In the beginning…
Or to be just a little more precise, in February 2016, several of us stood on the corner of South Rockwall Ave. and Grove St. in Terrell, TX. Our original intention was to get people out of their addictions. We had the answer and they needed our help. We figured they all would rush to us for wisdom and aid and the community would start a fast and miraculous transformation.
Instead we have been transformed by the warmth of new friends with tremendously different stories than ours. Instead of being Helpers we have realized we are Sojourners with people we had ignored in the past. What we have to offer are listening ears, loving hearts, accepting arms, and sensitive spirits. All we have to offer is a demonstration of The Kingdom of Heaven. What our new friends have offered us is a realization of what that Kingdom means. What it demands in our relationships with those who are not of our stream.
We had to leave our preconceived ideas of what they needed and had to listen to them and more importantly to The Lord on what the real needs for this community are. We had to learn what it means to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those who are sick and in jail. We had to learn to navigate through judgment and condemnation and plow through with demonstration of Grace and Mercy. We had to learn what real Kindness is. After all, it is His Kindness that leads to repentance.
By March of 2016 we had a 450 square foot rented room as our headquarters. We filled it with thrown out furniture, a wide screen television, and a bunch of stacked chairs. Every Friday we met in the empty lot next door in front of Jerry’s house. That’s where our friends had gathered for years to socialize. Parked vehicles scattered around the parking lot and people stood around or sat on plastic milk crates. Some drank. Some smoked. Some drugs were used. Some cussed. Some fought. We sat with them and listened to their stories in groups and one on one. It was certainly different and we definitely stood out from the pack.
On Fridays then and now, we have The Circle. We gather as a group, circle up, join hands and pray. Someone brings a message for 10-15 minutes and close in a prayer. We’ve had groups of 20 to 30 and sometimes as few as 5 or 6. They can bring their beers with them. This is their neighborhood. We dropped in there uninvited. It’s their rules and culture and we respect that. Because we respect them, they respect us. As a side commentary, I have found among my new friends more acceptance and appreciation than I have in most traditional churches.
We learned that our little town of 15,000 has homeless men and women and so we started a pantry specifically for them. Canned foods with pop tops, especially pastas with meat, peanut butter crackers, boxed tuna fish salad snacks, and assorted other items that can be opened easily and eaten with no preparation.
We learned that some sleep wherever they can: in abandoned vehicles, abandoned buildings, in the restrooms at the city park, or in bushes and doorways. Some sleep wherever someone will let them in a house as long as they bring along a beer or a little bit of dope. Some don’t have jobs and live as adults in the homes of family members. Some do have homes and jobs and are there for socializing.
Some of our friends have experienced sickness and we have been able to get them medical care as best as possible. When they have been hospitalized we visit often and consistently. Some have been arrested and sent to jail. We make an effort to visit them as often as possible.
Several churches in town have stepped up and supply food for our pantry, personal hygiene products, sleeping mats, coats and jackets, and meals for our Friday night’s Circle. There is a new community that has started to develop made up of our friends on The Corner and our friends from traditional churches. They mingle together as friends, as brothers and sisters, and it seems natural and comfortable. There is an acceptance across those imaginary sin influenced boundaries.
This merging of cultures has developed into a very special community. The standards of successful ministry have taken a back to the joy of faithful living. We have found if Grace is demonstrated by the Love of Christ then the opportunity is given for the Proclamation of the Truth of the Kingdom of God.