putting anything in the bags that could possibly be abused such as medicines, mouth wash, etc.

These bags are great to use as a way to break the ice and start a meaningful conversation.

Question: What other items would you suggest for the bags? Leave your comment below!

The Most Important Question To Ask Before You Help Someone

Sometimes when I am helping a person who is homeless, (or anyone for that matter) I get stuck and I am just not sure what to do. Just last week I had a call from a gentleman who was facing homelessness and he wanted us to buy him a tent and some blankets.

question mark picture

As I worked through this situation with him, I had decisions to make about how we would help him.

Wanting to help him in a more substantial way, I offered him help getting to a shelter and even offered to pay for two weeks for he and his wife (that shelter charges $13 per night after the 5th night).

Have you ever gotten confused while trying to figure out how to help someone? Me too. Sometimes it can be hard to know where the line between helping and enabling is. The gentleman I mentioned above didn’t want to go to the shelter, he wanted to go camp out in the woods

With this story in mind, I want to share with you one of the questions I ask myself as I am working through these type of requests that I get.

Is there a probable positive outcome?

That one simple question can bring clarity to your decision making process. Or to put it another way, is the assistance you are considering likely to have a positive outcome for them? Will they be better off because of what you did? Will it put them closer to overcoming homelessness or simply help them to stay in it longer?

In the situation last week, he wanted to stay out in the woods in a tent instead of going to the shelter. His wife has some serious health problems and the forecast called for it to be very cold over the weekend. In a tent in the woods they would be exposed to the elements, risk being run off by the police and have a hard time with generally everything.

In other words, if  helped them set up camp in the woods, it wasn’t likely to have a positive outcome. I want to offer help that has a probable positive outcome.

I know that many homeless people despise shelters. They don’t want to be around them. But the reality is, if he would humble himself and go, there is a good chance that his life could improve. They have safe warm shelter, two meals every day, case workers, access to programs and more.

Simply put

There is never an easy answer and sometimes the complaints people have are very legitimate. Sometimes what we decide will be right and sometimes it will be wrong.

But I do believe that if you will you ask yourself this question and think it through, you can get closer to the most appropriate answer and come closer giving help that will have a positive outcome for the person in need.

Question: Have you ever had a situation that you were unsure about? Tell us about it in the comment section below, I’d love to hear your story!

Helping The Homeless On A Limited Budget by Travis Sharpe

One of the biggest frustrations when you have a big heart and want to help people, is a limited budget. It seems that there are endless needs and most of them take money to be met.

 

Numbers And Finance

Time and time again I have felt helpless because the answer seemed to be money…and I just didn’t have it to give.

Have you ever felt like this? If you only had the money, you could help so many people?

If so, you’re in good company because I believe everyone who has ever helped the homeless has felt that way at one point or the other. Here are my thoughts on this.

There has to be a starting point

When I first started ministering to the homeless in 1996, I had nothing. I was a young, broke Bible College student. I had a job that payed minimum wage and I rarely got 40 hours in a week.

Since I lived by myself my bills were pretty low, but by the time I payed my car payment and bought food each week, I was down to pennies. As a matter of fact, if it hadn’t been for the generosity of family and friends, I have no idea how I would have made it.

The amazing thing to me is that it was then, during my broke years, when God directed me to begin helping people who were homeless. Maybe God wanted me to understand that even when we think we have it bad, there is always someone much worse off than us.

On Fridays, when I cashed my paycheck, I would pay my bills and put back what I thought I needed for the week. Then I would go to Dollar General and buy things like socks, underwear, Toboggans, deodorant, and whatever else I thought might help the men on the streets.

Then, on Saturday, I would go visiting and would pass out gospel tracts and those items. It wasn’t much but it was a start. Those little gifts were a blessing to the men and women and they helped to break the ice especially when I met a new person.

You don’t have to have much, to accomplish much

Fast-forward five years to 2001. That’s when we started the Garden City Rescue Mission in Augusta, GA. My wife April and I had been married less than three years and I had been out of college less than two years.

We lived in a little two-bedroom rented house out in the country. I had left my job and we were right in the middle of raising our support to be full time missionaries to the homeless. At this point, we had less income than when I was working my minimum wage job!

But it was then that God used us to start the new mission. I can remember telling God that he was crazy! Why would God ask me to build a home for dozens of homeless men when I could barely pay for the rent for my little family?

The reason was simple. It was never about what I had or didn’t have. It wasn’t about what I could provide. God was going to do something great. He just needed a willing vessel.

While money can solve problems, it rarely fixes things

It didn’t take me long to learn that money was only one piece of the pie. Yes, it takes money to operate. Yes, you have to pay the bills. Trust me, I fully understand that! But I also know that money is rarely the final answer.

I have thrown money at problems only to watch the problem continue. I have paid motel bills and light bills only to find that the following week they were due again.

In other words, giving money to help people solve problems is usually a temporary thing. If the root issues are not addressed, the same need will come right back again and again.

So remember, while having enough resources is great, it is usually not the real answer to the real problem for most people you will deal with.

The best gifts are not monetary anyway

Have you ever bought your child that over-priced toy that they just had to have, only to find that they quit playing with it after a few days? Yeah, me too. I think that every year, the week after Christmas, all of us parents are reminded once again that it’s not about home much money we are able to spend.

This is one of the greatest lessons that we can all learn and it filters down through every aspect of our lives.

Our children and our families really want peace in the home and time together around the holidays. They may not know that’s what they want when they are little, but it’s what they really want. They want mommy and daddy to love each other. They want to have fun and be together.

And all of that can happen on a limited budget. It’s not about how much money we have, it’s about how much love we have.

Just like you don’t have to break the bank and go into debt for Christmas, you don’t have to do that to help people either. The best way to help the homeless is to love them and be their friend. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

No fund-raiser will ever fix a broken heart or heal someone of depression, but love will. No amount of resources will cause someone to do right and be responsible, but a real relationship with Jesus will.

In Conclusion

So the next time you start to bang your head against the wall because you don’t have what you need, just remember, you DO have what you need.

In January, our family will fly to the Philippines. We will live there for five months and help a church start a new ministry to the little homeless children who live on the streets.

Many times I have second guessed this. The Devil will say things like “how are you going to help those kids when you don’t have enough money?” Or, “do you really think you will make a difference? What they need is real help.”

But each time he comes around with his discouragement, I remind myself that what those precious little boys and girls need the most is just someone to hold them and hug them and squeeze them real tight. The just need to be loved and told about Jesus.

In other words, they need us. They need you.

So let’s get busy with whatever the Lord has given us right now. I can assure you that whatever you have, no matter how limited you may think it is, will make a big difference.

P.S. If you want to help these kids in the Philippines too but are unable to go give the hugs yourself, why not consider a gift to help us get there? Learn how here. Thanks!