Jesus Loves the Homeless

christ-icon-st-catherines-sinai-6th-cent“I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful, but I never read in either of them, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” –St. Augustine

I am truly blessed. I am swaddled in the embrace of Almighty God, who watches over me with untiring patience and compassion. My Father is generous and kind. When he withholds comfort or material prosperity from me, it is for my good. I praise him for tending to my spirit above my temporal life, always and resolutely. He is a passionate lover and a faithful friend. My prayer is for humility, patience and grace to trust my Savior no matter how my flesh howls in the throes of these fiery trials. I entrust my life and being to you, Lord Jesus. The colossal sacrifice you made for me has purchased my redemption and won my trust and devotion.

homeless.3It’s amazing how my heart swells after a morning such as I spent earlier today, when I went with some of my friends and church fellows to downtown Portland. We spent 35 minutes bagging 250 lunches and then began handing them out along Burnside street, where Portland’s homeless community is concentrated, near the Union Gospel Mission and other homeless outreaches. There, even with all the shelters in the area, people lie curled up in doorways trying to sleep off disaster. Or they shuffle about with eyes that look as though shutters have been pulled behind them. Many are wearing futility and bitterness like a garment, but others are cheerful and grateful to receive a meal. All of them accept our offerings without particular surprise, as though they know that we are but middlemen, and our daily provision comes from an invisible Source. And so it does. 

homeless (1)I didn’t create any of the food, clothing or personal possessions I enjoy, and I didn’t give anything but my time this morning. All the sustenance we distributed (bringing us to a grand total of 2800 lunches given out over several months) has come from an initial gift of $100 that has been parleyed into this community outpouring. This was done by investing the initial gift into supplies for crafting handmade crosses, which were all sold for $5 apiece at church services and the money re-invested. Now we’re both building crosses and bagging lunches, and still the small initial investment grows, even as it is being distributed. There is something magical about this that reminds me of five loaves, two fish and a famished throng in a Middle East field 2000 years ago.

Reader, forgive my flamboyance, but I’m on one right now. God is giving me a great big hug, and I can’t contain my joy! Can it be that just spending a few hours tending to homeless people makes the Father so happy? Yes, I believe it does!

-5d7877aa90a748d7While we were passing lunches out, I had a conversation with our organizer, Lance, who told me about past homeless outreach events with an exuberance most people reserve for Caribbean cruises. He related a story to me about a man named Charles Moore, a heroin addict for 20 years before hearing the call of God. When the call came, Moore was living in a cardboard box in Roseburg, OR after having been kicked off a Greyhound bus headed for San Francisco. On the day it happened, Moore sat shivering in his box, suffering terribly from withdrawals, listening to the rain hitting the ground. Suddenly, he cried out to God: “Lord, if you will come and set me free from this awful addiction, I’ll give my life to you.” He testified later that Christ the Savior himself came and sat next to him on the damp ground, touched him and told him, “You are free!”

Moore took Jesus at His word, cleaned up, hitchhiked to Eugene and lived in Liberation House, a Christian shelter for men, for three years. After meeting and marrying his wife, Karen, the two moved to Vancouver, joined Crossroads Community Church and began serving chili to homeless people in downtown Portland in 1989. Seventeen years after hearing God’s call, Moore founded the Liberation Street Church on Burnside Street, next to LSCthe Union Gospel Mission. His ministry was centered on those who lived as he had for 20 years: homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted, hopeless. The world never seems to run out of them, but because of ministries like Moore’s, there are many places for them to find a clean, dry place, a meal and words of hope.

Moore died of emphysema in 2011 and was honored by his flock and many in the Burnside community who remembered his warmth and fierce faith. Among them was Tony Betker, pastor of the Liberation Street Church of Washington, which Moore helped to establish. The wake was summed up on a sign at the church entrance which read, “Pastor Charles’ Goin’ Home Celebration.” The turnout was significant for such a small church.

“It’s pretty overwhelming to see all of the people my dad touched,” said his daughter, Hilary, who was in tears during the service.

Charles MooreMoore won the hearts of the Burnside community by loving “people who were unlovely,” said Mike Maksimowicz, former director of the Portland Rescue Mission. The church often took homeless people on trips to the Oregon coast and set out great spreads for Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Moore was affectionately called “the Bishop of Burnside” by those who frequented his worship services and holiday celebrations. 

Moore’s closest friend, Earnest Clark (also the church’s co-founder), said he thinks of Moore as “my second dad.” Clark now runs the tire business in Vancouver that Moore owned.

Moore’s church lives on, doing regular outreaches right there in the thick of Portland’s homeless community. I was there for several of them during my time with Teen Challenge, before its Portland Metro Center moved to Oregon City. At one time, we went weekly to the Liberation Street Church, handing out coats, hats and blankets and ladling spaghetti onto plates for the Sunday evening event. After the food was all gone, the Teen Challenge students would start playing festive worship songs and giving testimonies about how Jesus had changed their lives. My favorite people at these events were the ones who sat right in the front row, singing happily along with us and cheering loudly at our testimonies. I thought more than once that if these people, who had nothing, could muster such enthusiasm for praise and worship, no amount of hardship in my life should ever prevent me from doing so. And the reason? Even when we have nothing, we have everything.

His name is Jesus. 

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About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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8 Responses to Jesus Loves the Homeless

  1. fcb3 says:

    Wow, that’s an inspirational post and when we get the paycheck from the Lord it makes us just want to jump and shout!!!!! He pays so well, for so little. These kind of simple deeds of love are so powerful, life and world changing. Oh that we don’t get side-tracked and think we can challenge the devil at the ballot box, he will do all to side-track us from touching people. If I were an unbeliever I would think Christianity was about guns, republicans, anti-evolution, anti-gay, anti-choice anti anti; but all the world recognizes love and when compassionate deeds are done few object, most approve and some want to join. Joining in puts one in the midst of Christ’s strongest influence and few can resist the author of such wonderful things. Forgive me for my rant but like the puritans used to say, “The poor man’s hand is Christ’s treasury, and he shall not lose his reward that casts his mites into that treasury.”
    Fred

  2. Douglas Abbott says:

    No apology necessary, Fred. It does my heart good to see that this story affected you as it has. I believe there are many paupers walking around richer than Bill Gates without knowing it! Most of us don’t see them at all. But in the age to come, they will be superstars.

  3. Auntie Sarah says:

    Just beautifully written, Doug. And a confirmation that reaching out in kindness to others is a best translation of the gospel. I lovingly take issue with Fred, though, about the anti, anti agenda supposedly emulating from the church. With no biblical model to inform us on living in a democracy, we find ways to resisit evil and shine the light of truth into our culture. A balance must always be struck, as it was with Jesus, between being kind to the hurting and getting angry at sin. Unfortunately, the media gets to “restate” the church’s passion with their own nasty spin. I am not anti-error so much as PRO-TRUTH. I am not anti-choice so much as I am PRO-LIFE. I am not anti-sin so much as I’m PRO-RIGHTEOUSNESS. And I want to help preserve my culture. I can’t help how the other side labels me. But if the mercy and compassion of the Father is absent in the process, then I have missed the mark. Probably if Fred and I could sit down and have a conversation about this we would come to an agreement!

  4. Douglas Abbott says:

    I agree with you, Auntie Sarah, that we have to find a balance, and sure enough, we have to step-by-step instructions to guide us. I think many of us are weary of the aggressive way some Christians want to impose their beliefs on others (there is some truth to liberal complaints about this), but that doesn’t describe all of us. I think gentleness is so important. However, we have to find ways of letting our light shine, and that is best done with proactive statements and ideologies expressed with kindness, gentleness and respect. But gentleness doesn’t mean I’m not going to say my piece. If I didn’t say it, my beliefs themselves would be in question.

  5. fcb3 says:

    Hi Doug and Sarah, against my better judgement, I’ll follow up. When I read and hear Christian thought as represented by the radio and Facebook, TV and the like, what I hear, and forgive me if my horizons are limited, I hear and see posts urging Christians to do many things, but the largest portion have to do with patriotic issues, political issues, gun control, preserving our culture with political means, anti-gay sentiments, Obama bashing, mercy an unending stream of those, well, if you could see my Facebook Wall you would get my point. Now, as to posts on following Christ’s example to help the mamed, the lame and the poor, frankly, this post of Doug’s is the first to come along in a while. Yes, we have thousands of Christian maxim posts, most of which tell us how much God loves us but few that tell us to serve Christ in his countless deeds of compassion and mercy that He is doing in the world this very minute. If I saw one post or heard one radio program for every ten, or one hundred on the issues stated above I would be less critical, but the proportion is so unbalanced, and it serves as an evaluation of the priorities of the Church today in my opinion. I think because we can vote in this country we are lulled to sleep thinking that this easy process will bring solutions faster so we carry torches for political issues with ardent zeal, and I see few who cry aloud for the child in bondage by human traffickers. If the marginalized people, those under oppression, the downcast and downtrodden had as much support as the NRA, we would see these evils greatly reduced. Now, having said all that, I vote, I support pro-life by word and dollars; I would not encourage the gay-life style, but will not treat them without honor; and I lean towards the platform of the Republican party far more than the Democratic side, but I have no precious time to spend stirring the political stew pot, it has more than enough supporters, but alas, the poor we have with us always, and always, in my opinion, because we are busy about so many other things.

  6. Douglas Abbott says:

    Fred, I agree that many American Christians seem to have become fixated on politics, which, because of the contentious nature of the process, brings about strife rather than love. So, in my opinion, storming the Capital with our Bibles is, more often than not, a distraction from the more important work of the Church. If we could actually succeed through our political efforts in turning the tide of debauchery in our nation, it might be a different story. But we haven’t. All we seem to have accomplished is to make unbelievers think Christians are aggressive and intolerant. It doesn’t matter that liberals are just as intolerant of us; they tell themselves that they are justified because they are merely defending themselves from us. I think we should educate our children (privately or at home if possible because of the state of public education) and remind them often about the dangers of rejecting God’s counsel for their lives, clean up our side of the street, and love the unsaved, with particular attention to the weak, the orphans, the widows and the homeless. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas. 1:27) It may well be that by reacting to overzealousness by some of my Christian brothers and sisters, I have swung too far away from political involvement, but we can’t hit the mark perfectly, and this is where I stand.

  7. fcb3 says:

    To insinuate that I’m perfectly clear on where I stand is not the case. I try and balance these issues each day. But when I’m engaged in the pursuit of holiness and involved in serving in Christ’s deeds of this day, I find I have no difficulty nor is their any confusion that I’m doing the right thing. I sense an angel wing covering me each step of the way. But when I get in the political arena I have no such presence and the first freshet of my holy zeal runs off and becomes diluted.
    You get many of the same posts I do and it is not hard to see where the zeal of the church is focused. I have known first hand some who have been drawn to good and holy political purposes but later to see them struggling spiritually. You mention above that the church has not been politically successful in stemming the tide of evil; I agree in large part but battles have been won for good, but I wonder if the church were to be successful, if God would allow us to have a political victory that it would cause far more spiritual damage than good. Would the church over time become another political party? I suspect it would, the YMCA was once Godly, so with the Red Cross, Boys and Girls clubs of America, and the list goes on. I love the America I grew up in but the church has slept and been side-tracked on many things, made compromises, of which I stand accused, the result is a culture that is antagonistic to religion and we have passed from Generation X now to Generation “NONE”, where religion is irrelevant, and Christian causes sound to the world like nothing more than……. well, you fill in the blanks. Not many Mother Teresa’s walking today, few Billy Grahams preaching a simple message with the respect of the masses. No, we have lost our way in large part in my opinion. There is no end to this conversation and so with most of the things of the world, but as for me and my house, we trust the Lord in feast or famine, spiritual decay or blessing, free America or enslaved.

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