Monday, March 28, 2011

When A Homeless Man Worships

For those that don’t know, not only am I the pastor of The Virtual Pew, but I am also the pastor of a brick and mortar church named Mosaic in Wichita Kansas. We meet in the heart of downtown Wichita, a location we moved to for various reasons including, the desire to reach the arts community, to be in the heart of the city to have an impact on the city, including all of those in the area, but to also carry out what we believe to be a huge part of the mission of Jesus, serving the homeless and the poor. We located to a place one block from our cities largest homeless gathering, the downtown public library. We eventually want to be open every day to serve the homeless but for now we are progressing appropriately and as God provides, that said, something special happened yesterday.

One of the things I do for myself, (yes there is selfish intent although I am willing to share) is to play bass guitar on the worship team. Now don’t get me wrong here, even though I am the pastor, (we are all ministers, some are pastors and I am the senior pastor at Mosaic) I still submit to the leadership of our worship pastor, Chris Marshall, when playing music. Chris has shown tremendous leadership and the ability to be used by God. He seems to always review my sermons, and seek the guidance from God as to the songs to be used in the service. He has a great way of adapting some of the old hymns that we use as we pay honor to the past, and find newer songs to use for the bulk of worship. He has even adapted some popular non church songs and found ways to use them in church. I especially like the Zydeco styled worship tunes he comes up with at times, especially using some of those old hymns.

Yesterday was a special day. It was the first day where I had made a minor effort to reach out to some of the downtown homeless community. We are doing this gradually as we make sure we have the appropriate help and funds in place. I have gladly offered my salary back to the church so we can be in the place we are to minister. My heart was paid back so much more yesterday as we had our first pot-luck meal and homeless folks among other guest in attendance. It was great to see everyone, from old friends; to new friends, we were there to serve but we were also served by those there.

As we concluded worship we played the song, How Great Thou Art. Most folks had been standing for the duration of our worship service. We had a time where folks could sit prior to our last song as we took some prayer requests. We started playing again and as I looked out over the gathering, after about the 2nd verse of How Great Thou Art, I noticed one of the homeless guys near the back, standing, eyes closed, worshiping God as he sang the memorized lyrics to the song. I was moved to a point that I was able to worship. I have had a little while to think about it, I have concluded; God will use us in ways we never expected if we allow him. We often make excuses to not come to the place of allowing God to live and breathe through us. This guy though, who seemingly had nothing, has a relationship with God that inspired me, and I believe, others.

Sometimes, when we come to a place of surrender and acceptance, God will do incredible things, with, for, and through us. There comes a point though that we have to surrender, and accept the things God has for us. The question I have been challenged with is this, if a homeless guy, having no place to lay his head, who has only the clothes on his back, can come to a place of bringing honor and sincere worship to God, what is my excuse? One of the beautiful things of doing the ministry work I do is this isn’t just words on a computer screen I have typed, it is a real, honest to goodness life observation. I am reminded of the words of Larry Norman in one of his songs; “We can’t see nothing if we close our eyes.” At Mosaic I pray God gives us ears to hear what the Spirit would say to our church, from now on, I will also pray God gives us eyes to see. I would love to see others opening up their eyes and in the process be moved and motivated to love God more. When we are around those who are hurting, I think we will see them inclined to not blame God so much. We may see their desire to seek God from their knees. May we all come to that place with a willingness to be on our knees when we seek to serve and live in the presence of a Holy God no matter how much we have, or not. In our weakness, we will discover, and experience God’s strength. It is my desire to experience that more, not less; I also realize it is a valuable gift that one with little gave to me. May I in return at least have the desire, ability, and will to offer love and while Silver and Gold have I none, I will realize, the gift of Jesus is far more valuable.

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Skeptigirl said...

Remember me? I wanted to help with reach out efforts to the homeless. I haven't stopped wanting to but I moved to Finland so I am no longer in the neighborhood.

We don't really have homeless the way the US has there are people of uncertain home situations, mostly male, and mostly with substance abuse problem's.

There is a strange small but noticeable group of Romanians begging in downtown. I doubt they speak very good English or Finnish. I am fairly uncertain why they are begging. Is it a choice of theirs to do that than go through the paperwork involved in getting aid? Where do they live? Why are they here? I heard a rumour they were trafficked into Finland, but for what purpose would someone traffic poor old people? I have made the decision to ask about them. Someone must know.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

Hi Skeptigirl, I do remember you. It is amazing isn't it, that the United States with all of our wealth, has a homeless problem?

I am not as familiar with the homeless needs of others around the world, I would imagine though, the homeless condition is pretty much a universal issue with many of the same problems, some self inflicted, others where people are a victim of circumstance. I would say, most people likely do not choose to be homeless, although some do. I am aware that in some countries, who provide for their poor in pretty good ways, may have people who are in the situations they are because of things like mental illness.

I would encourage you to do as you have stated, to ask questions, but the language barrier may be the biggest problem, the best people to ask though are those on the streets.

Good luck and keep me informed.

Skeptigirl said...

I looked into the issue of the Romanians a bit. They most likely came here voluntarily, in general, using the freedom of movement right among EU countries because Romania and Finland are both a part of the EU. They have the right to welfare and free job training and all that as EU citizens. They can work here, if someone would higher them.

Why they choose to beg instead of applying for welfare I cannot say. Maybe the paperwork is too intimidating.

Here is an article about a group of them near Helsinki, the capital.

This begging is very upsetting to Finns. We pay high taxes for the goverment to help the poor for us. Them asking for handouts feels like the poor are double dipping. Also it gives a bad view to visitors. We do not have destitute beggars with no other choice, what we have is people who, choose for what ever legitimate reasons, to live outside our social welfare system while living inside our borders.

It is still hard to decide what to do to help these people even knowing aproximately why they are here.

Mike Furches and The Virtual Pew said...

When I worked in clubhouse we were aware of people who would choose to work as opposed to getting govt' assistance which was often more than they could make. There was the old, I earned it attitude that seemed to be the case. I don't know if this would be the case here or not, it sounds like it could be a contributing factor. In America we used to call that the 'American Work Ethic.' Take out American and put any nationality there and you could have a part of the concept, just that some people are so proud they would rather beg than to have someone give them something. Thanks for the link as well, I will check it out.