During Lent we are offering a weekly blog written by Pullen members about their passions. The phrase “Passion of Jesus” has been used in Christian history to refer to the suffering of Jesus from his entrance into Jerusalem until his crucifixion. This makes sense because one definition of the word “passion” is to suffer. Yet another meaning of the term in English is strength of feeling.
So each Monday in Lent, a Pullen person is sharing in blog form something about which she or he is passionate. It is our hope that reading about the deep commitments of other Pullenites will enrich our own passions and our experience of this holy season.
-The Education Council
Why We’re Passionate about Assisting Young Adults who are Experiencing Homelessness
by: Jeff Cherry & Lloyd Jones
In August of this year, Pullen was given a new opportunity – an opportunity to enter into a ministry of relationship with a group of young adults who turned up literally on the doorstep of the church. As Lloyd and I approach our 50th birthdays, these young adults are young enough for us to call most of them kids, and it is easy for us to see resemblances of our younger selves or of other kids we know in our family and our neighborhood. We have all seen homeless people on the street. It is so easy to step around them and to avoid their eyes, or give them a dollar or some change and go about our day feeling like we’ve met our social obligation. But these young adults do not meet the image we had of the face of homelessness when we began this work. Some have been on the street less than a year and each one has a story. The factors that disadvantage them are complicated and the list is long. Most have limited education, and nearly all had a home environment that was unstable, abusive, un-nurturing, or all three. As a result, in most cases they are estranged from their family (if they ever had one) and are disadvantaged when searching for employment that will allow a living wage. When we got to know them, we learned that they fear for their safety in existing homeless shelters because the general homeless population is a much older group with higher rates of violence, substance abuse and past criminal behavior.
What does a ministry of relationship mean? For us, it does not mean giving them a handout, or shuffling them off to the nearest homeless shelter or government social service bureaucracy. To us, it means telling a homeless kid that you have faith in him. You say, “I am proud of you and though I may not be able to provide everything you need or want, I will answer when you call and walk by your side.” For the kid that feels abandoned by his family, this may be more important than any gift we can give. This year we spent Christmas with Jeff’s family in eastern North Carolina. We had a wonderful meal at a beautiful table in a nice home surrounded by people we love and people who love us. The kid from Pullen’s patio who has touched our hearts the most spent Christmas alone in a park enduring a cold rain with no coat. We cannot fathom why God has blessed us with such rich abundance, but given our patio guests so little. But one thing we are certain of—our faith requires us to share that abundance with “the least of these” referred to in Matthew 25. This work is exhausting and, for people like us who have been imprinted with an achievement/results orientation from growing up in middle class America, often frustrating. But in those frustrating moments, we ask each other, “if it were me pressing my nose against the window and you did not know me, would you let me in?”
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40.